The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 58v - the crow, continued. De cigno; Of the swan


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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.
they destroy in the uterus the children of their own womb; they would rather take away life than transmit it. What creature but man has taken the view that children can be renounced? What creature but man has endowed parents with such barbarous rights? What creature but man, in the brotherhood created by nature, has made brothers unequal? Different fates befall the sons of a single rich man. One enjoys in abundance the rights and titles of his father's entire heritage; the other complains bitterly at receiving an exhausted and impoverished share of his rich patrimony. Did nature distinguish between what each son should receive? Nature has shared things equally among everyone, giving them what they need to be born and survive. Let nature teach you to make no distinction, when dividing your patrimony, between those whom you have made equal by the title bestowed by brotherhood; for truly as you have bestowed on them the equal possession of the fact of their birth, so you should not grudge them the equal enjoyment of their status of brotherhood. Of the swan The swan, olor, is the bird which the Greeks call cygnus. It is called olor because its plumage is wholly white; no-one can recall seeing a black swan. In Greek olos means 'entire'. The swan is called cignus, from its singing; it pours forth the sweetness of song in a melodious voice. They say that the swan sings so sweetly because it has a long, curved neck; inevitably, a voice forcing its way through a long, flexible passage produces a variety of tones. They say, moreover, that in the far north, when bards are singing to their lyres, large numbers of swans are summoned by the sound and sing in harmony with them. The Latin name for the swan, I repeat, is olor; the Greeks call it cignus. Sailors say that seeing a swan is a good omen for them;

Text

The swan is totally white and has a wonderfully melodious voice.

Illustration

The animal depicted is the mute swan.

Comment

The characteristic knob at the base of the beak should be black instead of white as shown here. The white paint is covered with a thick coat of glair (made from egg white) which gives the feathers a luxurious sheen. Initial type 2.

Folio Attributes

  • 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

in ipsa genitali alvo pignora sui ventris extingunt, priusque\ aufertur vita quam traditur. Quis docuit nisi homo filios abdi\ cari? Quis repperit tam immitia patrum iura? Quis inter nature\ fraterna consortia fratres impares fecit? Unius divitis filii diverse sorti\ cedunt. Alius tocius paterne sortis asscriptionibus inundatur, alius\ opulente hereditatis patrie deplorat exhaustum, atque inopem\ portionem. Nunquid natura divisit merita filiorum? Ex pari\ omnibus tribuit, quod ad nascendi et vivendi possint habere sub\ stantiam. Ipsa vos doceat non discernere patrimonio, quos titulo\ germanitatis equastis, etenim quibus dedistis communiter\ esse quod nati sunt, non debetis his ut communiter habeant id\ quod una substituti sunt invidere. \ De cigno \ Olor avis quam\ Greci cignum\ vocant. Olor autem\ dicitur quod sit totus albus\ plumis. Nullus enim\ meminit cignum ni\ grum. Olo enim Grece\ totus dicitur. Cignus autem\ a canendo est appellatus\ eo quod carminis\ dulcedinem modu\ latis vocibus fundit.\ Ideo autem suaviter eum canere dicunt quod collum longum\ et inflexum habet, et necesse est eluctantem vocem per longum et flex\ uosum iter varias reddere modulationes. Ferunt autem in hiper\ boreis partibus precinentibus citharedis, olores plurimos advocari\ apteque admodum concinere. Olor autem Latinum est nomen\ nam Greci cignus dicunt. Naute vero sibi hunc bonam prognosim

Translation

they destroy in the uterus the children of their own womb; they would rather take away life than transmit it. What creature but man has taken the view that children can be renounced? What creature but man has endowed parents with such barbarous rights? What creature but man, in the brotherhood created by nature, has made brothers unequal? Different fates befall the sons of a single rich man. One enjoys in abundance the rights and titles of his father's entire heritage; the other complains bitterly at receiving an exhausted and impoverished share of his rich patrimony. Did nature distinguish between what each son should receive? Nature has shared things equally among everyone, giving them what they need to be born and survive. Let nature teach you to make no distinction, when dividing your patrimony, between those whom you have made equal by the title bestowed by brotherhood; for truly as you have bestowed on them the equal possession of the fact of their birth, so you should not grudge them the equal enjoyment of their status of brotherhood. Of the swan The swan, olor, is the bird which the Greeks call cygnus. It is called olor because its plumage is wholly white; no-one can recall seeing a black swan. In Greek olos means 'entire'. The swan is called cignus, from its singing; it pours forth the sweetness of song in a melodious voice. They say that the swan sings so sweetly because it has a long, curved neck; inevitably, a voice forcing its way through a long, flexible passage produces a variety of tones. They say, moreover, that in the far north, when bards are singing to their lyres, large numbers of swans are summoned by the sound and sing in harmony with them. The Latin name for the swan, I repeat, is olor; the Greeks call it cignus. Sailors say that seeing a swan is a good omen for them;
  • Commentary

    Text

    The swan is totally white and has a wonderfully melodious voice.

    Illustration

    The animal depicted is the mute swan.

    Comment

    The characteristic knob at the base of the beak should be black instead of white as shown here. The white paint is covered with a thick coat of glair (made from egg white) which gives the feathers a luxurious sheen. Initial type 2.

    Folio Attributes

    • 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
    they destroy in the uterus the children of their own womb; they would rather take away life than transmit it. What creature but man has taken the view that children can be renounced? What creature but man has endowed parents with such barbarous rights? What creature but man, in the brotherhood created by nature, has made brothers unequal? Different fates befall the sons of a single rich man. One enjoys in abundance the rights and titles of his father's entire heritage; the other complains bitterly at receiving an exhausted and impoverished share of his rich patrimony. Did nature distinguish between what each son should receive? Nature has shared things equally among everyone, giving them what they need to be born and survive. Let nature teach you to make no distinction, when dividing your patrimony, between those whom you have made equal by the title bestowed by brotherhood; for truly as you have bestowed on them the equal possession of the fact of their birth, so you should not grudge them the equal enjoyment of their status of brotherhood. Of the swan The swan, olor, is the bird which the Greeks call cygnus. It is called olor because its plumage is wholly white; no-one can recall seeing a black swan. In Greek olos means 'entire'. The swan is called cignus, from its singing; it pours forth the sweetness of song in a melodious voice. They say that the swan sings so sweetly because it has a long, curved neck; inevitably, a voice forcing its way through a long, flexible passage produces a variety of tones. They say, moreover, that in the far north, when bards are singing to their lyres, large numbers of swans are summoned by the sound and sing in harmony with them. The Latin name for the swan, I repeat, is olor; the Greeks call it cignus. Sailors say that seeing a swan is a good omen for them;
  • Transcription
    in ipsa genitali alvo pignora sui ventris extingunt, priusque\ aufertur vita quam traditur. Quis docuit nisi homo filios abdi\ cari? Quis repperit tam immitia patrum iura? Quis inter nature\ fraterna consortia fratres impares fecit? Unius divitis filii diverse sorti\ cedunt. Alius tocius paterne sortis asscriptionibus inundatur, alius\ opulente hereditatis patrie deplorat exhaustum, atque inopem\ portionem. Nunquid natura divisit merita filiorum? Ex pari\ omnibus tribuit, quod ad nascendi et vivendi possint habere sub\ stantiam. Ipsa vos doceat non discernere patrimonio, quos titulo\ germanitatis equastis, etenim quibus dedistis communiter\ esse quod nati sunt, non debetis his ut communiter habeant id\ quod una substituti sunt invidere. \ De cigno \ Olor avis quam\ Greci cignum\ vocant. Olor autem\ dicitur quod sit totus albus\ plumis. Nullus enim\ meminit cignum ni\ grum. Olo enim Grece\ totus dicitur. Cignus autem\ a canendo est appellatus\ eo quod carminis\ dulcedinem modu\ latis vocibus fundit.\ Ideo autem suaviter eum canere dicunt quod collum longum\ et inflexum habet, et necesse est eluctantem vocem per longum et flex\ uosum iter varias reddere modulationes. Ferunt autem in hiper\ boreis partibus precinentibus citharedis, olores plurimos advocari\ apteque admodum concinere. Olor autem Latinum est nomen\ nam Greci cignus dicunt. Naute vero sibi hunc bonam prognosim
Folio 58v - the crow, continued. De cigno; Of the swan | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen