The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 11r - Elephant, continued. De castore; the beaver. De animale qoud dicitur ibex; the ibex


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Commentary, Translation and Transcription

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It is not part of the project to provide a definitive edition of the text of the Bestiary, but to help readers by providing a transcription and translation of the text. Currently the following editorial conventions obtain:

Text

  1. The original capitalisation is retained, but capitals have been added for personal and place names, excluding deus and diabolus.
  2. The original punctuation, including a point and inverted semi-colon (both serving as commas), and a point (serving as a full stop), is represented by comma, full stop and question-mark; a colon has been inserted before quotations.
  3. Suggested readings are in [ ].
  4. Variants from other Bestiary texts (eg Ashmole 1511 and Patrologia Latina 176) are added where they indicate a corruption, elucidate a meaning and replace excised text. They are represented as [A: PL:]

Translation

  1. Direct quotations from the Bible, where identified, are cited from the Authorised Version in ( ).
  2. Paraphrased quotations are identified where possible and indicated as: (see Job, 18:22).
  3. Suggested translations of corrupt words are in [ ].
  4. Capitalisation is sparing; additional punctuation has been used where necessary to give the sense. Paragraphs have been created to break up the text.
of the wounded. For they take the exhausted and the injured back into their midst. Of the beaver There is an animal called the beaver, which is extremely gentle; its testicles are highly suitable for medicine. Physiologus says of it that, when it knows that a hunter is pursuing it, it bites off its testicles and throws them in the hunter's face and, taking flight, escapes. But if, once again, another hunter is in pursuit, the beaver rears up and displays its sexual organs. When the hunter sees that it lacks testicles, he leaves it alone. Thus every man who heeds God's commandment and wishes to live chastely should cut off all his vices and shameless acts, and cast them from him into the face of the devil. Then the devil, seeing that the man has nothing belonging to him, retires in disorder. That man, however, lives in God and is not taken by the devil, who says: 'I will pursue, I will overtake them...'(Exodus, 15:9) The name castor comes from castrando, 'castrate'. Of the animal called the ibex There is an animal called the ibex, which has two horns of such strength that, if it were to fall from a high mountain to the lowest depths, its whole body would be supported by those two horns. The ibex represents those learned men

Text

The beaver, The ibex.

Illustration

The beaver is a gentle animal whose testicles have a medicinal value. When hunted, the beaver escapes with his life by biting off his testicles. If he is hunted for a second time he shows his incompleteness and is spared. The ibex has two enormously strong horns. If it jumps from the top of a mountain, its body is held safe by its horns.

Comment

Damage to the beaver image is caused by pricking for pouncing on f.11v. Pricking and ruling visible. Initial indicators 'e,e' in the right margin. Initials type 2.

Folio Attributes

  • Pricking

    Pricking

    Pricking
    Line pricking and ruling. Detail from f.7r

    Once the quires were arranged they had to be prepared for writing by drawing up the lines. Tiny parallel pinpricks were made on the outer and inner edges of each page and horizontal lines ruled between them. In a completed book these pinpricks should have been trimmed off during the final stages of production but in the Aberdeen Bestiary they have survived in 12 out of the 15 quires (only E , G and M are fully trimmed). Careful measuring shows that the holes were pricked with the quires folded up, using a long pointed pricker, because they are the same distance apart throughout an entire quire. In quires B and C there is a double hole on the penultimate line, indicating to the person ruling lines that the page is about to end. In these two quires the holes have a coarse triangular shape and are set up to 6mm in from the edge. Elsewhere the holes are smaller, circular and much closer to the edge. Pinpricks were also made at the top and bottom of the pages to provide vertical margins. These survive in every quire. In quires A.F,H,J,K,L,M and N there are single pricks for the vertical lines. In B and C there are double pricks and double margins while in G there are double pricks and a variety of single and double ruled lines. On f.48r (quire G) where there are double pricks for the margins, the wrong holes have been joined and the faulty diagonal line has been redrawn correctly.

  • Ruling

    Ruling

    Ruling
    Ruling continues under the illustration. Detail from f.16r

    After the leaves had been pricked, they were ready for ruling. Most pages up to quire F have 29 lines (except for the heavily illustrated quire A). The remaining quires use 28, 30 or 31 lines. The most regular ruling is found in B and C: the two top and bottom lines extend across the whole page. The lines in A, B and C are ruled in a grey colour. From D onwards the lines are a darker brown. The horizontal lines here are also neater, not overlapping the vertical margins. This would suggest that the ruling in A,B and C was done by a different person from the rest. In D and E there is a triple spaced double line across the top and bottom of the page but thereafter the ruling patterns become somewhat arbitrary. Sometimes there are double spaced top and bottom lines, sometimes the number of lines varies. On f.18v, the normal pattern of 29 lines is inadequate. It would appear that the scribe himself had to add two additional lines below the bottom margin, in order to complete his tale. Generally, the written space is 185 x 110/115mm. The ruling appears to have been made without any plan for the illuminations: on f.14r and f.16r the ruled lines pass under the illustration. Two pairs of leaves were left blank. F.3v-f.4r were probably intended to be glued together in order to support the weight of paint and gold leaf on f.4v. f.6r and f.6v precede the Lion story. In the Ashmole Bestiary, the lion has two full page illustrations, which were probably intended here. Two pairs of leaves are glued together. F.56r has a hole in it, which is concealed by being glued to the next page, f.56v. F.93r is glued to f.93v, probably because of the gilded double illumination on f.93v.

  • Initial Indicators

    Initial Indicators

    Initial Indicators
    Initial indicator 'v'. Detail from f.16r

    When the scribe was writing he would leave a gap on the page where an initial was supposed to be inserted. To make sure that the illuminated letter was correct, the scribe would write a very small initial in the margin. They are written on the outside edge of the sheet. Over 30 of these small letters survive. Up to quire C they are marked with the same black ink as the text. After that both black and red ink are used.

  • Initial Type 2

    Initial Type 2

    Initial Type 2
    Type 2 initial. Detail from f.5v

    Type 2 is much more common. The letter is made with burnished gold, filled with a blue or brown background which is decorated with a delicate white tracery. Many of these are embellished with red or blue traces or sprays. The Aberdeen Bestiary is a very early example of the use of sprays which culminates in the art of William de Brailes in the mid-thirteenth century (Morgan 1982,no.68). An elaborate spray is on f.41v. The fine white filigree pattern is also found on some of the illuminations (f.3r, f.11r, f.12r) suggesting that the main illuminator also made these initials. This type generally occupies two lines. This initial is generally used to introduce each new animal.

Transcription

habent curam sauciorum. Nam fossos [A: fessos] vulneratosque in medium receptant.\ De castore.\ Est animal quod dicitur castor\ mansuetum nimis,\ cuius testiculi medicine sunt\ aptissimi, de quo dicit\ Phisiologus, quia cum vena\torem se insequentem cog\novit, morsu testiculos sibi\ abscidit, et in faciem vena\toris eos proicit et sic fugiens\ evadit. Si vero rursus conti\gerit ut alter venator eum prosequatur, erigit se et os\tendit virilia sua venatori. Quem cum viderit testi\culis carere, ab eo discedit. Sic omnis qui iuxta mandatum\ dei versatur et caste vult vivere, secat a se omnia vicia, et\ omnes impudicitie actus, et proicit eos a se in faciem diaboli.\ Tunc ille videns eum nichil suorum habentem, confusus\ ab eo discedit. Ille vero vivit in deo, et non capitur a diabolo, qui dicit:\ persequar, et comprehendam eos. Castor dicitur a castrando.\ De animali quod dicitur ibex.\ Est animal quod dicitur ibex, duo cornua habens, quorum tanta vis est, ut si \ ab alto montis ad yma dimissus [A: demissus] fuerit, corpus eius totum iis duobus cornibus \ sustentetur. Significat autem eruditos homines qui duorum testamen\

Translation

of the wounded. For they take the exhausted and the injured back into their midst. Of the beaver There is an animal called the beaver, which is extremely gentle; its testicles are highly suitable for medicine. Physiologus says of it that, when it knows that a hunter is pursuing it, it bites off its testicles and throws them in the hunter's face and, taking flight, escapes. But if, once again, another hunter is in pursuit, the beaver rears up and displays its sexual organs. When the hunter sees that it lacks testicles, he leaves it alone. Thus every man who heeds God's commandment and wishes to live chastely should cut off all his vices and shameless acts, and cast them from him into the face of the devil. Then the devil, seeing that the man has nothing belonging to him, retires in disorder. That man, however, lives in God and is not taken by the devil, who says: 'I will pursue, I will overtake them...'(Exodus, 15:9) The name castor comes from castrando, 'castrate'. Of the animal called the ibex There is an animal called the ibex, which has two horns of such strength that, if it were to fall from a high mountain to the lowest depths, its whole body would be supported by those two horns. The ibex represents those learned men
  • Commentary

    Text

    The beaver, The ibex.

    Illustration

    The beaver is a gentle animal whose testicles have a medicinal value. When hunted, the beaver escapes with his life by biting off his testicles. If he is hunted for a second time he shows his incompleteness and is spared. The ibex has two enormously strong horns. If it jumps from the top of a mountain, its body is held safe by its horns.

    Comment

    Damage to the beaver image is caused by pricking for pouncing on f.11v. Pricking and ruling visible. Initial indicators 'e,e' in the right margin. Initials type 2.

    Folio Attributes

    • Pricking

      Pricking

      Pricking
      Line pricking and ruling. Detail from f.7r

      Once the quires were arranged they had to be prepared for writing by drawing up the lines. Tiny parallel pinpricks were made on the outer and inner edges of each page and horizontal lines ruled between them. In a completed book these pinpricks should have been trimmed off during the final stages of production but in the Aberdeen Bestiary they have survived in 12 out of the 15 quires (only E , G and M are fully trimmed). Careful measuring shows that the holes were pricked with the quires folded up, using a long pointed pricker, because they are the same distance apart throughout an entire quire. In quires B and C there is a double hole on the penultimate line, indicating to the person ruling lines that the page is about to end. In these two quires the holes have a coarse triangular shape and are set up to 6mm in from the edge. Elsewhere the holes are smaller, circular and much closer to the edge. Pinpricks were also made at the top and bottom of the pages to provide vertical margins. These survive in every quire. In quires A.F,H,J,K,L,M and N there are single pricks for the vertical lines. In B and C there are double pricks and double margins while in G there are double pricks and a variety of single and double ruled lines. On f.48r (quire G) where there are double pricks for the margins, the wrong holes have been joined and the faulty diagonal line has been redrawn correctly.

    • Ruling

      Ruling

      Ruling
      Ruling continues under the illustration. Detail from f.16r

      After the leaves had been pricked, they were ready for ruling. Most pages up to quire F have 29 lines (except for the heavily illustrated quire A). The remaining quires use 28, 30 or 31 lines. The most regular ruling is found in B and C: the two top and bottom lines extend across the whole page. The lines in A, B and C are ruled in a grey colour. From D onwards the lines are a darker brown. The horizontal lines here are also neater, not overlapping the vertical margins. This would suggest that the ruling in A,B and C was done by a different person from the rest. In D and E there is a triple spaced double line across the top and bottom of the page but thereafter the ruling patterns become somewhat arbitrary. Sometimes there are double spaced top and bottom lines, sometimes the number of lines varies. On f.18v, the normal pattern of 29 lines is inadequate. It would appear that the scribe himself had to add two additional lines below the bottom margin, in order to complete his tale. Generally, the written space is 185 x 110/115mm. The ruling appears to have been made without any plan for the illuminations: on f.14r and f.16r the ruled lines pass under the illustration. Two pairs of leaves were left blank. F.3v-f.4r were probably intended to be glued together in order to support the weight of paint and gold leaf on f.4v. f.6r and f.6v precede the Lion story. In the Ashmole Bestiary, the lion has two full page illustrations, which were probably intended here. Two pairs of leaves are glued together. F.56r has a hole in it, which is concealed by being glued to the next page, f.56v. F.93r is glued to f.93v, probably because of the gilded double illumination on f.93v.

    • Initial Indicators

      Initial Indicators

      Initial Indicators
      Initial indicator 'v'. Detail from f.16r

      When the scribe was writing he would leave a gap on the page where an initial was supposed to be inserted. To make sure that the illuminated letter was correct, the scribe would write a very small initial in the margin. They are written on the outside edge of the sheet. Over 30 of these small letters survive. Up to quire C they are marked with the same black ink as the text. After that both black and red ink are used.

    • Initial Type 2

      Initial Type 2

      Initial Type 2
      Type 2 initial. Detail from f.5v

      Type 2 is much more common. The letter is made with burnished gold, filled with a blue or brown background which is decorated with a delicate white tracery. Many of these are embellished with red or blue traces or sprays. The Aberdeen Bestiary is a very early example of the use of sprays which culminates in the art of William de Brailes in the mid-thirteenth century (Morgan 1982,no.68). An elaborate spray is on f.41v. The fine white filigree pattern is also found on some of the illuminations (f.3r, f.11r, f.12r) suggesting that the main illuminator also made these initials. This type generally occupies two lines. This initial is generally used to introduce each new animal.

  • Translation
    of the wounded. For they take the exhausted and the injured back into their midst. Of the beaver There is an animal called the beaver, which is extremely gentle; its testicles are highly suitable for medicine. Physiologus says of it that, when it knows that a hunter is pursuing it, it bites off its testicles and throws them in the hunter's face and, taking flight, escapes. But if, once again, another hunter is in pursuit, the beaver rears up and displays its sexual organs. When the hunter sees that it lacks testicles, he leaves it alone. Thus every man who heeds God's commandment and wishes to live chastely should cut off all his vices and shameless acts, and cast them from him into the face of the devil. Then the devil, seeing that the man has nothing belonging to him, retires in disorder. That man, however, lives in God and is not taken by the devil, who says: 'I will pursue, I will overtake them...'(Exodus, 15:9) The name castor comes from castrando, 'castrate'. Of the animal called the ibex There is an animal called the ibex, which has two horns of such strength that, if it were to fall from a high mountain to the lowest depths, its whole body would be supported by those two horns. The ibex represents those learned men
  • Transcription
    habent curam sauciorum. Nam fossos [A: fessos] vulneratosque in medium receptant.\ De castore.\ Est animal quod dicitur castor\ mansuetum nimis,\ cuius testiculi medicine sunt\ aptissimi, de quo dicit\ Phisiologus, quia cum vena\torem se insequentem cog\novit, morsu testiculos sibi\ abscidit, et in faciem vena\toris eos proicit et sic fugiens\ evadit. Si vero rursus conti\gerit ut alter venator eum prosequatur, erigit se et os\tendit virilia sua venatori. Quem cum viderit testi\culis carere, ab eo discedit. Sic omnis qui iuxta mandatum\ dei versatur et caste vult vivere, secat a se omnia vicia, et\ omnes impudicitie actus, et proicit eos a se in faciem diaboli.\ Tunc ille videns eum nichil suorum habentem, confusus\ ab eo discedit. Ille vero vivit in deo, et non capitur a diabolo, qui dicit:\ persequar, et comprehendam eos. Castor dicitur a castrando.\ De animali quod dicitur ibex.\ Est animal quod dicitur ibex, duo cornua habens, quorum tanta vis est, ut si \ ab alto montis ad yma dimissus [A: demissus] fuerit, corpus eius totum iis duobus cornibus \ sustentetur. Significat autem eruditos homines qui duorum testamen\
Folio 11r - Elephant, continued. De castore; the beaver. De animale qoud dicitur ibex; the ibex | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen