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The-Bestiary-art - 4/29/12


"A Brief Overview of Bestiary" by Lady Katharine of Caithness.


NOTE: See also the files: bestiaries-msg, Bestiaries-lnks, Zoomorphics-art, hunting-msg, p-thts-animls-msg, rabbits-msg, ferrets-msg, gargoyles-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



This article was first published in the March 2011 issue of the "Apple Press", the newsletter of the Shire of Sylvan Glen, Aethelmearc.


A Brief Overview of Bestiary

by Lady Katharine of Caithness


Bestiaries are books that were produced during the Middle Ages that described both real and fictitious animals and accompanied by imaginative drawings. The bestiaries dealt with the natural world but were never meant to be scientific texts. Rather each creature with its unique characteristics was used as a metaphor for Christian virtues or vices.


The original Bestiary was a Greek collection of knowledge The Physiologus (Naturalist) from the second century about animals and the Christian interpretation of nature. Each animal represented some aspect of the struggle between God and the devil. With forty-nine chapters each devoted to a single animal the book was based on the work of classical Greek philosophers such as Aristotle. Other sources included Indian, Hebrew and Egyptian animal lore. Next to the Bible it was the most sought after book.


By the Middle Ages the Physiologus became immensely popular and was translated into almost every European language and those of western Asia. Over the years the Physiologus continued to evolve and incorporated additional sources thus adding more animals and expanding its text on the moral interpretations of the battle between good and evil.  Around the 6th or 7th century the Physiologus was translated into Latin, and from the opening line "Bestarum Vocabulum" the genre of Bestiary got its name. By the 12th century Bestiary appeared in its present form in England with a total of hundred and eight chapters.


There are two types of Bestiaries and in the 12th and 13th centuries of England and France there was quite a demand for them. A reason for this may have been it made moral teachings of the church easy to remember for they were descriptive, illustrated and had a pity blunt message to them. The two types were known as Luxurious and Vernacular. The luxurious was lavishly illustrated and written in Latin and were intended for the more literate and wealthy population scholars, clerics, royalty and landed gentry. The vernacular version was much cruder and modest by comparison and intended for the illiterate and lower classes, tradesmen, farmers, shopkeepers.


A great deal depended on how the animal was drawn. If it was a known domestic animal such as sheep, cattle, dogs or cats they were portrayed in a factual manner. Lions, tigers and elephants (oh my!) were drawn in a less then factual manner. Imagination played a major role. Crocodiles were drawn as dog-like creatures, ostriches had hooves and serpents were drawn with feet or wings. It must be pointed out that these drawings were based on written descriptions or earlier drawings of the creatures. They were widely read and in part responsible for a widespread belief in mythical beasts throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.


Today when we have the occasion to peruse these manuscripts with their imaginative illustrations one can not help but be impressed and have their imaginative spirit take flight.


Copyright 2010 by Kathleem May <kathleenklmpub at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<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