The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 15r - De monocero; the monceros. De urso; the bear.


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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.
The monoceros is a monster with a horrible bellow, the body of a horse, the feet of an elephant and a tail very like that of a deer. A magnificent, marvellous horn projects from the middle of its forehead, four feet in length, so sharp that whatever it strikes is easily pierced with the blow. No living monoceros has ever come into man's hands, and while it can be killed, it cannot be captured. Of the bear The bear is said to get its name because the female shapes her new-born cub with her mouth, ore, giving it, so to speak, its beginning, orsus. For it is said that they produce a shapeless fetus and that a piece of flesh is born. The mother forms the parts of the body by licking it. The shapelessness of the cub is the result of its premature birth. It is born only thirty days after conception, and as a result of this rapid fertility it is born unformed. The bear's head is not strong; its greatest strength lies in its arms and loins; for this reason bears sometimes stand upright. Bears do not neglect the business of healing themselves. If they are afflicted by a mortal blow and injured by wounds, they know how to heal themselves. They expose their sores to the herb called mullein - flomus, the Greeks call it - and are healed by its touch alone. When sick, the bear eats ants. The bears of Numidia stand out from other bears

Text

The monoceros. The bear.

Illustration

The monoceros has the head of a stag, the tail of a boar, elephant's feet and a horse's body. A horn four feet long projects from his head. This creature was derived from the Indian rhinoceros. The bear forms its offspring with its mouth. The female gives birth to a small eyeless piece of flesh which is gradually shaped in to a cub by licking. It is born head first resulting in a weak head supported by strong loins which allow the animal to stand on its hind legs. In the lower margin is a faint sketch of a man with beard and tight fitting cap, in profile. This is in a different style from the other illustrations and is probably later in date.

Comment

Single 'v' shape in top right margin, in faint ink. Pricking and ruling are visible. Initial indicator 'u' in right margin. Initial 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 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

Est monoceros monstrum\ mugitu horrido, equino\ corpore elephantis pedibus, cau\da simillima cervo. Cornu\ media fronte eius protenditur\ splendore mirifico, ad mag\nitudinem pedum quatuor, ita\ acutum ut quicquid impe\trat [A: impetat] facile ictu eius foretur.\ Vivus non venit in homi\num potestatem, et interimi quidem potest, capi non potest.\ De urso\ Ursus fertur dictus\ quod ore suo for\met fetus quasi orsus.\ Nam aiunt eos in \ formes generare\ partus et carnem\ quandam nasci. Quod\ mater lambendo\ in membra componit. Sed hoc inmaturitas facit partus.\ Denique tricesimo die generat, unde evenit ut precipitata\ fecunditas informis procreatur. Ursorum caput invalidum,\ vis maxima in brachiis et lumbis, unde interdum erecti\ insistunt. Etiam medendi industriam non pretermittunt.\ Siquidem gravi affecti corde [A: caede] et sauciati vulneribus mederi\ sibi sciunt. Herbe cui nomen est flomus, ut greci appellant,\ ulcera subicientes sua, ut solo curentur a tactu. Ursu\ erger formicas devorat. Numidi ursi ceteris prestant dum\

Translation

The monoceros is a monster with a horrible bellow, the body of a horse, the feet of an elephant and a tail very like that of a deer. A magnificent, marvellous horn projects from the middle of its forehead, four feet in length, so sharp that whatever it strikes is easily pierced with the blow. No living monoceros has ever come into man's hands, and while it can be killed, it cannot be captured. Of the bear The bear is said to get its name because the female shapes her new-born cub with her mouth, ore, giving it, so to speak, its beginning, orsus. For it is said that they produce a shapeless fetus and that a piece of flesh is born. The mother forms the parts of the body by licking it. The shapelessness of the cub is the result of its premature birth. It is born only thirty days after conception, and as a result of this rapid fertility it is born unformed. The bear's head is not strong; its greatest strength lies in its arms and loins; for this reason bears sometimes stand upright. Bears do not neglect the business of healing themselves. If they are afflicted by a mortal blow and injured by wounds, they know how to heal themselves. They expose their sores to the herb called mullein - flomus, the Greeks call it - and are healed by its touch alone. When sick, the bear eats ants. The bears of Numidia stand out from other bears
  • Commentary

    Text

    The monoceros. The bear.

    Illustration

    The monoceros has the head of a stag, the tail of a boar, elephant's feet and a horse's body. A horn four feet long projects from his head. This creature was derived from the Indian rhinoceros. The bear forms its offspring with its mouth. The female gives birth to a small eyeless piece of flesh which is gradually shaped in to a cub by licking. It is born head first resulting in a weak head supported by strong loins which allow the animal to stand on its hind legs. In the lower margin is a faint sketch of a man with beard and tight fitting cap, in profile. This is in a different style from the other illustrations and is probably later in date.

    Comment

    Single 'v' shape in top right margin, in faint ink. Pricking and ruling are visible. Initial indicator 'u' in right margin. Initial 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 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
    The monoceros is a monster with a horrible bellow, the body of a horse, the feet of an elephant and a tail very like that of a deer. A magnificent, marvellous horn projects from the middle of its forehead, four feet in length, so sharp that whatever it strikes is easily pierced with the blow. No living monoceros has ever come into man's hands, and while it can be killed, it cannot be captured. Of the bear The bear is said to get its name because the female shapes her new-born cub with her mouth, ore, giving it, so to speak, its beginning, orsus. For it is said that they produce a shapeless fetus and that a piece of flesh is born. The mother forms the parts of the body by licking it. The shapelessness of the cub is the result of its premature birth. It is born only thirty days after conception, and as a result of this rapid fertility it is born unformed. The bear's head is not strong; its greatest strength lies in its arms and loins; for this reason bears sometimes stand upright. Bears do not neglect the business of healing themselves. If they are afflicted by a mortal blow and injured by wounds, they know how to heal themselves. They expose their sores to the herb called mullein - flomus, the Greeks call it - and are healed by its touch alone. When sick, the bear eats ants. The bears of Numidia stand out from other bears
  • Transcription
    Est monoceros monstrum\ mugitu horrido, equino\ corpore elephantis pedibus, cau\da simillima cervo. Cornu\ media fronte eius protenditur\ splendore mirifico, ad mag\nitudinem pedum quatuor, ita\ acutum ut quicquid impe\trat [A: impetat] facile ictu eius foretur.\ Vivus non venit in homi\num potestatem, et interimi quidem potest, capi non potest.\ De urso\ Ursus fertur dictus\ quod ore suo for\met fetus quasi orsus.\ Nam aiunt eos in \ formes generare\ partus et carnem\ quandam nasci. Quod\ mater lambendo\ in membra componit. Sed hoc inmaturitas facit partus.\ Denique tricesimo die generat, unde evenit ut precipitata\ fecunditas informis procreatur. Ursorum caput invalidum,\ vis maxima in brachiis et lumbis, unde interdum erecti\ insistunt. Etiam medendi industriam non pretermittunt.\ Siquidem gravi affecti corde [A: caede] et sauciati vulneribus mederi\ sibi sciunt. Herbe cui nomen est flomus, ut greci appellant,\ ulcera subicientes sua, ut solo curentur a tactu. Ursu\ erger formicas devorat. Numidi ursi ceteris prestant dum\
Folio 15r - De monocero; the monceros. De urso; the bear. | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen