The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 1v - Creation of the waters and the firmament

Folio 2r - Creation of the birds and fishes

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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:


  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:]


  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.



Genesis 1:6-8.


the Division of the Waters. God stands frontally in the centre of the picture wearing a red tunic and blue cloak. He does not have a beard. The gesture with his right hand emphatically sweeps beyond the circles. He holds a book in his left hand. Behind him are three circles decorated with various shades of blue semicircles. God's halo reaches to the top of the sky, represented by blue wavy lines. Below God are the turquoise ripples of the sea. The burnished gold background is contained within a frame. Two illustrations of the Creation sequence are missing, showing the the plants and trees and the creation of the moon and stars. They are represented by Ashmole 1511, f.5r and f.5v. Initial type 3



Genesis 1:20-23.


the Creation of Birds and Fishes. God stands in a three-quarters pose facing right. His right arm is raised and he looks down on his creation. He wears a blue tunic and red cloak and has no beard. He occupies nearly the full height of the picture. On the right are two compartments of birds, two of which extend beyond their frames. The birds in the top section are not easy to recognise but they are possibly sea birds. The black bird on the right swoops like a great skua. The large black bird with a long neck and beak is rather like a cormorant or shag, apart from its curled tail feathers and unwebbed feet. Below, the peacock can be identified but the lighter birds are not specific. Above the sea, a white stork holds a snake. The text on f.49 says correctly that storks eat snakes and there is an illustration of this in the fifth-century manuscript of Dioscorides ( Gr. 1). The fish in the water include an eel or conger, a large one on the left with a big mouth, two salmon-like fish in the middle and at the top two small fish with large heads.The position of God standing above the waters, facing right with his right arm raised is found on a similar creation scene on the mosaics of the Palatine Chapel, Palermo. The triangular area around the fish is pricked for pouncing. Initial type 3.