The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 28v - De posterioribus dorsi columbe; Of the tail feathers of the dove.De colore alarum; Of the colour of the dove's wings.


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Commentary, Translation and Transcription

These sections are located below the image on each page, scroll down page and click on the tabs to view them. It is also possible to view the translation alongside the image by clicking the translation icon in the toolbar

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 dove, which is said to have red feet, is shown in the words of the prophet to have had silver-covered feathers. 'The wings of the dove,' says David, 'sheathed in silver.' The flight feathers of the dove, covered with silver, are the preachers of the Church. Silver signifies the word of God. The ringing sound of silver signifies the sweetness of the word. Its colour is shining white. Truly, silver contains the shining whiteness of purity, as when a teacher preaches purity in his words and is pure within, loving the doctrine he teaches and revealing what he loves inwardly through his outward deeds. The holy words of the Lord are like silver, tested by fire. The words of the Lord are holy because they have not been corrupted by falsehood. Silver tested by fire remains strong against onslaught. The brilliance of silver on the feathers, therefore, is what is found on the tongues of those who preach - the soft allure of the word of God. Of the colour of the dove's wings I have found no written reference to the colour of the dove's wings, but it can be attributed by analogy with the real dove; so that if you were to see a painting of a dove, you would not deny that it should have the colour of the real dove. The surface of the wings is suffused with the colour of sapphire, because the soul of a contemplative man takes on the appearance of heaven. But the sapphire colour of the wings is marked by traces of shining white, as the white of snow is tinged with sapphire. The mixture of snow-white and sapphire in the wings signifies purity of the flesh and the love of contemplation. Of the tail feathers of the dove The prophet refers to the tail feathers of the silver-covered dove and thereafter shows, in moral terms, that they refer to the end of a man's life on earth. He shows that the colour gold represents purity of mind; the pale colour of gold signifies mortification of the flesh. For paleness is the the natural colour of the suffering soul and of the mortified flesh. Therefore the tail feathers of the silver-coloured dove will have the paleness of gold as purity of mind and mortification of the flesh prevail when a dying man makes his end. But for this reason also the golden colour of the dove's tail feathers is mixed with sapphire, because the glory of the bliss to come will closely follow the soul of the contemplative man. Therefore the golden colour of the tail feathers signifies the gift of his eternal reward.

Text

On the silver and gold colouring of the dove.

Comment

The excisions relate to illuminations on f.28r. Initials type 2. The colour indicator 'v' is found twice in the margin, indicating the vermilion pink of the letters. There are corrections to the text in the margin.

Folio Attributes

  • Scribal Corrections

    Scribal Corrections

    Scribal Corrections
    The Bestiary scribe ends, the Lapidary scribe begins. Detail from f.94r

    When the ruling was complete the quires were ready to receive the text. At this point the scribe had a clear idea about the precise layout of each page. He had to leave the correct amount of space for the rubrics, capitals and illuminations to be added. The scribal hand is fairly uniform throughout, though Clark (2006, 223) observes the Gothic textura formata (the type of lettering) changes on f.19r, becoming ‘somewhat more compact and rounded’. There is a marked change of hand, below the illustration of the dove and hawk on f.26r, for only 5 lines. The quill is broader and the letters larger but less steady or uniform. Another scribe, with a later thirteenth-century hand, writes the lapidary section of the book, beginning on f.94r. Sometimes the scribe made mistakes or omissions which were picked up by a contemporary editor. On f.17r you can see corrections written lightly in the margin with part of the text erased and corrected accordingly. Most of the corrections occur in the Aviarium section, f.25r-f.63r.

  • 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.

  • Colour Indicators

    Colour Indicators

    Colour Indicators
    Colour instruction on the crocodile. Detail from f.68v

    Some colour guides have been provided for both the illuminations and the initials. On f.68v, the illustration of the hydrus, the word ictrie can be seen on the body of the crocodile. The word probably relates to icturus or ictère, jaundiced, indicating the yellow hue of the crocodile. On f.81r, showing Isidore at work, the word harie (or hane) is written on Isidore's desk. This probably means aerus or sky blue. A similar word harie/aerie appears to the left of the firestones scene on f.93v (this is interpreted as mine for minium, red by Clark 1992, 269). In the upper sketch on f.93v there are also rather indistinct letters bis[ors(?)]. Bis means grey in Old French. On f.32v the letters ni (niteur, clear or bright) may be deciphered. In the margin beside some initials are the letters a, v, and or. These stand for azur, blue; vermeil/vermiculum, pink and gold. Indicators for the initials are found on f.28v, f.31v, f.32v, f.41v, f.47v, f.72v. These annotations were added after drawing and before painting the images, and after writing but before illuminating the initials. It is likely they were a memo from the artist to himself, perhaps in response to a model he was copying. The use of Old French rather than primarily Latin indicates the artist was literate but used the vernacular as his working language, even within a scriptorium.

Transcription

Columba que [A,rubeos pedes habere dicitur,] pennas deargenta\tas habuisse [A,verbis propheticis demonstr-] atur. Penne inquit \David columbe dearge-[A,ntate. Penne columbe de-]argentate sunt predicato\res ecclesie. Est autem [A, argentum divinum] eloquium. Tinnitus \[A, argenti, dulcedo verbi. Color, candor. Cand-]orem vero argentum \[A,retinet dum quili-]bet doctor mundiciam verbis predicat, et mun\[A,diciam in se habet d-]um quod docet diligit, et quod intus amat, foris \[A,operibus ostendit. Haec] sunt eloquia domini casta, argentum ig\[A, ne examinatum.] Eloquia domini casta quia nulla sunt simula\tione corrupta. Argentum examinatum igne solidatum in \qualibet perturbatione. Candor igitur argenteus in pennis est in lin\guis docentium, lene blandimentum sermonis. \ De colore alarum \ Alarum colorem scriptum non repperi, sed ex simili\tudine materialis columbe potes [PL, potest] assignari, ut si colum\bam pictam respicias, columbe materialis colorem eam habere non \contradicas. Alarum enim superficies saphirino colore superfundi\tur, quia celi speciem animus contemplantis imitatur. Sed color saphi\rinus candidis lineis distinguitur, ut saphirino colori niveus \misceatur. Color enim niveus saphirino mixtus, designat mun\diciam carnis, et amorem contemplationis. \ De posterioribus dorsi columbe \ Posteriora dorsi columbe deargentate propheta commemorat, et postea fi\nem vite presentis in quolibet homine moraliter demonstrat. \In auro puritatem mentis, in pallore vero auri designat mortificati\onem carnis. Est enim pallor, animi pacientis et mortificate \carnis innatus color. Posteriora igitur columbe deargentate in pallore auri erunt dum \puritas mentis et mortificatio carnis finem cuiuslibet morientis op\tinebunt. Sed et ideo color aureus in posterioribus dorsi columbe sa\phirino iungitur, quia contemplantis animum future beatitudinis gloria \subsequetur. Color igitur aureus in posterioribus designat eterne retributionis munus. \

Translation

The dove, which is said to have red feet, is shown in the words of the prophet to have had silver-covered feathers. 'The wings of the dove,' says David, 'sheathed in silver.' The flight feathers of the dove, covered with silver, are the preachers of the Church. Silver signifies the word of God. The ringing sound of silver signifies the sweetness of the word. Its colour is shining white. Truly, silver contains the shining whiteness of purity, as when a teacher preaches purity in his words and is pure within, loving the doctrine he teaches and revealing what he loves inwardly through his outward deeds. The holy words of the Lord are like silver, tested by fire. The words of the Lord are holy because they have not been corrupted by falsehood. Silver tested by fire remains strong against onslaught. The brilliance of silver on the feathers, therefore, is what is found on the tongues of those who preach - the soft allure of the word of God. Of the colour of the dove's wings I have found no written reference to the colour of the dove's wings, but it can be attributed by analogy with the real dove; so that if you were to see a painting of a dove, you would not deny that it should have the colour of the real dove. The surface of the wings is suffused with the colour of sapphire, because the soul of a contemplative man takes on the appearance of heaven. But the sapphire colour of the wings is marked by traces of shining white, as the white of snow is tinged with sapphire. The mixture of snow-white and sapphire in the wings signifies purity of the flesh and the love of contemplation. Of the tail feathers of the dove The prophet refers to the tail feathers of the silver-covered dove and thereafter shows, in moral terms, that they refer to the end of a man's life on earth. He shows that the colour gold represents purity of mind; the pale colour of gold signifies mortification of the flesh. For paleness is the the natural colour of the suffering soul and of the mortified flesh. Therefore the tail feathers of the silver-coloured dove will have the paleness of gold as purity of mind and mortification of the flesh prevail when a dying man makes his end. But for this reason also the golden colour of the dove's tail feathers is mixed with sapphire, because the glory of the bliss to come will closely follow the soul of the contemplative man. Therefore the golden colour of the tail feathers signifies the gift of his eternal reward.
  • Commentary

    Text

    On the silver and gold colouring of the dove.

    Comment

    The excisions relate to illuminations on f.28r. Initials type 2. The colour indicator 'v' is found twice in the margin, indicating the vermilion pink of the letters. There are corrections to the text in the margin.

    Folio Attributes

    • Scribal Corrections

      Scribal Corrections

      Scribal Corrections
      The Bestiary scribe ends, the Lapidary scribe begins. Detail from f.94r

      When the ruling was complete the quires were ready to receive the text. At this point the scribe had a clear idea about the precise layout of each page. He had to leave the correct amount of space for the rubrics, capitals and illuminations to be added. The scribal hand is fairly uniform throughout, though Clark (2006, 223) observes the Gothic textura formata (the type of lettering) changes on f.19r, becoming ‘somewhat more compact and rounded’. There is a marked change of hand, below the illustration of the dove and hawk on f.26r, for only 5 lines. The quill is broader and the letters larger but less steady or uniform. Another scribe, with a later thirteenth-century hand, writes the lapidary section of the book, beginning on f.94r. Sometimes the scribe made mistakes or omissions which were picked up by a contemporary editor. On f.17r you can see corrections written lightly in the margin with part of the text erased and corrected accordingly. Most of the corrections occur in the Aviarium section, f.25r-f.63r.

    • 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.

    • Colour Indicators

      Colour Indicators

      Colour Indicators
      Colour instruction on the crocodile. Detail from f.68v

      Some colour guides have been provided for both the illuminations and the initials. On f.68v, the illustration of the hydrus, the word ictrie can be seen on the body of the crocodile. The word probably relates to icturus or ictère, jaundiced, indicating the yellow hue of the crocodile. On f.81r, showing Isidore at work, the word harie (or hane) is written on Isidore's desk. This probably means aerus or sky blue. A similar word harie/aerie appears to the left of the firestones scene on f.93v (this is interpreted as mine for minium, red by Clark 1992, 269). In the upper sketch on f.93v there are also rather indistinct letters bis[ors(?)]. Bis means grey in Old French. On f.32v the letters ni (niteur, clear or bright) may be deciphered. In the margin beside some initials are the letters a, v, and or. These stand for azur, blue; vermeil/vermiculum, pink and gold. Indicators for the initials are found on f.28v, f.31v, f.32v, f.41v, f.47v, f.72v. These annotations were added after drawing and before painting the images, and after writing but before illuminating the initials. It is likely they were a memo from the artist to himself, perhaps in response to a model he was copying. The use of Old French rather than primarily Latin indicates the artist was literate but used the vernacular as his working language, even within a scriptorium.

  • Translation
    The dove, which is said to have red feet, is shown in the words of the prophet to have had silver-covered feathers. 'The wings of the dove,' says David, 'sheathed in silver.' The flight feathers of the dove, covered with silver, are the preachers of the Church. Silver signifies the word of God. The ringing sound of silver signifies the sweetness of the word. Its colour is shining white. Truly, silver contains the shining whiteness of purity, as when a teacher preaches purity in his words and is pure within, loving the doctrine he teaches and revealing what he loves inwardly through his outward deeds. The holy words of the Lord are like silver, tested by fire. The words of the Lord are holy because they have not been corrupted by falsehood. Silver tested by fire remains strong against onslaught. The brilliance of silver on the feathers, therefore, is what is found on the tongues of those who preach - the soft allure of the word of God. Of the colour of the dove's wings I have found no written reference to the colour of the dove's wings, but it can be attributed by analogy with the real dove; so that if you were to see a painting of a dove, you would not deny that it should have the colour of the real dove. The surface of the wings is suffused with the colour of sapphire, because the soul of a contemplative man takes on the appearance of heaven. But the sapphire colour of the wings is marked by traces of shining white, as the white of snow is tinged with sapphire. The mixture of snow-white and sapphire in the wings signifies purity of the flesh and the love of contemplation. Of the tail feathers of the dove The prophet refers to the tail feathers of the silver-covered dove and thereafter shows, in moral terms, that they refer to the end of a man's life on earth. He shows that the colour gold represents purity of mind; the pale colour of gold signifies mortification of the flesh. For paleness is the the natural colour of the suffering soul and of the mortified flesh. Therefore the tail feathers of the silver-coloured dove will have the paleness of gold as purity of mind and mortification of the flesh prevail when a dying man makes his end. But for this reason also the golden colour of the dove's tail feathers is mixed with sapphire, because the glory of the bliss to come will closely follow the soul of the contemplative man. Therefore the golden colour of the tail feathers signifies the gift of his eternal reward.
  • Transcription
    Columba que [A,rubeos pedes habere dicitur,] pennas deargenta\tas habuisse [A,verbis propheticis demonstr-] atur. Penne inquit \David columbe dearge-[A,ntate. Penne columbe de-]argentate sunt predicato\res ecclesie. Est autem [A, argentum divinum] eloquium. Tinnitus \[A, argenti, dulcedo verbi. Color, candor. Cand-]orem vero argentum \[A,retinet dum quili-]bet doctor mundiciam verbis predicat, et mun\[A,diciam in se habet d-]um quod docet diligit, et quod intus amat, foris \[A,operibus ostendit. Haec] sunt eloquia domini casta, argentum ig\[A, ne examinatum.] Eloquia domini casta quia nulla sunt simula\tione corrupta. Argentum examinatum igne solidatum in \qualibet perturbatione. Candor igitur argenteus in pennis est in lin\guis docentium, lene blandimentum sermonis. \ De colore alarum \ Alarum colorem scriptum non repperi, sed ex simili\tudine materialis columbe potes [PL, potest] assignari, ut si colum\bam pictam respicias, columbe materialis colorem eam habere non \contradicas. Alarum enim superficies saphirino colore superfundi\tur, quia celi speciem animus contemplantis imitatur. Sed color saphi\rinus candidis lineis distinguitur, ut saphirino colori niveus \misceatur. Color enim niveus saphirino mixtus, designat mun\diciam carnis, et amorem contemplationis. \ De posterioribus dorsi columbe \ Posteriora dorsi columbe deargentate propheta commemorat, et postea fi\nem vite presentis in quolibet homine moraliter demonstrat. \In auro puritatem mentis, in pallore vero auri designat mortificati\onem carnis. Est enim pallor, animi pacientis et mortificate \carnis innatus color. Posteriora igitur columbe deargentate in pallore auri erunt dum \puritas mentis et mortificatio carnis finem cuiuslibet morientis op\tinebunt. Sed et ideo color aureus in posterioribus dorsi columbe sa\phirino iungitur, quia contemplantis animum future beatitudinis gloria \subsequetur. Color igitur aureus in posterioribus designat eterne retributionis munus. \
Folio 28v - De posterioribus dorsi columbe; Of the tail feathers of the dove.De colore alarum; Of the colour of the dove's wings. | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen