Bestiarum Vocabulum//Beast Compendium//Monstrous Manual

Bestiaries are volumes of animal and moythological beast illustrations and texts that support the illustrations as well as give informaiton on the said beast. It is, like illuminated manuscripts, believed to be made by more than one artist over long periods of time, even in different geographies later to be compiled as a volume. The oldest bestiary is dated back ro 2nd century (Alexandria), Physiologus.

Physiologus features the Allegoric story of dead lion cubs ressurecting with the old lion’s breath and of the phonix that burnes down, only to be ressurected agian on the third day of it’s death (both reference Christ, vice versa – further information is here in this awesome book by Joseph Campbell)

These volumes carry vital survival information as well as myths. How to defend against a wolf, what to do against a lion, how to hide from something, hide to hunt another thing etc. Here’s a par from a bestiary about wolves:

“If a wolf sees a man before the man sees the wolf, the man will lose his voice. If the man sees the wolf first, the wolf can no longer be fierce. If a man loses his voice because the wolf saw him first, he should take off all his clothes and bang two rocks together, which will keep the wolf from attacking.”

This possibly infroms the reader tha tthe wolf would attack the throat of it’s victim first so if the wolf was not seen before the attack, screaming for help during the brawl would not be possible. Also if the wolf is seen first, it can be scared off by loud noises, like banging of rocks.

Aberdeen Bestiary is still preserved to this day and is the most popular among the ones that still exists. It is dated back to 1200 (England) and is available online here

apes from the Aberdeen Bestiary

wolves from the Aberdeen Bestiary

four magpies and a hunter trying to shoot thems

Most animals are not depicted alone, without a spatial clues. birds sit on trees, apes carry their young, wolves attack the sheep while the shepard naps. There is an obvious narrative here, projecting characteristics and stories to te animals/beasts portrayed.

Hereis one scene with written narrative from the researches:

“The horseman has stolen a cub and has been pursued by the tiger. The thief can stop the tiger by a trick: he throws down a glass sphere and the tiger, seeing its own reflection, stops to nurse the sphere like a cub. She ends by losing both her revenge and her child.”(source)


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