Bestiaries-lnks - 10/5/04
A set of web links to information on medieval bestiaries by Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon. Bestiaries were compiled books of animals both real and imaginary.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: mtnlion at ptd.net
Subject: Links: A Phsiologus: Medieval Bestiaries
Date: October 5, 2004 6:23:31 PM CDT
Greetings, my faithful readers!
This week we are taking a look at medieval bestiaries: those compiled books
of animals both real and fantastic. In medieval art, the message is
everything, and thus the images of beasts came to mean many symbolical
things (and sometimes contradictory things). Paintings and illuminations,
therefore, can say a great deal without a single written word.
Regardless of the meanings of some of these beasties, we reap the rewards of
the recording of their attributes in beautiful books called Physiologus,
Bestiaries, or Beastiaries. Illuminators will no double love to look at some
of these notable works to decipher the message they wish to send with their
work. Heralds will surely take note of the names and meanings of the
symbolism when advising their patrons. Tellers of tall tales might like to
take a peek herein to find out how one might use animal husbandry to gain
the existence of a Pard! And just like people for ages past, many folk will
like to look at the pictures of these animals, and ponder the existence of
some of those rarer beasts. Who knows, perhaps someone will find a medieval
version of Big Foot herein! In this month that host All Hallows Eve,
anything is possible.
I have found it quite enjoyable to thumb through the animal listings, and to
notice that the imaginary animals are given equal seriousness as the real
ones. Please enjoy this Links list and pass it along, but please strip it of
my email address before doing so.
Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
Canton of Riverouge
Barony of the Endless Hills
Kingdom of Aethelmarc
Medieval Bestiary --Search for the Unicorn (note: Turn down sound before
(Site Excerpt) Though the majority of our medieval friends were illiterate,
they were well-acquainted with the tales of fabulous beasts, partly from
word of mouth, but mainly because these wonderful creatures were common
illustrations in the church windows and common art of the period. Those
fortunate enough to be literate were treated to many an image of a mythical
beast, since the illuminators inserted them into the marginalia and
illustrations of the rich Books of Hours that were the prayerbooks of the
The Medieval Bestiary
(Site Excerpt) This site is the long-term project of David Badke, an
independent scholar in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The goal is to
gather all (!) available information about the Medieval Bestiary and its
antecendants, as well as related information on the Medieval view of animals
in general, both fabulous and real. The end result will (hopefully) be a
resource that is of some use to the community of Medieval scholars and
anyone else with an interest in the Middle Ages.
SEE ALSO Medieval Bestiary Bibliography
Vice and Virtue
Symbolized in the Animal Kingdom
Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.
(Site Excerpt: PLease note that STRONG religious opinion is expressed within
this article) Illustrated beastiaries (books about animals) were among the
most popular and widely read books of the 12th and 13th centuries. Ours is
not the first age that has been fascinated by animals, although ours is the
first to provide restaurants and health spas for dogs and cats, and
psycho-therapy for owners to deal with grief over the loss of pets.
Images from Dante's inferno- The Beast Geryon & other creatures
A series of classic illustrations, and Inferno sources.
The Aberdeen Bestiary
(Site Excerpt) A Bestiary is a collection of short descriptions about all
sorts of animals, real and imaginary, birds and even rocks, accompanied by a
moralising explanation. Although it deals with the natural world it was
never meant to be a scientific text and should not be read as such. Some
observations may be quite accurate but they are given the same weight as
totally fabulous accounts. The Bestiary appeared in its present form in
England in the twelfth century, as a compilation of many earlier sources,
principally the Physiologus.
Mythology Clipart (people and beasts)
Medieval Bestiaries and the birth of Zoology
(Site Excerpt: Note that here again we have strong religious opinion) A
bestiary is, quite simply, a book of beasts. In medieval Europe, bestiaries
were extremely popular and respected by all who consulted it.1 After the
Church appropriated it for its own purposes around the 6th century, the
bestiary became a book of learning which used examples of animal lore to
teach Christian values. Mixing fact and fiction with a dab of moralization,
bestiaries became incarnations of the medieval mind which so preoccupied
itself with salvation that it could scarce look beyond its horizon without
seeing it through God-tainted glasses. See espescially the bibliography at:
The Bestiary Project
Please note that this site is a list of tall tales, some of them historical,
about weird creatures. I include it since this seems to be a noble and
historically precedented if somewhat misguided preoocupation :)
Medieval Bestiary Crayon Etching Lesson Plan
An activity that can be for smaller kids, but is much better for larger ones
or even adults(very nice results)
TEACHERS SEE ALSO the evaluation form at
The Medieval Bestiary
(Site Excerpt) Studies that attempt to identify the fabulous creatures
described in a medieval bestiary with their living counterparts, such as
equating the Bonnacon with the European bison, miss this point. Too, the
same creature might often represent both good and evil, Christ or the Devil,
depending upon its biblical reference, a dichotomy that often was subtle and
complex. Portrayed most often by the medieval artist, the lion is an example
of these seemingly contradictory connotations.
Physiologus: A Metrical Bestiary Of Twelve Chapters By Bishop Theobald
(Site Excerpt) This text is a translation and facsimile of a copy of the
Physiologus attributed to Bishop Theobald (Theobaldus) which was printed in
1492. The text of the 1492 edition is taken from an earlier (unidentified)
manuscript. The print edition of this text was published in London in 1928;
the digital edition was created from the original in 2003 by David Badke.
(Site Excerpt) Perhaps even more so than in Classical times, it's not so
much a matter of monsters per se in the Middle Ages, but monstrosities
rather. We do have the blood-drinking, Geat-eating Grendel and his swampy
mother in Beowulf, emerging from folktale and given the properly improper
genealogy of belonging to the race of Cain by the vaguely Christianizing
narrative filter. For a perspective on dragons and reptiles, see the
Dinosaur-Dragon Abstract (or the article published in Popular Culture
Review). Arthurian knights encounter some bizarre spectacles, but no
"classic" monsters take hold of our consciousness in these romances, nor in
those of the better-travelled infidel-slayers and Mandevillian map-trotters.
WORLDCAT Find in a Library: A medieval bestiary.
. By: Thomas J Elliott
Use worldcat to track down bestiary and other books in a library near you,
Medieval Literature Annotated Bibliography
Symbolism in Christian Art
Monkeyfilter: The Medieval Bestiary: animals in the middle ages
(Site Excerpt) The Medieval Bestiary: animals in the middle ages. The
illustrations of beasts and the accompanying text on illustrations of bests
and accompanying text on this site are compiled from from various medieval
sources, and are not taken from any single manuscript. From such selections,
it's possible to savour the 'beasts', even as the medieval scholar and
scribes surely did.
White's Book of Beasts online
The Red Winged Lion
An Illuminated Page in the Style of Aberdeen
(Site Excerpt) The Commissioning of a Medieval Manuscript Following the
rise of universities around 1200, the growth in both secular production and
consumer demand led to increased specialization and commercialization in
book production. A group of middlemen, known as stationers, emerged.
Stationers supplied materials to craftsmen and received and subcontracted
commissions from patrons, often with formal recognition of the universities.
This decentralization stimulated new techniques of book production, such as
the systematic marking up of leaves and quires for assembly by the stationer
and the provision of instruction. (Brown,118)
(Site Excerpt) While some works of the Latin Classics were carefully and
accurately transcribed for their value as exemplars of the Latin language,
other works from the Classical era became incorporated into medieval
literature. Sometimes mistranscribed, mistranslated or misunderstood, they
were then adorned with various additions to become something completely
different and part of a living, growing literary tradition in the medieval
era. Possibly the most delightful of this genre is the category of works
known as the bestiary. This class of work is also a good example for
contemplation of the difference between medieval literary and practical
Getty Museum Bestiaries
(Site Excerpt) Are bestiaries secular or sacred literature? The genre
illustrates the problem of applying such modern-day distinctions to a period
like the Middle Ages, when the lines between secular and sacred were not
clear-cut. Lay brothers serving in cathedrals, for example, read bestiaries,
and preachers also looked to them for source material for their sermons. Yet
the wide distribution of vernacular translations also suggests they were
enormously popular with lay readers.
Medieval Latin Online: Week 8. Physiologus
(Site Excerpt) These European bestiaries are a mixture of traditional
stories and beliefs about the animals, some of them grounded in natural
history and others purely fantastic! The stories are often supplied with
allegorical interpretations. As we saw last week, these allegorical
interpretations fall into two broad categories: interpretations in bonum,
where the animals provide examples of faith and salvation, and also
interpretations in malum, where the animals are examples of temptation and
Monsters and Fabulous Beasts (Suite 101 online)
A Set of links to other works on the subject, from lycanthropy (werewolf,
anyone?) to Bestiaries. You can even adopt a Daemon.