Pangur Ban, calligrapher’s cat

Today I am addressing envelopes for a medieval wedding, and I am being supervised by my 8-month-old kitten, Pangur Ban.

Pangur Ban, overseeing my calligraphy

It is delightfully appropriate that Pangur Ban should watch me doing calligraphy today: I am writing in Insular Minuscule (well, my slightly modernized, post-office friendly version thereof), the script in which I found his name. The name Pangur Ban comes from an eighth century Irish manuscript, the Reichenau Primer. The monk who wrote this little collection of texts added a poem at the bottom of one page about his cat, Pangur Ban, which starts:

I and Pangur Bán, my cat
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight
Hunting words I sit all night.
[follow this link to read the whole poem]

It’s wonderful to know that this eighth-century scribe, whose style I try to imitate, also had a pet cat who amused him as he wrote. Sometimes my cats get in the way of calligraphy, but today I think my little Pangur Ban knows that my writing is important to his identity, and he’s making sure I do it right.