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…the first words of the Magnificat were built up in gold washed with red-lac for a background to the Virgin’s hardly yet fired halo. She was shown, hands joined in wonder, at a lattice of infinitely intricate arabesque, round the edges of which sprays of orange-bloom seemed to load the blue hot air that carried back over the minute parched landscape in the middle distance…


This is from “The Eye of Allah” in Debits and Credits.

John of Burgos is a wandering artist-monk of the twelfth century, who travels abroad to find pigments for his work. Later in the tale he brings back an early microscope from Muslim Spain, fascinated by the weird images of life to be found in a drop of water. He plans to use them as images of devils in his manuscripts, but the Abbot smashes the instrument; it is bringing knowledge before its time.