The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 37r - the magpie, continued. De corvo; the raven


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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.
divine about it; the proof of this is, if a woodpecker nests in any tree, a nail or anything fixed in the trunk will not stay there for long, but will fall out as soon as the bird sits in its nest. Of the raven The raven gets its name, corvus or corax, from the sound it makes in its throat, because it utters a croak. It is said that when its young have been hatched, this bird does not feed them fully until it sees that they have black feathers similar to its own. But after it has seen that they are of dark plumage, and has recognised them as of its own species, it feeds them more generously. When this bird feeds off corpses, it goes for the eyes first. In the Scriptures, the raven is perceived in a variety of ways; it is sometimes taken to mean a preacher, sometimes a sinner, sometimes the Devil.

Text

The woodpecker. If a woodpecker sits in a tree, anything fixed to the tree will fall out. The Raven feeds its young well and eats the eyes from corpses.

Illustration

Four elegant magpies sit in a tree where an archer attempts to shoot them. Portrait of a black raven.

Comment

The significance of the hunter attempting to shoot them, not mentioned in the text, is not known. The same image is used in the Ashmole Bestiary f.48v and Oxford, Bod. MS Douce 151. The hunter and raven have been faintly pricked for pouncing. 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.

  • 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

divinum, illo indicio quod\ in quacumque arbore nidi\ficaverit, clavum vel quic\quid aliud fixum diu he\rere non potest, quin sta\tim excidat ubi illa inse\derit.\ De corvo\ Corvus sive corax,\ nomen a sono gut\turis habet, quod voce cora\cinet. Fertur hec avis quod\ editis pullis escam non ple\ne prebeat, priusquam in eis per\ pennarum nigredinem\ similitudinem proprii coloris\ agnoscat. Postquam vero eos te\tros plumis aspexerit, in\ toto agnitos abundantius, hic prior in cadaveribus oculum pe\tit. Corvus in divina pagina diversis modis accipitur, ut per cor\vum aliquando predicatorum, aliquando peccatorum, aliquando diabolus intelligitur.\

Translation

divine about it; the proof of this is, if a woodpecker nests in any tree, a nail or anything fixed in the trunk will not stay there for long, but will fall out as soon as the bird sits in its nest. Of the raven The raven gets its name, corvus or corax, from the sound it makes in its throat, because it utters a croak. It is said that when its young have been hatched, this bird does not feed them fully until it sees that they have black feathers similar to its own. But after it has seen that they are of dark plumage, and has recognised them as of its own species, it feeds them more generously. When this bird feeds off corpses, it goes for the eyes first. In the Scriptures, the raven is perceived in a variety of ways; it is sometimes taken to mean a preacher, sometimes a sinner, sometimes the Devil.
  • Commentary

    Text

    The woodpecker. If a woodpecker sits in a tree, anything fixed to the tree will fall out. The Raven feeds its young well and eats the eyes from corpses.

    Illustration

    Four elegant magpies sit in a tree where an archer attempts to shoot them. Portrait of a black raven.

    Comment

    The significance of the hunter attempting to shoot them, not mentioned in the text, is not known. The same image is used in the Ashmole Bestiary f.48v and Oxford, Bod. MS Douce 151. The hunter and raven have been faintly pricked for pouncing. 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.

    • 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
    divine about it; the proof of this is, if a woodpecker nests in any tree, a nail or anything fixed in the trunk will not stay there for long, but will fall out as soon as the bird sits in its nest. Of the raven The raven gets its name, corvus or corax, from the sound it makes in its throat, because it utters a croak. It is said that when its young have been hatched, this bird does not feed them fully until it sees that they have black feathers similar to its own. But after it has seen that they are of dark plumage, and has recognised them as of its own species, it feeds them more generously. When this bird feeds off corpses, it goes for the eyes first. In the Scriptures, the raven is perceived in a variety of ways; it is sometimes taken to mean a preacher, sometimes a sinner, sometimes the Devil.
  • Transcription
    divinum, illo indicio quod\ in quacumque arbore nidi\ficaverit, clavum vel quic\quid aliud fixum diu he\rere non potest, quin sta\tim excidat ubi illa inse\derit.\ De corvo\ Corvus sive corax,\ nomen a sono gut\turis habet, quod voce cora\cinet. Fertur hec avis quod\ editis pullis escam non ple\ne prebeat, priusquam in eis per\ pennarum nigredinem\ similitudinem proprii coloris\ agnoscat. Postquam vero eos te\tros plumis aspexerit, in\ toto agnitos abundantius, hic prior in cadaveribus oculum pe\tit. Corvus in divina pagina diversis modis accipitur, ut per cor\vum aliquando predicatorum, aliquando peccatorum, aliquando diabolus intelligitur.\
Folio 37r - the magpie, continued. De corvo; the raven | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen