Bestiary: being an English version of the Bodleian Library, by Richard Barber

By Richard Barber

Bestiaries are a very attribute fabricated from medieval England, and provides a special perception into the medieval brain. Richly illuminated and lavishly produced, they have been luxurious gadgets for noble households. Their three-fold goal was once to supply a usual background of birds, beasts and fishes, to attract ethical examples from animal behaviour (the industrious bee, the obdurate ass), and to bare a paranormal which means - the phoenix, for example, as a logo ofChrist's resurrection. This Bestiary, MS. Bodley 764, was once produced round the heart of the 13th century and is of singular attractiveness and curiosity. The energetic illustrations have the liberty and naturalistic qualityof the later Gothic type, and make stunning use of color. This booklet reproduces the 136 illuminations to an analogous dimension and within the similar position because the unique manuscript, becoming the textual content round them. Richard Barber's translation from the unique Latin is a satisfaction to learn, shooting either the intense purpose of the manuscript and its attraction.

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For 'leo' in Greek means 'king' in Latin, and he is so called because he is the king of beasts. There are three kinds of lion; of these, the short ones with curly manes are peaceful, the long ones with smooth hair are fierce; their brow and tail show their temperament. Their courage is in their breast, their strength in their head. They fear the noise of wheels, but fire frightens them even more. The lion is proud by nature; he will not live with other kinds of beasts in the wild, but like a king Page 24 disdains the company of the masses.

Page 21 Lion Image not available Page 22 Image not available Page 23 Beasts in the wild sense are creatures such as lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes, and all that roar and rage with their mouth or tongue, except for snakes. They are called beasts because they possess their natural freedom and act as they themselves have willed. Their will is indeed free and they range hither and thither; where their instinct leads them, there they go. The name lion is of Greek origin, and was taken into Latin.

The devil was at first one of the angels in heaven, but he was a hypocrite and deceitful and lost his tail: in the end he will be overcome, as the Apostle says: 'The Lord shall consume him with the spirit of his mouth' [II Thessalonians 2:8]. 'Simia', the Latin word for apes, comes from the Greek and means 'with nostrils pressed together'. Their nostrils are indeed pressed together, and their faces are horrible, with folds, like a disgusting pair of bellows; she-goats have the same nostrils. Monkeys have tails, but that is the only difference between them and apes.

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