The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 69v - the iaculus, continued. De sirenis; Of sirens. [De sepe]; Of the seps. [De dipsade]; Of the dipsa. De lacerto; Of the lizard. De salamandra; Of the salamander.

Folio 70r - the salamander, continued. De saura serpente; Of the serpent called the saura

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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 siren can run faster than horses and can fly; seps, dipsa, lizard with arms and salamander.


The speedy siren is at the top of the page. The small seps is seen in profile. The lizard has legs as well as arms.


Initials type 2.



Salamanders are proof against fire, they can poison all apples in a tree, poison water in a well, killing anyone who drinks from it. They can survive in flames and put a fire out. The saura snake.


The tree writhes with salamanders; a salamander poisons a well; salamanders leap from flames; a man lies poisoned at the foot of the tree.


The image of a man lying dead at the foot of a tree relates to the Tree of Jesse iconography. Above him a salamander plunges into a tub, an episode illustrated in Bern 318 f. 14v. The other salamanders are poisoning fruit in a tree and surviving in a fire. In certain conditions a bonfire can appear to be releasing live, red, wriggling snakes when the wood is damp and the flying sparks carry long red tails. The star and roof at the top have seeped through from the next page.