The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 49v - the stork, continued. De [merula]; Of the blackbird.

Folio 50r - the blackbird, continued. De bubone; Of the Owl.

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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.



The blackbird is black and has a sweet voice.


Portrait of the blackbird in a roundel.


It is painted brown either in ignorance of the text or because it is a female bird.



Rolling in nettles saves St Benedict from lust. The Owl.


Portrait of the owl.


This owl 'bubo' is tawny brown and beige with a flat face and prominent ears like horns. Bubo, as described by Aristotle (buas or bruas in Greek) was as large as an eagle which must indicate the relatively rare eagle owl. It has prominent ear tufts as shown but it is tawny all over and does not have a flat face. The long eared owl has a flat face and ears but is also tawny all over. The barn owl is closest in colouring to the illustration and also has a flat face, but it does not have ears. As projecting ears or horns are not mentioned in the Bestiary text they may derive from a much earlier source which was still aware of the connection between bubo and the eagle owl. Initial, type 2. It is squeezed into its space and is over lapped by the illustration.