The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 65v - De serpentibus; Of snakes. De draconibus; Of the dragon.

Folio 66r - the dragon, continued. De basilisco; Of the basilisk

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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.



Serpents. Many are poisonous. The dragon is bigger than all snakes.


The dragon strangles an elephant. The text says the dragon has a crest, small mouth and does not kill with its teeth but with its tail. The illustrator has added massive teeth and wings. The description applies to an African python which can kill deer if not actually elephants by strangulation. Initials type 2.



The dragon kills by wrapping its tail around a victim and it can even kill elephants. The basilisk is the king of crawling things and can kill with a glance.


This basilisk has a raptor's beak, a cockscomb, wings, a tail and claws. He is being attacked by a weasel.


Early accounts of the basilisk (Dioscorides, in the first century) describe it as an ordinary snake with a head excrescence, probably a king cobra. Killing at a glance may refer to the spitting cobra who has no need to bite. The mongoose, rather like a weasel, can kill cobras. Correction In margin, 'diabol' supplies omission. The word 'devil' is omitted from several 2nd-family manuscripts, but it is found in Isidore, the source (Clark, 1992, 195, n.341, 342). Prick marks on the page relate to the serpent on f.66v. Initial type 2.