The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 7r - Incipit liber de naturis bestiarium/ Here begins the book of the nature of beasts. De leonibus/ Lions


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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.
Here begins the book of the nature of beasts. Of lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes. The lion is the mightiest of the beasts; he will quail at the approach of none. The name 'beast' applies, strictly speaking, to lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes, and to all other animals which vent their rage with tooth or claw - except snakes. They are called 'beasts' from the force with which they rage. They are called 'wild' because they enjoy their natural liberty and are borne along by their desires. They are free of will, and wander here and there, and where their instinct takes them, there they are borne. The name lion, leo, of Greek origin, is altered in Latin. For in Greek it is leon; it is not a genuine word, because it is in part corrupted. For the Greek word for lion is translated 'king' in Latin, because the lion is the king of all the beasts. There are said to be three kinds. Of these, the ones which are short in stature, with curly manes, are peaceable; the tall ones, with straight hair, are fierce. Their brow and tail show their mettle; their courage is in their breast, their resolution in their head. They fear the rumbling sound of wheels, but are even more frightened by fire. The lion takes pride in the strength of its nature; it does not know how to join in the ferocity of other kinds of wild beasts, but like a king disdains the company of large numbers. Of the three main characteristics of the lion. Those who study nature say that the lion has three main characteristics. The first is that it loves to roam amid mountain peaks. If it happens that the lion is pursued by hunters, it picks up their scent and obliterates the traces behind it with its tail. As a result, they cannot track it. Thus our Saviour, a spiritual lion, of the tribe of Judah, the root of Jesse, the son of David, concealed the traces of his love in heaven until, sent by his father, he descended into the womb of the Virgin Mary and redeemed mankind, which was lost.

Text

Here begins the book of the nature of beasts.

Comment

The start of quire B is indicated by the letter 'b' in the centre of the lower margin. Pricking and ruling are visible. On the right edge the letters 'b, c, p', written in black are initial indicators. The first initial is type 3 and the other three are 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.

  • Ruling

    Ruling

    Ruling
    Ruling continues under the illustration. Detail from f.16r

    After the leaves had been pricked, they were ready for ruling. Most pages up to quire F have 29 lines (except for the heavily illustrated quire A). The remaining quires use 28, 30 or 31 lines. The most regular ruling is found in B and C: the two top and bottom lines extend across the whole page. The lines in A, B and C are ruled in a grey colour. From D onwards the lines are a darker brown. The horizontal lines here are also neater, not overlapping the vertical margins. This would suggest that the ruling in A,B and C was done by a different person from the rest. In D and E there is a triple spaced double line across the top and bottom of the page but thereafter the ruling patterns become somewhat arbitrary. Sometimes there are double spaced top and bottom lines, sometimes the number of lines varies. On f.18v, the normal pattern of 29 lines is inadequate. It would appear that the scribe himself had to add two additional lines below the bottom margin, in order to complete his tale. Generally, the written space is 185 x 110/115mm. The ruling appears to have been made without any plan for the illuminations: on f.14r and f.16r the ruled lines pass under the illustration. Two pairs of leaves were left blank. F.3v-f.4r were probably intended to be glued together in order to support the weight of paint and gold leaf on f.4v. f.6r and f.6v precede the Lion story. In the Ashmole Bestiary, the lion has two full page illustrations, which were probably intended here. Two pairs of leaves are glued together. F.56r has a hole in it, which is concealed by being glued to the next page, f.56v. F.93r is glued to f.93v, probably because of the gilded double illumination on f.93v.

  • Initial Indicators

    Initial Indicators

    Initial Indicators
    Initial indicator 'v'. Detail from f.16r

    When the scribe was writing he would leave a gap on the page where an initial was supposed to be inserted. To make sure that the illuminated letter was correct, the scribe would write a very small initial in the margin. They are written on the outside edge of the sheet. Over 30 of these small letters survive. Up to quire C they are marked with the same black ink as the text. After that both black and red ink are used.

  • 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.

  • Initial Type 3

    Initial Type 3

    Initial Type 3
    Type 3 initial. Detail from f.77v

    Type 3 is the most luxurious: a gold letter is framed by a blue or brown patterned square (f.3r, f.5v); or the other way around with a painted letter and gilded frame (f.36v, f.77v). On f.36v there are tiny red circles found on the clothing of God and Adam in quire A. Therefore the initials of type 3 are also by the main illuminator. Type 3 may occupy only two lines as in quire A or up to eight lines on f.77v. It is generally, but not always, used to signal a particularly significant section. So, it is used in the Creation sequence, and the start of the Bestiary proper. On f.25v it is used to highlight the start of a section on birds derived from the Aviarium by Hugo of Fouilloy, as distinct from the general bird section deriving from the ‘standard’ bestiary on f.25r. In the latter part of the book where there are fewer illustrations it is used to introduce the next category (f.72r passim): worms and insects, fish, trees, Isidore on the nature of man, Isidore on human body parts, and the condition of man. Three individual topics are given particular emphasis with the type 3 initial: the hoopoe (f.36r) famous for its filial piety; the magpie, likened to a poet (f.36v) and the perindens tree which can be understood as God (f.64v).

Transcription

Incipit liber de naturis bestiarum. De leonibus et pardis et tigribus, lupis et\ vulpibus, canibus et simiis.\ Leo fortissimus bestiarum, ad nullius pavebit occursum.\ Bestiarum vocabulum proprie convenit leonibus par\dis, et tigribus, lupis, et vulpibus, canibus et simiis, ac ce\teris que ore vel unguibus seviunt, exceptis serpentibus.\ Bestie autem dicite, a vi qua seviunt. Fere appellate eo quod na\turali utuntur libertate, et desiderio suo ferantur. Sunt\ enim libere eorum voluntates, et huc atque illuc vagan\tur, et quo animus duxerit, eo ferantur. Leonis vocabulum\ ex greca origine inflexum est in latinum. Grece enim leon vo\catur, et est nomen nothum, quia ex parte corruptum. Leo\ enim grece, latine rex interpretatur, eo quod princeps est omnium\ bestiarum.\ De generibus luporum [lionum]\ Cuius genus tripharium dicitur,\ e quibus breves et iuba crispa inbelles sunt, longi et co\ma simplici, acres. Animos eorum frons et cauda indicat,\ virtus eorum in pectore, firmitas autem in capite. Rotarum\ timent strepitus, sed ignes magis. Leo nature sue vi superbus, fe\rocitatem sui aliarum ferarum generibus miscere nes\cit, sed quasi rex quidam plurimorum dedignatur consortium.\ De tribus principalibus naturis leonis.\ Phisici dicunt leonem\ tres principales naturas habere. Prima natura eius est, quod per\ cacumina montium amat ire. Et si contigerit ut queratur\ a venatoribus, venit ad eum odor venatorum, et cum cau\da sua tetigit posttergum vestigia sua. Tunc venato\res investigare eum nequeunt. Sic et salvator noster, scilicet\ spiritualis leo, de tribu Iuda, radix Iesse, filius David, cooperuit\ vestigia sue caritatis in celis, donec missus a patre descenderet\ in uterum virginis Marie, et salvaret genus humanum quod perierat.\

Translation

Here begins the book of the nature of beasts. Of lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes. The lion is the mightiest of the beasts; he will quail at the approach of none. The name 'beast' applies, strictly speaking, to lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes, and to all other animals which vent their rage with tooth or claw - except snakes. They are called 'beasts' from the force with which they rage. They are called 'wild' because they enjoy their natural liberty and are borne along by their desires. They are free of will, and wander here and there, and where their instinct takes them, there they are borne. The name lion, leo, of Greek origin, is altered in Latin. For in Greek it is leon; it is not a genuine word, because it is in part corrupted. For the Greek word for lion is translated 'king' in Latin, because the lion is the king of all the beasts. There are said to be three kinds. Of these, the ones which are short in stature, with curly manes, are peaceable; the tall ones, with straight hair, are fierce. Their brow and tail show their mettle; their courage is in their breast, their resolution in their head. They fear the rumbling sound of wheels, but are even more frightened by fire. The lion takes pride in the strength of its nature; it does not know how to join in the ferocity of other kinds of wild beasts, but like a king disdains the company of large numbers. Of the three main characteristics of the lion. Those who study nature say that the lion has three main characteristics. The first is that it loves to roam amid mountain peaks. If it happens that the lion is pursued by hunters, it picks up their scent and obliterates the traces behind it with its tail. As a result, they cannot track it. Thus our Saviour, a spiritual lion, of the tribe of Judah, the root of Jesse, the son of David, concealed the traces of his love in heaven until, sent by his father, he descended into the womb of the Virgin Mary and redeemed mankind, which was lost.
  • Commentary

    Text

    Here begins the book of the nature of beasts.

    Comment

    The start of quire B is indicated by the letter 'b' in the centre of the lower margin. Pricking and ruling are visible. On the right edge the letters 'b, c, p', written in black are initial indicators. The first initial is type 3 and the other three are 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.

    • Ruling

      Ruling

      Ruling
      Ruling continues under the illustration. Detail from f.16r

      After the leaves had been pricked, they were ready for ruling. Most pages up to quire F have 29 lines (except for the heavily illustrated quire A). The remaining quires use 28, 30 or 31 lines. The most regular ruling is found in B and C: the two top and bottom lines extend across the whole page. The lines in A, B and C are ruled in a grey colour. From D onwards the lines are a darker brown. The horizontal lines here are also neater, not overlapping the vertical margins. This would suggest that the ruling in A,B and C was done by a different person from the rest. In D and E there is a triple spaced double line across the top and bottom of the page but thereafter the ruling patterns become somewhat arbitrary. Sometimes there are double spaced top and bottom lines, sometimes the number of lines varies. On f.18v, the normal pattern of 29 lines is inadequate. It would appear that the scribe himself had to add two additional lines below the bottom margin, in order to complete his tale. Generally, the written space is 185 x 110/115mm. The ruling appears to have been made without any plan for the illuminations: on f.14r and f.16r the ruled lines pass under the illustration. Two pairs of leaves were left blank. F.3v-f.4r were probably intended to be glued together in order to support the weight of paint and gold leaf on f.4v. f.6r and f.6v precede the Lion story. In the Ashmole Bestiary, the lion has two full page illustrations, which were probably intended here. Two pairs of leaves are glued together. F.56r has a hole in it, which is concealed by being glued to the next page, f.56v. F.93r is glued to f.93v, probably because of the gilded double illumination on f.93v.

    • Initial Indicators

      Initial Indicators

      Initial Indicators
      Initial indicator 'v'. Detail from f.16r

      When the scribe was writing he would leave a gap on the page where an initial was supposed to be inserted. To make sure that the illuminated letter was correct, the scribe would write a very small initial in the margin. They are written on the outside edge of the sheet. Over 30 of these small letters survive. Up to quire C they are marked with the same black ink as the text. After that both black and red ink are used.

    • 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.

    • Initial Type 3

      Initial Type 3

      Initial Type 3
      Type 3 initial. Detail from f.77v

      Type 3 is the most luxurious: a gold letter is framed by a blue or brown patterned square (f.3r, f.5v); or the other way around with a painted letter and gilded frame (f.36v, f.77v). On f.36v there are tiny red circles found on the clothing of God and Adam in quire A. Therefore the initials of type 3 are also by the main illuminator. Type 3 may occupy only two lines as in quire A or up to eight lines on f.77v. It is generally, but not always, used to signal a particularly significant section. So, it is used in the Creation sequence, and the start of the Bestiary proper. On f.25v it is used to highlight the start of a section on birds derived from the Aviarium by Hugo of Fouilloy, as distinct from the general bird section deriving from the ‘standard’ bestiary on f.25r. In the latter part of the book where there are fewer illustrations it is used to introduce the next category (f.72r passim): worms and insects, fish, trees, Isidore on the nature of man, Isidore on human body parts, and the condition of man. Three individual topics are given particular emphasis with the type 3 initial: the hoopoe (f.36r) famous for its filial piety; the magpie, likened to a poet (f.36v) and the perindens tree which can be understood as God (f.64v).

  • Translation
    Here begins the book of the nature of beasts. Of lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes. The lion is the mightiest of the beasts; he will quail at the approach of none. The name 'beast' applies, strictly speaking, to lions, panthers and tigers, wolves and foxes, dogs and apes, and to all other animals which vent their rage with tooth or claw - except snakes. They are called 'beasts' from the force with which they rage. They are called 'wild' because they enjoy their natural liberty and are borne along by their desires. They are free of will, and wander here and there, and where their instinct takes them, there they are borne. The name lion, leo, of Greek origin, is altered in Latin. For in Greek it is leon; it is not a genuine word, because it is in part corrupted. For the Greek word for lion is translated 'king' in Latin, because the lion is the king of all the beasts. There are said to be three kinds. Of these, the ones which are short in stature, with curly manes, are peaceable; the tall ones, with straight hair, are fierce. Their brow and tail show their mettle; their courage is in their breast, their resolution in their head. They fear the rumbling sound of wheels, but are even more frightened by fire. The lion takes pride in the strength of its nature; it does not know how to join in the ferocity of other kinds of wild beasts, but like a king disdains the company of large numbers. Of the three main characteristics of the lion. Those who study nature say that the lion has three main characteristics. The first is that it loves to roam amid mountain peaks. If it happens that the lion is pursued by hunters, it picks up their scent and obliterates the traces behind it with its tail. As a result, they cannot track it. Thus our Saviour, a spiritual lion, of the tribe of Judah, the root of Jesse, the son of David, concealed the traces of his love in heaven until, sent by his father, he descended into the womb of the Virgin Mary and redeemed mankind, which was lost.
  • Transcription
    Incipit liber de naturis bestiarum. De leonibus et pardis et tigribus, lupis et\ vulpibus, canibus et simiis.\ Leo fortissimus bestiarum, ad nullius pavebit occursum.\ Bestiarum vocabulum proprie convenit leonibus par\dis, et tigribus, lupis, et vulpibus, canibus et simiis, ac ce\teris que ore vel unguibus seviunt, exceptis serpentibus.\ Bestie autem dicite, a vi qua seviunt. Fere appellate eo quod na\turali utuntur libertate, et desiderio suo ferantur. Sunt\ enim libere eorum voluntates, et huc atque illuc vagan\tur, et quo animus duxerit, eo ferantur. Leonis vocabulum\ ex greca origine inflexum est in latinum. Grece enim leon vo\catur, et est nomen nothum, quia ex parte corruptum. Leo\ enim grece, latine rex interpretatur, eo quod princeps est omnium\ bestiarum.\ De generibus luporum [lionum]\ Cuius genus tripharium dicitur,\ e quibus breves et iuba crispa inbelles sunt, longi et co\ma simplici, acres. Animos eorum frons et cauda indicat,\ virtus eorum in pectore, firmitas autem in capite. Rotarum\ timent strepitus, sed ignes magis. Leo nature sue vi superbus, fe\rocitatem sui aliarum ferarum generibus miscere nes\cit, sed quasi rex quidam plurimorum dedignatur consortium.\ De tribus principalibus naturis leonis.\ Phisici dicunt leonem\ tres principales naturas habere. Prima natura eius est, quod per\ cacumina montium amat ire. Et si contigerit ut queratur\ a venatoribus, venit ad eum odor venatorum, et cum cau\da sua tetigit posttergum vestigia sua. Tunc venato\res investigare eum nequeunt. Sic et salvator noster, scilicet\ spiritualis leo, de tribu Iuda, radix Iesse, filius David, cooperuit\ vestigia sue caritatis in celis, donec missus a patre descenderet\ in uterum virginis Marie, et salvaret genus humanum quod perierat.\
Folio 7r - Incipit liber de naturis bestiarium/ Here begins the book of the nature of beasts. De leonibus/ Lions | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen