The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 44r - the ostrich, continued. De vulturibus; Of vultures


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Commentary, Translation and Transcription

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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:

Text

  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:]

Translation

  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.
seize on the sins of others even when they are hidden. The text continues: 'When the time comes, the ostrich spreads its wings.' What are we to understand by the wings of the ostrich, if not the thoughts of the hypocrite, confined by considerations of the present, like wings tightly folded together? When the time comes, the ostrich raises its wings high, because it has found an opportunity to display them with pride. To spread the wings on high is to reveal your thoughts through unbridled pride. Now, because the hypocrite represents himself as holy, he keeps his thoughts to himself, as if folding his wings against his body in humility. Let the hypocrite go, therefore, now to seek praise, then to criticize the life of his neighbours, let him at any time occupy himself in deriding his creator, and he will be plunged into torments whose severity will match his own vainglorious thoughts. It follows then that 'the ostrich forgets that a foot may crush its eggs or a beast of the field trample on them'. The foot crushes the eggs and the beast of the field tramples on them when they are left in the earth as, clearly, the hearts of men, when they devote themselves constantly to thoughts of earthly things and the basest deeds, fling themselves down to be crushed by the hooves of the beast of the field, that is, the Devil, so that, when they have long been degraded by base thoughts, they may at some time be destroyed by committing serious crimes. The text continues: 'The ostrich treats its young harshly as if they were not its own'. The hypocrite regards his young as if they were not his own, when he finds them living otherwise than he had taught them. And, with increasing fury, he threatens them with terror and sets himself to torment them; fired by the burning brands of hatred, the hypocrite, who made no effort to ensure that his young should live, makes every effort to ensure that they die. The hypocrite, therefore, whom we take to be represented by the ostrich, is characterised as follows: he cares for no-one but himself, but glorifies himself in all he does and attributes to himself alone, beyond all others, the good that he does. Of vultures The vulture, it is thought, gets its name because it flies slowly. The fact is, it cannot fly swiftly because of the large size of its body. Vultures, like eagles, perceive corpses even beyond the sea. Indeed, flying at a great height, they see from on high many things which are hidden by the shadows of the mountains. It is said that vultures do not indulge in copulation and

Text

The ostrich spreads its wings. The vulture flies slowly and sees corpses from a great distance.

Comment

Folio mark of four superimposed chevrons in top right corner. Initial type 2.

Folio Attributes

  • Gatherings, quire marks, folio marks

    Gatherings, quire marks, folio marks

    Gatherings, quire marks, folio marks
    Folio Marks

    To make a normal gathering, a sheet of vellum (the skin of a calf, lamb or kid) would be folded over twice and cut around the edges. This would make a gathering or quire of eight folios with sixteen sides. In the Bestiary there are fifteen quires, thirteen of which are made with the usual eight folios. The last two quires, added in the late thirteenth century, have six and four folios respectively. The folios are not precisely cut but in the most regular quires (B and C) they measure 300mm high and 210mm wide. In order to assemble the quires in the correct sequence they were labelled in lead point with letters of the alphabet. Some are missing with the result that the sequence runs -,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,K,-(folio missing),M,N. The last two quires (O and P) are the later additions and are not marked. The quire system was examined by MR James when the book was being rebound and he was able to produce the following analysis of the gatherings: A8 (wants folio 2, 8); B8 (4,5); C8 (4,8); D8 (4,5); E8-L8 (1); M8; N8; O6; P4 (4). Individual sheets in the quire needed to be marked. Although there were eight folios only the first four needed marking because they were folded with the last four. Each sheet was distinctively marked to make sure the quires could not get muddled up. The asterisk sign is repeated in quires B and M but they remain distinct because the B sign is in the top right corner while the M signs are all in the bottom left corner.

  • Initial Type 2

    Initial Type 2

    Initial Type 2
    Type 2 initial. Detail from f.5v

    Type 2 is much more common. The letter is made with burnished gold, filled with a blue or brown background which is decorated with a delicate white tracery. Many of these are embellished with red or blue traces or sprays. The Aberdeen Bestiary is a very early example of the use of sprays which culminates in the art of William de Brailes in the mid-thirteenth century (Morgan 1982,no.68). An elaborate spray is on f.41v. The fine white filigree pattern is also found on some of the illuminations (f.3r, f.11r, f.12r) suggesting that the main illuminator also made these initials. This type generally occupies two lines. This initial is generally used to introduce each new animal.

Transcription

occulta etiam aliena delicta, deprehendunt. Sequitur: Cum tem\ pus fuerit, in altum alas erigit. Quid enim alas huius strucionis\ accipimus, nisi pressas hoc tempore quasi complicitas [PL, complicatas] ypocrite cogita\ tiones? Quas cum tempus fuerit in altum elevat, quia oportunita\ te comperta eas superbiendo manifestat. Alas in altum erigere est,\ per effrenatam superbiam cogitationes aperire. Nunc autem quia sanctum\ se simulat quia in semetipso stringit que cogitat, quasi alas in\ corpore per humilitatem plicat. Eat igitur ypocrita et nunc suas lau\ des appetat, postmodum vitam proximorum premat, et quandoque se in ir\ risione sui conditoris exerceat, ut quo elatiora semper excogitat,\ eo se suppliciis attrocioribus immergat. Unde subditur: Obliviscitur\ quod pes conculcet ea, et bestia agri conterat. Tunc ova\ pes calcat,\ et bestia agri conterit cum in terra deseruntur, quia videlicet humana cor\ da dum semper terrena cogitare, semper que ima sunt agere appe\ tunt, ad conterendum se agri bestie, id est diabolo sternunt, ut cum\ diu infima cogitatione abiecta sunt, quandoque maiorum criminum\ perpetratione frangantur. Sequitur: Ducatur [PL, Induratur] ad filios qui quasi non sunt\ sui. Quasi non suos respicit, quos aliter vivere quam docuit, ipsa\ deprehendit. Et durescente sevicia terrores admonet, seque in eorum\ cruciatibus exercet, atque invidie facibus inflammata quibus non\ laboravit ut possent vivere, laborat ut debeant interire.\ Ypocrite ergo qui per strucionem intelligitur consuetudo talis esse perhi\ betur, ut de nullo alio curam habeat, sed de his que agit in se glorietur,\ et sibi soli bonum quod agit, pre ceteris asscribat.\ De vulturibus Vultur a volato tardo nominatus putatur. Magnitudine\ quippe corporis precipites volatus non habet. Vultures autem\ sicut et aquile etiam ultra maria cadavera sentiunt. Alcius quippe\ volantes multaque [multa que] montium obscuritate celantur, ex alto illi con\ spiciunt. Negantur enim vultures indulgere concubitui, et coniugali\

Translation

seize on the sins of others even when they are hidden. The text continues: 'When the time comes, the ostrich spreads its wings.' What are we to understand by the wings of the ostrich, if not the thoughts of the hypocrite, confined by considerations of the present, like wings tightly folded together? When the time comes, the ostrich raises its wings high, because it has found an opportunity to display them with pride. To spread the wings on high is to reveal your thoughts through unbridled pride. Now, because the hypocrite represents himself as holy, he keeps his thoughts to himself, as if folding his wings against his body in humility. Let the hypocrite go, therefore, now to seek praise, then to criticize the life of his neighbours, let him at any time occupy himself in deriding his creator, and he will be plunged into torments whose severity will match his own vainglorious thoughts. It follows then that 'the ostrich forgets that a foot may crush its eggs or a beast of the field trample on them'. The foot crushes the eggs and the beast of the field tramples on them when they are left in the earth as, clearly, the hearts of men, when they devote themselves constantly to thoughts of earthly things and the basest deeds, fling themselves down to be crushed by the hooves of the beast of the field, that is, the Devil, so that, when they have long been degraded by base thoughts, they may at some time be destroyed by committing serious crimes. The text continues: 'The ostrich treats its young harshly as if they were not its own'. The hypocrite regards his young as if they were not his own, when he finds them living otherwise than he had taught them. And, with increasing fury, he threatens them with terror and sets himself to torment them; fired by the burning brands of hatred, the hypocrite, who made no effort to ensure that his young should live, makes every effort to ensure that they die. The hypocrite, therefore, whom we take to be represented by the ostrich, is characterised as follows: he cares for no-one but himself, but glorifies himself in all he does and attributes to himself alone, beyond all others, the good that he does. Of vultures The vulture, it is thought, gets its name because it flies slowly. The fact is, it cannot fly swiftly because of the large size of its body. Vultures, like eagles, perceive corpses even beyond the sea. Indeed, flying at a great height, they see from on high many things which are hidden by the shadows of the mountains. It is said that vultures do not indulge in copulation and
  • Commentary

    Text

    The ostrich spreads its wings. The vulture flies slowly and sees corpses from a great distance.

    Comment

    Folio mark of four superimposed chevrons in top right corner. Initial type 2.

    Folio Attributes

    • Gatherings, quire marks, folio marks

      Gatherings, quire marks, folio marks

      Gatherings, quire marks, folio marks
      Folio Marks

      To make a normal gathering, a sheet of vellum (the skin of a calf, lamb or kid) would be folded over twice and cut around the edges. This would make a gathering or quire of eight folios with sixteen sides. In the Bestiary there are fifteen quires, thirteen of which are made with the usual eight folios. The last two quires, added in the late thirteenth century, have six and four folios respectively. The folios are not precisely cut but in the most regular quires (B and C) they measure 300mm high and 210mm wide. In order to assemble the quires in the correct sequence they were labelled in lead point with letters of the alphabet. Some are missing with the result that the sequence runs -,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,K,-(folio missing),M,N. The last two quires (O and P) are the later additions and are not marked. The quire system was examined by MR James when the book was being rebound and he was able to produce the following analysis of the gatherings: A8 (wants folio 2, 8); B8 (4,5); C8 (4,8); D8 (4,5); E8-L8 (1); M8; N8; O6; P4 (4). Individual sheets in the quire needed to be marked. Although there were eight folios only the first four needed marking because they were folded with the last four. Each sheet was distinctively marked to make sure the quires could not get muddled up. The asterisk sign is repeated in quires B and M but they remain distinct because the B sign is in the top right corner while the M signs are all in the bottom left corner.

    • Initial Type 2

      Initial Type 2

      Initial Type 2
      Type 2 initial. Detail from f.5v

      Type 2 is much more common. The letter is made with burnished gold, filled with a blue or brown background which is decorated with a delicate white tracery. Many of these are embellished with red or blue traces or sprays. The Aberdeen Bestiary is a very early example of the use of sprays which culminates in the art of William de Brailes in the mid-thirteenth century (Morgan 1982,no.68). An elaborate spray is on f.41v. The fine white filigree pattern is also found on some of the illuminations (f.3r, f.11r, f.12r) suggesting that the main illuminator also made these initials. This type generally occupies two lines. This initial is generally used to introduce each new animal.

  • Translation
    seize on the sins of others even when they are hidden. The text continues: 'When the time comes, the ostrich spreads its wings.' What are we to understand by the wings of the ostrich, if not the thoughts of the hypocrite, confined by considerations of the present, like wings tightly folded together? When the time comes, the ostrich raises its wings high, because it has found an opportunity to display them with pride. To spread the wings on high is to reveal your thoughts through unbridled pride. Now, because the hypocrite represents himself as holy, he keeps his thoughts to himself, as if folding his wings against his body in humility. Let the hypocrite go, therefore, now to seek praise, then to criticize the life of his neighbours, let him at any time occupy himself in deriding his creator, and he will be plunged into torments whose severity will match his own vainglorious thoughts. It follows then that 'the ostrich forgets that a foot may crush its eggs or a beast of the field trample on them'. The foot crushes the eggs and the beast of the field tramples on them when they are left in the earth as, clearly, the hearts of men, when they devote themselves constantly to thoughts of earthly things and the basest deeds, fling themselves down to be crushed by the hooves of the beast of the field, that is, the Devil, so that, when they have long been degraded by base thoughts, they may at some time be destroyed by committing serious crimes. The text continues: 'The ostrich treats its young harshly as if they were not its own'. The hypocrite regards his young as if they were not his own, when he finds them living otherwise than he had taught them. And, with increasing fury, he threatens them with terror and sets himself to torment them; fired by the burning brands of hatred, the hypocrite, who made no effort to ensure that his young should live, makes every effort to ensure that they die. The hypocrite, therefore, whom we take to be represented by the ostrich, is characterised as follows: he cares for no-one but himself, but glorifies himself in all he does and attributes to himself alone, beyond all others, the good that he does. Of vultures The vulture, it is thought, gets its name because it flies slowly. The fact is, it cannot fly swiftly because of the large size of its body. Vultures, like eagles, perceive corpses even beyond the sea. Indeed, flying at a great height, they see from on high many things which are hidden by the shadows of the mountains. It is said that vultures do not indulge in copulation and
  • Transcription
    occulta etiam aliena delicta, deprehendunt. Sequitur: Cum tem\ pus fuerit, in altum alas erigit. Quid enim alas huius strucionis\ accipimus, nisi pressas hoc tempore quasi complicitas [PL, complicatas] ypocrite cogita\ tiones? Quas cum tempus fuerit in altum elevat, quia oportunita\ te comperta eas superbiendo manifestat. Alas in altum erigere est,\ per effrenatam superbiam cogitationes aperire. Nunc autem quia sanctum\ se simulat quia in semetipso stringit que cogitat, quasi alas in\ corpore per humilitatem plicat. Eat igitur ypocrita et nunc suas lau\ des appetat, postmodum vitam proximorum premat, et quandoque se in ir\ risione sui conditoris exerceat, ut quo elatiora semper excogitat,\ eo se suppliciis attrocioribus immergat. Unde subditur: Obliviscitur\ quod pes conculcet ea, et bestia agri conterat. Tunc ova\ pes calcat,\ et bestia agri conterit cum in terra deseruntur, quia videlicet humana cor\ da dum semper terrena cogitare, semper que ima sunt agere appe\ tunt, ad conterendum se agri bestie, id est diabolo sternunt, ut cum\ diu infima cogitatione abiecta sunt, quandoque maiorum criminum\ perpetratione frangantur. Sequitur: Ducatur [PL, Induratur] ad filios qui quasi non sunt\ sui. Quasi non suos respicit, quos aliter vivere quam docuit, ipsa\ deprehendit. Et durescente sevicia terrores admonet, seque in eorum\ cruciatibus exercet, atque invidie facibus inflammata quibus non\ laboravit ut possent vivere, laborat ut debeant interire.\ Ypocrite ergo qui per strucionem intelligitur consuetudo talis esse perhi\ betur, ut de nullo alio curam habeat, sed de his que agit in se glorietur,\ et sibi soli bonum quod agit, pre ceteris asscribat.\ De vulturibus Vultur a volato tardo nominatus putatur. Magnitudine\ quippe corporis precipites volatus non habet. Vultures autem\ sicut et aquile etiam ultra maria cadavera sentiunt. Alcius quippe\ volantes multaque [multa que] montium obscuritate celantur, ex alto illi con\ spiciunt. Negantur enim vultures indulgere concubitui, et coniugali\
Folio 44r - the ostrich, continued. De vulturibus; Of vultures | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen