The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 54v - the partridge, continued. [De altione]; Of the halcyon

Folio 55r - the halcyon, continued. [De] fulica]; Of the coot. [De fenice]; Of the phoenix

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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 halcyon. The sea becomes calm when the halcyon has laid its eggs.


Portrait of a blue bird with webbed feet and a saw bill.


The blue specks of the feathers derive from Aristotle's description of a kingfisher. The excision relates to the partridge on f.54r. Initial type 2.



The coot, a wise bird. The phoenix, the bird of Arabia, named for its colour of Phoenician purple. It builds a pyre for itself, faces the sun and is consumed by flames.


The coot has a similar pose to the halcyon, f.54v, with its head turned back, biting its wing. It is shown correctly with clawed feet.


The rubric is missing: the title for the coot is written in black. The scribe has written neatly around a hole in the parchment. The scribe has omitted the word 'heretici', added by the editor in the right margin. Initials type 2.