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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.


NOTE: See also the files: bestiaries-msg, p-falconry-bib, Horse-n-t-MA-art, Zoomorphics-art, gargoyles-msg, Cats-n-the-MA-art, fowls-a-birds-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    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

To: StefanliRous at austin.rr.com


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

clicking link)


(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.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org