The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 65v - De serpentibus; Of snakes. De draconibus; Of the dragon.


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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.
cannot come near you. Take heed, therefore, O man, and stay within the catholic faith, live within it, remain steadfast within it, within the one catholic church. Be as careful as you can that you are not caught outside the doors of that house, that the dragon, the serpent of old, does not seize you and devour you, as Judas was at once devoured by the devil and perished, as soon as he had gone forth from the Lord and his brother apostles. Of snakes The word anguis is applied to the entire species of snake, because the snake's body can be folded and bent; as a result, it is called anguis because it forms a series of angles, angulosus, and is never straight. The snake is also called coluber, either because it lives in the shadows, colere umbras, or because it wriggles along in a slippery way, in sinuous coils. For anything that slithers when you hold it, like a fish or a snake, is called lubricus, 'slippery'. The snake gets its name, serpens, because it creeps up under cover, not by visible steps, but crawling along by the tiniest movements of its scales. Creatures which go on four feet, like lizards and newts are called not snakes but reptiles. Snakes are reptiles too, because they crawl, reptare, on their chests and bellies. There are as many poisonous snakes as there are species; as many which bring death or suffering, as there are colours among them. Of the dragon The dragon is bigger than all other snakes or all other living things on earth. For this reason, the Greeks

Text

Serpents. Many are poisonous. The dragon is bigger than all snakes.

Illustration

The dragon strangles an elephant. The text says the dragon has a crest, small mouth and does not kill with its teeth but with its tail. The illustrator has added massive teeth and wings. The description applies to an African python which can kill deer if not actually elephants by strangulation. 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

appropinquare draco. Attende ergo homo et permane in fide\ catholica, ibique habita ibique persevera, in una ecclesia catholica. Ca\ve quantum potes ne extra domum foris inveniaris, et com\prehendat te ille draco serpens antiquus et devoret te sicut\ Judam qui mox ut exiit a domino foras et fratribus apostolis\ statim a demone devoratus est et periit. \ De serpentibus \Anguis omnium serpentium est genus quod compli\cari et torqueri potest, et inde anguis quod angu\losus sit et nunquam rectus. Colubrum ab eo dictum\ quod colat umbras, vel quod in lubricos tractus flexibus sinu\osis labatur. Nam lubricum dicitur, quicquid labitur dum tenetur\ ut piscis, serpens. Serpens autem nomen accepit quia occultis\ accessibus serpit, non apertis passibus set squamarum minutis\ simis nisibus repit. Illa autem que quatuor pedibus nituntur sicut\ lacerte et stiliones, non serpentes sed reptilia nominantur. Serpen\tes autem reptilia sunt que pectore et ventre reptant. Quorum\ tot venena, quot genera, tot pernicies, tot dolores, quot colores\ habentur.\ De draconibus \Draco\ maior cunc\torum ser\pentium\ sive animan\tium omni\um super ter\ram. Hinc\ Greci dracon\

Translation

cannot come near you. Take heed, therefore, O man, and stay within the catholic faith, live within it, remain steadfast within it, within the one catholic church. Be as careful as you can that you are not caught outside the doors of that house, that the dragon, the serpent of old, does not seize you and devour you, as Judas was at once devoured by the devil and perished, as soon as he had gone forth from the Lord and his brother apostles. Of snakes The word anguis is applied to the entire species of snake, because the snake's body can be folded and bent; as a result, it is called anguis because it forms a series of angles, angulosus, and is never straight. The snake is also called coluber, either because it lives in the shadows, colere umbras, or because it wriggles along in a slippery way, in sinuous coils. For anything that slithers when you hold it, like a fish or a snake, is called lubricus, 'slippery'. The snake gets its name, serpens, because it creeps up under cover, not by visible steps, but crawling along by the tiniest movements of its scales. Creatures which go on four feet, like lizards and newts are called not snakes but reptiles. Snakes are reptiles too, because they crawl, reptare, on their chests and bellies. There are as many poisonous snakes as there are species; as many which bring death or suffering, as there are colours among them. Of the dragon The dragon is bigger than all other snakes or all other living things on earth. For this reason, the Greeks
  • Commentary

    Text

    Serpents. Many are poisonous. The dragon is bigger than all snakes.

    Illustration

    The dragon strangles an elephant. The text says the dragon has a crest, small mouth and does not kill with its teeth but with its tail. The illustrator has added massive teeth and wings. The description applies to an African python which can kill deer if not actually elephants by strangulation. 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
    cannot come near you. Take heed, therefore, O man, and stay within the catholic faith, live within it, remain steadfast within it, within the one catholic church. Be as careful as you can that you are not caught outside the doors of that house, that the dragon, the serpent of old, does not seize you and devour you, as Judas was at once devoured by the devil and perished, as soon as he had gone forth from the Lord and his brother apostles. Of snakes The word anguis is applied to the entire species of snake, because the snake's body can be folded and bent; as a result, it is called anguis because it forms a series of angles, angulosus, and is never straight. The snake is also called coluber, either because it lives in the shadows, colere umbras, or because it wriggles along in a slippery way, in sinuous coils. For anything that slithers when you hold it, like a fish or a snake, is called lubricus, 'slippery'. The snake gets its name, serpens, because it creeps up under cover, not by visible steps, but crawling along by the tiniest movements of its scales. Creatures which go on four feet, like lizards and newts are called not snakes but reptiles. Snakes are reptiles too, because they crawl, reptare, on their chests and bellies. There are as many poisonous snakes as there are species; as many which bring death or suffering, as there are colours among them. Of the dragon The dragon is bigger than all other snakes or all other living things on earth. For this reason, the Greeks
  • Transcription
    appropinquare draco. Attende ergo homo et permane in fide\ catholica, ibique habita ibique persevera, in una ecclesia catholica. Ca\ve quantum potes ne extra domum foris inveniaris, et com\prehendat te ille draco serpens antiquus et devoret te sicut\ Judam qui mox ut exiit a domino foras et fratribus apostolis\ statim a demone devoratus est et periit. \ De serpentibus \Anguis omnium serpentium est genus quod compli\cari et torqueri potest, et inde anguis quod angu\losus sit et nunquam rectus. Colubrum ab eo dictum\ quod colat umbras, vel quod in lubricos tractus flexibus sinu\osis labatur. Nam lubricum dicitur, quicquid labitur dum tenetur\ ut piscis, serpens. Serpens autem nomen accepit quia occultis\ accessibus serpit, non apertis passibus set squamarum minutis\ simis nisibus repit. Illa autem que quatuor pedibus nituntur sicut\ lacerte et stiliones, non serpentes sed reptilia nominantur. Serpen\tes autem reptilia sunt que pectore et ventre reptant. Quorum\ tot venena, quot genera, tot pernicies, tot dolores, quot colores\ habentur.\ De draconibus \Draco\ maior cunc\torum ser\pentium\ sive animan\tium omni\um super ter\ram. Hinc\ Greci dracon\
Folio 65v - De serpentibus; Of snakes. De draconibus; Of the dragon. | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen