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De proprietatibus rerum ('The Book of the Nature of Things') is one of the greatest secular and scientific texts of the Middle Ages, an encyclopaedia of all recorded knowledge from theology to medicine, cosmography, natural history, geography, botany, cooking, numbers, and weights, musical instruments, etc.
Written c. 1230-1240 by a Franciscan scholar, Bartholomew ‘the Englishman’, the work was immensely popular for centuries, as is witnessed by several manuscripts in Latin, 14th-century translations into French, Italian, and English, and several printed editions. The Dutch translation is not known before the present printing; it was specially prepared for this edition. The woodcuts are also original to this edition and independent from the only preceding, French cuts. They are appreciated for their naturalistic liveliness, especially the depictions of birds, fish, plants, and animals. They are attributed to the 'Bellaert Master', who is considered one of the best woodcut designers of the late 15th-century Netherlands. Jacob Bellaert, the first printer at Haarlem, specialised in illustrated vernacular books, and the present edition is the only book that mentions his name.