The Aberdeen Bestiary

Folio 68v - De scitali serpente; Of the snake called scitalis. De anphivena; Of the anphivena. De ydro; Of the ydrus.


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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.
it seems to have no spine. Of the snake called scitalis The snake called scitalis gets its name because it glitters with such a variety of colour on its back that it slows down those who look at it on account of its markings. And because it is not a keen crawler and cannot overtake the prey it pursues, it catches those who are stunned by the marvel of its appearance. It gets so hot that even in winter it casts off its burning skin, something to Lucan refers: The scitalis alone can shed its skin while the rime is still scattered over the ground' (Pharsalia, 9, 717). Of the anphivena The anphivena is so called because it has two heads, one where its head should be, the other on its tail; it moves quickly in the direction of either of its head, with its body forming a circle. Alone among snakes it faces the cold and is the first to come out of hibernation. Lucan, again, says of it: 'The fell amphisbaena, that moves towards each of its two heads' (Pharsalia, 9, 719). Its eyes glow like lamps. Of the ydrus A creature lives in the River Nile which is called idrus, because it lives in water. For the Greek word for water is idros
Scitalis has a glittering skin. The Anphivena has two heads, one at each end. The Ydrus lives in the Nile.

Illustration

Three pictures. The scitalis has a dog's head, wings and two feet. The anphivena is shown with two heads, wings and claws. The ydrus is killing a crocodile by crawling into its mouth and tearing it apart.

Comment

In the margin, beside the scitalis text is the sketch of a pointed reptile's wing. Anphivena are in fact limbless lizards, wormlike creatures with rounded head and tail and can move in two directions. This animal is pricked for pouncing. No animal attacks the crocodile in the manner described by the ydrus but the large Nile monitor lizard eats crocodile eggs, and the many types of Nilotic worm crawl in and out of the flesh of dead animals. The word 'ictrie' is written on the body of ydrus. This means icturus or jaundice yellow. Red 'S' and 'A' in the left margin are guides for the initial, type 2.

Folio Attributes

  • Initial Indicators

    Initial Indicators

    Initial Indicators
    Initial indicator 'v'. Detail from f.16r

    When the scribe was writing he would leave a gap on the page where an initial was supposed to be inserted. To make sure that the illuminated letter was correct, the scribe would write a very small initial in the margin. They are written on the outside edge of the sheet. Over 30 of these small letters survive. Up to quire C they are marked with the same black ink as the text. After that both black and red ink are used.

  • 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

non habere videatur. \ De scitali serpente \ Scitalis serpens est\ vocata quod tanta\ prefulget tergi varietate ut no\tarum gratia aspicientes se retar\det. Et quia reptando pigrior est\ quos assequi non valet, mira\culo sui stupentes capit. Tan\ti autem fervoris est ut etiam hyemis tempore exuvias corporis\ ferventes exponat, de quo Lucanus: Et scitalis pressis etiam nunc\ sola pruinis, exuvias positura suas.\ De anphivena \ Anphivena dicta eo\ quod duo capita habeat,\ unum in loco suo alterum\ in cauda, currens ex utroque capite,\ tractu corporis circumlato. Hec\ sola serpentium frigori se com\mittit, prima omnium precedens\ de qua idem Lucanus: Et gravis\ in geminum vergens caput\ anphivena.\ Cuius oculi lucent\ velud lucerne.\ De ydro \ Est ani\mal in\ Nilo flumine\ quod dicitur idrus\ in aqua vivens.\ Greci enim\ idros aquam\

Translation

it seems to have no spine. Of the snake called scitalis The snake called scitalis gets its name because it glitters with such a variety of colour on its back that it slows down those who look at it on account of its markings. And because it is not a keen crawler and cannot overtake the prey it pursues, it catches those who are stunned by the marvel of its appearance. It gets so hot that even in winter it casts off its burning skin, something to Lucan refers: The scitalis alone can shed its skin while the rime is still scattered over the ground' (Pharsalia, 9, 717). Of the anphivena The anphivena is so called because it has two heads, one where its head should be, the other on its tail; it moves quickly in the direction of either of its head, with its body forming a circle. Alone among snakes it faces the cold and is the first to come out of hibernation. Lucan, again, says of it: 'The fell amphisbaena, that moves towards each of its two heads' (Pharsalia, 9, 719). Its eyes glow like lamps. Of the ydrus A creature lives in the River Nile which is called idrus, because it lives in water. For the Greek word for water is idros
  • Commentary
    Scitalis has a glittering skin. The Anphivena has two heads, one at each end. The Ydrus lives in the Nile.

    Illustration

    Three pictures. The scitalis has a dog's head, wings and two feet. The anphivena is shown with two heads, wings and claws. The ydrus is killing a crocodile by crawling into its mouth and tearing it apart.

    Comment

    In the margin, beside the scitalis text is the sketch of a pointed reptile's wing. Anphivena are in fact limbless lizards, wormlike creatures with rounded head and tail and can move in two directions. This animal is pricked for pouncing. No animal attacks the crocodile in the manner described by the ydrus but the large Nile monitor lizard eats crocodile eggs, and the many types of Nilotic worm crawl in and out of the flesh of dead animals. The word 'ictrie' is written on the body of ydrus. This means icturus or jaundice yellow. Red 'S' and 'A' in the left margin are guides for the initial, type 2.

    Folio Attributes

    • Initial Indicators

      Initial Indicators

      Initial Indicators
      Initial indicator 'v'. Detail from f.16r

      When the scribe was writing he would leave a gap on the page where an initial was supposed to be inserted. To make sure that the illuminated letter was correct, the scribe would write a very small initial in the margin. They are written on the outside edge of the sheet. Over 30 of these small letters survive. Up to quire C they are marked with the same black ink as the text. After that both black and red ink are used.

    • 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
    it seems to have no spine. Of the snake called scitalis The snake called scitalis gets its name because it glitters with such a variety of colour on its back that it slows down those who look at it on account of its markings. And because it is not a keen crawler and cannot overtake the prey it pursues, it catches those who are stunned by the marvel of its appearance. It gets so hot that even in winter it casts off its burning skin, something to Lucan refers: The scitalis alone can shed its skin while the rime is still scattered over the ground' (Pharsalia, 9, 717). Of the anphivena The anphivena is so called because it has two heads, one where its head should be, the other on its tail; it moves quickly in the direction of either of its head, with its body forming a circle. Alone among snakes it faces the cold and is the first to come out of hibernation. Lucan, again, says of it: 'The fell amphisbaena, that moves towards each of its two heads' (Pharsalia, 9, 719). Its eyes glow like lamps. Of the ydrus A creature lives in the River Nile which is called idrus, because it lives in water. For the Greek word for water is idros
  • Transcription
    non habere videatur. \ De scitali serpente \ Scitalis serpens est\ vocata quod tanta\ prefulget tergi varietate ut no\tarum gratia aspicientes se retar\det. Et quia reptando pigrior est\ quos assequi non valet, mira\culo sui stupentes capit. Tan\ti autem fervoris est ut etiam hyemis tempore exuvias corporis\ ferventes exponat, de quo Lucanus: Et scitalis pressis etiam nunc\ sola pruinis, exuvias positura suas.\ De anphivena \ Anphivena dicta eo\ quod duo capita habeat,\ unum in loco suo alterum\ in cauda, currens ex utroque capite,\ tractu corporis circumlato. Hec\ sola serpentium frigori se com\mittit, prima omnium precedens\ de qua idem Lucanus: Et gravis\ in geminum vergens caput\ anphivena.\ Cuius oculi lucent\ velud lucerne.\ De ydro \ Est ani\mal in\ Nilo flumine\ quod dicitur idrus\ in aqua vivens.\ Greci enim\ idros aquam\
Folio 68v - De scitali serpente; Of the snake called scitalis. De anphivena; Of the anphivena. De ydro; Of the ydrus. | The Aberdeen Bestiary | The University of Aberdeen