The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 66v - the basilisk, continued. De vipera; Of the viper


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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 basilisk can be conquered by weasels. Men put them into the caves where the basilisks lie hidden. The basilisk, seeing the weasel, flees; the weasel pursues and kills it. For the Creator has made nothing without a remedy. The basilisk is half-a-foot in length, with white stripes. Of the basilisk, or regulus [continued] Basilisks, like scorpions, seek out dry places; after they have come to water and bite anyone there, they make that person hydrophobic and send them mad. The creature called sibilus is the same as the regulus, or basilisk; for it kills with its hiss before it bites or burns. Of the viper The viper is so called because the female gives birth with force, vi pariat. For when her belly aches with labour pains, her young do not wait to be released at the right time according to nature, but gnawing through her sides burst forth, leaving their mother dead. They say that the male spits his seed into the female, with his head inserted in her mouth. Mad with lust she bites it off. Thus it comes about that both parents die; the male during intercourse; the female at birth. Saint Ambrose says of the viper that it the vilest kind of creature and more cunning than the whole serpent species. When it feels the desire for intercourse, it goes in search of a lamprey already known to it or prepares to copulate with a new partner. It goes to the shore and makes its presence known with a hiss, inviting her to its conjugal embrace. The lamprey, once invited, does not demur and shares with the poisonous snake the union it seeks. What should these words signify to us if not that we should put up with the behaviour of our partner, and even if his whereabouts

Text

Basilisk, only weasels can kill a basilisk. Regulus. Vipers.

Illustration

As indicated by the text, the male viper spits its seed into the female's mouth. The young gnaw their way out of their mother's side.

Comment

The illustration is pricked all over for pouncing. Initials 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.

  • Pouncing

    Pouncing

    Pouncing
    Pouncing. Detail of Hyena from f.11v

    Pouncing is a method of copying images from one sheet of vellum to another by making a series of tiny prick marks around the required image. The image would be pricked straight through to a sheet below. This would become the template from which several copies could be made without further harm to the original. The pricked sheet would be sprinkled with a very fine dust like charcoal or pumice, which would trickle through the holes producing the required image below. It was a convenient way to duplicate images in a scriptorium where many similar copies of a book were required. Although the Ashmolean Bestiary has very similar images to the Aberdeen Bestiary, in general their different proportions show that they were not a direct copy. The evidence of pouncing in the Aberdeen Bestiary suggests that there was yet another member of this family of manuscripts, directly dependent on the Aberdeen design. Images marked in this way are on f.2r fishes, f.3r the creation of Eve (more visible on f.3v), f.11v hyena, f.12v ape, f.18r dog, f.24r mole, f.36v hoopoe, f.37r magpies, f.51v bat, f.54r partridge, f.56r phoenix, f.59r ducks, f.59v peacock, f.63r bees, f.66v vipers, f.68v anphivena, f.69v seps. In most cases it is impossible to tell when the pouncing took place but the Aberdeen Bestiary has evidence that some pictures were done while the book was being made and some were done after completion (Clark 1992,107). The Creation of Eve (f.3r) and the phoenix (f.56r) are both punched and blank on the verso. The two pages after the phoenix are blank and glued together, thus preventing the pricks on f.56r from damaging the new f.56v. The same can be observed at f.3r which is followed by two blanks and the next image on f.4v. Clearly these were intended to be stuck together to minimise the effect of pricking around Eve, and to support the heavy layers of paint and gold of the Christ in Majesty. Decisions to leave these blank pages must have been made while the drawings were being produced. Elsewhere the pouncing damages the other side of the folio, often including an illumination. These incursions must have been made after the book was complete.

Transcription

A mustelis tamen vincitur quas illic homines inferunt cavernis\ in quibus delitescunt. Itaque ea visa fugit, quem illa persequitur\ et occidit. Nichil enim parens ille rerum sine remedio constituit.\ Est autem longitudine semipedalis albis maculis lineatus.\ De regulis \ Reguli autem sicut scorpiones arentia\ queque sectantur, et postquam ad aquas venerint [PL, ibique aliquem morderint] idro\phobas et limphaticos faciunt. Sibilus idem est qui\ et regulus, sibilo enim occidit antequam mordeat vel exurat.\ De vipera \ Vipera dicta quod\ vi pariat. Nam cum\ venter eius ad partum\ ingemuerit catuli non\ expectantes maturam\ nature solucionem\ corrosis eius lateribus\ erumpunt vi cum ma\tris interitu. Ferunt\ autem quod mascu\lus ore inserto vipere semen expuat. Illa autem ex voluptate\ in rabiem versa, caput maris ore recepto precidit, ita fit ut uterque\ parens pereat, masculus cum coit, femina cum parit. De vipera\ dicit sanctus Ambrosius quia nequissimum genus bestie est et super\ omnia que serpentium sunt generis astutior ubi coeundi cu\piditatem assumpserit, murene maritime notam sibi requirit\ copulam vel novam preparat. Progressaque ad litus sibilo testi\ficata presentiam sui, ad coniugalem amplexum illam evocat.\ Murena autem invitata non deest, et venenate serpenti ex\petitos usus sue impertit coniunctionis. Quid sibi sermo huius\modi vult nisi ferendos esse mores coniugum, et si absens est eius\

Translation

The basilisk can be conquered by weasels. Men put them into the caves where the basilisks lie hidden. The basilisk, seeing the weasel, flees; the weasel pursues and kills it. For the Creator has made nothing without a remedy. The basilisk is half-a-foot in length, with white stripes. Of the basilisk, or regulus [continued] Basilisks, like scorpions, seek out dry places; after they have come to water and bite anyone there, they make that person hydrophobic and send them mad. The creature called sibilus is the same as the regulus, or basilisk; for it kills with its hiss before it bites or burns. Of the viper The viper is so called because the female gives birth with force, vi pariat. For when her belly aches with labour pains, her young do not wait to be released at the right time according to nature, but gnawing through her sides burst forth, leaving their mother dead. They say that the male spits his seed into the female, with his head inserted in her mouth. Mad with lust she bites it off. Thus it comes about that both parents die; the male during intercourse; the female at birth. Saint Ambrose says of the viper that it the vilest kind of creature and more cunning than the whole serpent species. When it feels the desire for intercourse, it goes in search of a lamprey already known to it or prepares to copulate with a new partner. It goes to the shore and makes its presence known with a hiss, inviting her to its conjugal embrace. The lamprey, once invited, does not demur and shares with the poisonous snake the union it seeks. What should these words signify to us if not that we should put up with the behaviour of our partner, and even if his whereabouts
  • Commentary

    Text

    Basilisk, only weasels can kill a basilisk. Regulus. Vipers.

    Illustration

    As indicated by the text, the male viper spits its seed into the female's mouth. The young gnaw their way out of their mother's side.

    Comment

    The illustration is pricked all over for pouncing. Initials 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.

    • Pouncing

      Pouncing

      Pouncing
      Pouncing. Detail of Hyena from f.11v

      Pouncing is a method of copying images from one sheet of vellum to another by making a series of tiny prick marks around the required image. The image would be pricked straight through to a sheet below. This would become the template from which several copies could be made without further harm to the original. The pricked sheet would be sprinkled with a very fine dust like charcoal or pumice, which would trickle through the holes producing the required image below. It was a convenient way to duplicate images in a scriptorium where many similar copies of a book were required. Although the Ashmolean Bestiary has very similar images to the Aberdeen Bestiary, in general their different proportions show that they were not a direct copy. The evidence of pouncing in the Aberdeen Bestiary suggests that there was yet another member of this family of manuscripts, directly dependent on the Aberdeen design. Images marked in this way are on f.2r fishes, f.3r the creation of Eve (more visible on f.3v), f.11v hyena, f.12v ape, f.18r dog, f.24r mole, f.36v hoopoe, f.37r magpies, f.51v bat, f.54r partridge, f.56r phoenix, f.59r ducks, f.59v peacock, f.63r bees, f.66v vipers, f.68v anphivena, f.69v seps. In most cases it is impossible to tell when the pouncing took place but the Aberdeen Bestiary has evidence that some pictures were done while the book was being made and some were done after completion (Clark 1992,107). The Creation of Eve (f.3r) and the phoenix (f.56r) are both punched and blank on the verso. The two pages after the phoenix are blank and glued together, thus preventing the pricks on f.56r from damaging the new f.56v. The same can be observed at f.3r which is followed by two blanks and the next image on f.4v. Clearly these were intended to be stuck together to minimise the effect of pricking around Eve, and to support the heavy layers of paint and gold of the Christ in Majesty. Decisions to leave these blank pages must have been made while the drawings were being produced. Elsewhere the pouncing damages the other side of the folio, often including an illumination. These incursions must have been made after the book was complete.

  • Translation
    The basilisk can be conquered by weasels. Men put them into the caves where the basilisks lie hidden. The basilisk, seeing the weasel, flees; the weasel pursues and kills it. For the Creator has made nothing without a remedy. The basilisk is half-a-foot in length, with white stripes. Of the basilisk, or regulus [continued] Basilisks, like scorpions, seek out dry places; after they have come to water and bite anyone there, they make that person hydrophobic and send them mad. The creature called sibilus is the same as the regulus, or basilisk; for it kills with its hiss before it bites or burns. Of the viper The viper is so called because the female gives birth with force, vi pariat. For when her belly aches with labour pains, her young do not wait to be released at the right time according to nature, but gnawing through her sides burst forth, leaving their mother dead. They say that the male spits his seed into the female, with his head inserted in her mouth. Mad with lust she bites it off. Thus it comes about that both parents die; the male during intercourse; the female at birth. Saint Ambrose says of the viper that it the vilest kind of creature and more cunning than the whole serpent species. When it feels the desire for intercourse, it goes in search of a lamprey already known to it or prepares to copulate with a new partner. It goes to the shore and makes its presence known with a hiss, inviting her to its conjugal embrace. The lamprey, once invited, does not demur and shares with the poisonous snake the union it seeks. What should these words signify to us if not that we should put up with the behaviour of our partner, and even if his whereabouts
  • Transcription
    A mustelis tamen vincitur quas illic homines inferunt cavernis\ in quibus delitescunt. Itaque ea visa fugit, quem illa persequitur\ et occidit. Nichil enim parens ille rerum sine remedio constituit.\ Est autem longitudine semipedalis albis maculis lineatus.\ De regulis \ Reguli autem sicut scorpiones arentia\ queque sectantur, et postquam ad aquas venerint [PL, ibique aliquem morderint] idro\phobas et limphaticos faciunt. Sibilus idem est qui\ et regulus, sibilo enim occidit antequam mordeat vel exurat.\ De vipera \ Vipera dicta quod\ vi pariat. Nam cum\ venter eius ad partum\ ingemuerit catuli non\ expectantes maturam\ nature solucionem\ corrosis eius lateribus\ erumpunt vi cum ma\tris interitu. Ferunt\ autem quod mascu\lus ore inserto vipere semen expuat. Illa autem ex voluptate\ in rabiem versa, caput maris ore recepto precidit, ita fit ut uterque\ parens pereat, masculus cum coit, femina cum parit. De vipera\ dicit sanctus Ambrosius quia nequissimum genus bestie est et super\ omnia que serpentium sunt generis astutior ubi coeundi cu\piditatem assumpserit, murene maritime notam sibi requirit\ copulam vel novam preparat. Progressaque ad litus sibilo testi\ficata presentiam sui, ad coniugalem amplexum illam evocat.\ Murena autem invitata non deest, et venenate serpenti ex\petitos usus sue impertit coniunctionis. Quid sibi sermo huius\modi vult nisi ferendos esse mores coniugum, et si absens est eius\
Folio 66v - the basilisk, continued. De vipera; Of the viper | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen