The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 55r - the halcyon, continued. [De] fulica]; Of the coot. [De fenice]; Of the phoenix


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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.
when the hatching process takes so few days. This little bird is endowed by God with such grace that sailors know with confidence that these fourteen days will be days of fine weather and call them 'the halcyon days', in which there will be no period of stormy weather. [Of the] coot It is a winged creature, fairly clever and very wise; it does not feed on corpses and it does not fly or wander aimlessly but stays in one place until it dies, finding both food and rest there. Let every one of the faithful, therefore, maintain himself and live like that; let them not scurry around, straying this way and that, down different paths, as heretics do; let them not be enticed by the desires and pleasures of this world; but let them stay in one place, finding peace in in the catholic Church, where the Lord provides a dwelling-place for those who are spiritually in harmony, and there let them subsist daily on the bread of immortality, drinking the precious blood of Christ, refreshing themselves on the most sweet words of the Lord, 'sweeter than honey and the honeycomb' (Psalms, 19:10) [Of the phoenix] The phoenix is a bird of Arabia, so called either because its colouring is Phoenician purple, , or because there is only one of its kind in the whole world. It lives for upwards of five hundred years, and when it observes that it has grown old, it erects a funeral pyre for itself from small branches of aromatic plants, and having turned to face the rays of the sun, beating its wings, it deliberately fans the flames for itself and is consumed in the fire.

Text

The coot, a wise bird. The phoenix, the bird of Arabia, named for its colour of Phoenician purple. It builds a pyre for itself, faces the sun and is consumed by flames.

Illustration

The coot has a similar pose to the halcyon, f.54v, with its head turned back, biting its wing. It is shown correctly with clawed feet.

Comment

The rubric is missing: the title for the coot is written in black. The scribe has written neatly around a hole in the parchment. The scribe has omitted the word 'heretici', added by the editor in the right margin. Initials type 2.

Folio Attributes

  • 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

fetuum tam paucorum dierum sit. Tantam autem gratiam\ minuscula avis divinitus indultam habet, ut hos xiiii\ dies nautaci presumpte serenitatis observent, quos et alti\ onidas vocant, quibus nullus motus procellose tempesta\ tis horrescat.\ [De] fulica \ Est volatile, sat intel\ ligibile et prudentis\ simum animal, cadavere\ non vescitur, nec aliun\ de pervolat sive oberrat,\ sed in uno loco commoratur\ et permanet usque in finem\ et ibi escam suam habet\ et requiescit. Sic ergo\ omnis fidelis se conser\ vet et vivat, non huc\ atque illuc per diversa oberrans circumvolet sicut faciunt [PL, heretici]\ non desideriis secularibus et voluptatibus delectetur,\ sed semper in uno loco se contineat, et quiescat in ecclesia\ catholica ubi dominus habitare facit unanimes\ in domo ibique habeat cotidianum victum suum id est\ panem immortalitatis potum vero preciosum sangui\ nem Christi reficiens se super mel et favum suavissi\ mis eloquiis domini. [De fenice] \ Fenix Arabie avis dicta quod colorem feniceum\ habeat, vel quod sit in toto orbe singularis et\ unica. Hec quingentos ultra annos vivens, dum\ se viderit senuisse, collectis aromatum virgultis, ro\ gum sibi instruit, et conversa ad radium solis alarum\ plausu voluntarium sibi incendium nutrit, seque urit.\

Translation

when the hatching process takes so few days. This little bird is endowed by God with such grace that sailors know with confidence that these fourteen days will be days of fine weather and call them 'the halcyon days', in which there will be no period of stormy weather. [Of the] coot It is a winged creature, fairly clever and very wise; it does not feed on corpses and it does not fly or wander aimlessly but stays in one place until it dies, finding both food and rest there. Let every one of the faithful, therefore, maintain himself and live like that; let them not scurry around, straying this way and that, down different paths, as heretics do; let them not be enticed by the desires and pleasures of this world; but let them stay in one place, finding peace in in the catholic Church, where the Lord provides a dwelling-place for those who are spiritually in harmony, and there let them subsist daily on the bread of immortality, drinking the precious blood of Christ, refreshing themselves on the most sweet words of the Lord, 'sweeter than honey and the honeycomb' (Psalms, 19:10) [Of the phoenix] The phoenix is a bird of Arabia, so called either because its colouring is Phoenician purple, , or because there is only one of its kind in the whole world. It lives for upwards of five hundred years, and when it observes that it has grown old, it erects a funeral pyre for itself from small branches of aromatic plants, and having turned to face the rays of the sun, beating its wings, it deliberately fans the flames for itself and is consumed in the fire.
  • Commentary

    Text

    The coot, a wise bird. The phoenix, the bird of Arabia, named for its colour of Phoenician purple. It builds a pyre for itself, faces the sun and is consumed by flames.

    Illustration

    The coot has a similar pose to the halcyon, f.54v, with its head turned back, biting its wing. It is shown correctly with clawed feet.

    Comment

    The rubric is missing: the title for the coot is written in black. The scribe has written neatly around a hole in the parchment. The scribe has omitted the word 'heretici', added by the editor in the right margin. Initials type 2.

    Folio Attributes

    • 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
    when the hatching process takes so few days. This little bird is endowed by God with such grace that sailors know with confidence that these fourteen days will be days of fine weather and call them 'the halcyon days', in which there will be no period of stormy weather. [Of the] coot It is a winged creature, fairly clever and very wise; it does not feed on corpses and it does not fly or wander aimlessly but stays in one place until it dies, finding both food and rest there. Let every one of the faithful, therefore, maintain himself and live like that; let them not scurry around, straying this way and that, down different paths, as heretics do; let them not be enticed by the desires and pleasures of this world; but let them stay in one place, finding peace in in the catholic Church, where the Lord provides a dwelling-place for those who are spiritually in harmony, and there let them subsist daily on the bread of immortality, drinking the precious blood of Christ, refreshing themselves on the most sweet words of the Lord, 'sweeter than honey and the honeycomb' (Psalms, 19:10) [Of the phoenix] The phoenix is a bird of Arabia, so called either because its colouring is Phoenician purple, , or because there is only one of its kind in the whole world. It lives for upwards of five hundred years, and when it observes that it has grown old, it erects a funeral pyre for itself from small branches of aromatic plants, and having turned to face the rays of the sun, beating its wings, it deliberately fans the flames for itself and is consumed in the fire.
  • Transcription
    fetuum tam paucorum dierum sit. Tantam autem gratiam\ minuscula avis divinitus indultam habet, ut hos xiiii\ dies nautaci presumpte serenitatis observent, quos et alti\ onidas vocant, quibus nullus motus procellose tempesta\ tis horrescat.\ [De] fulica \ Est volatile, sat intel\ ligibile et prudentis\ simum animal, cadavere\ non vescitur, nec aliun\ de pervolat sive oberrat,\ sed in uno loco commoratur\ et permanet usque in finem\ et ibi escam suam habet\ et requiescit. Sic ergo\ omnis fidelis se conser\ vet et vivat, non huc\ atque illuc per diversa oberrans circumvolet sicut faciunt [PL, heretici]\ non desideriis secularibus et voluptatibus delectetur,\ sed semper in uno loco se contineat, et quiescat in ecclesia\ catholica ubi dominus habitare facit unanimes\ in domo ibique habeat cotidianum victum suum id est\ panem immortalitatis potum vero preciosum sangui\ nem Christi reficiens se super mel et favum suavissi\ mis eloquiis domini. [De fenice] \ Fenix Arabie avis dicta quod colorem feniceum\ habeat, vel quod sit in toto orbe singularis et\ unica. Hec quingentos ultra annos vivens, dum\ se viderit senuisse, collectis aromatum virgultis, ro\ gum sibi instruit, et conversa ad radium solis alarum\ plausu voluntarium sibi incendium nutrit, seque urit.\
Folio 55r - the halcyon, continued. [De] fulica]; Of the coot. [De fenice]; Of the phoenix | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen