By Richard Barber
Bestiaries are a very attribute made of medieval England, and provides a different perception into the medieval brain. Richly illuminated and lavishly produced, they have been luxurious items for noble households. Their three-fold function was once to supply a traditional historical past of birds, beasts and fishes, to attract ethical examples from animal behaviour (the industrious bee, the obdurate ass), and to bare a paranormal that means - the phoenix, for example, as an emblem ofChrist's resurrection. This Bestiary, MS. Bodley 764, used to be produced round the heart of the 13th century and is of singular good looks and curiosity. The energetic illustrations have the liberty and naturalistic qualityof the later Gothic variety, and make brilliant use of color. This booklet reproduces the 136 illuminations to an analogous measurement and within the similar position because the unique manuscript, becoming the textual content round them. Richard Barber's translation from the unique Latin is a pride to learn, taking pictures either the intense rationale of the manuscript and its allure.
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Additional info for Bestiary: being an English version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford M.S. Bodley 764 with all the original miniatures reproduced in facsimile
And again: 'We follow the sweet scent of Thine ointments'; and a little later: 'The King hath brought me into His chamber' [Song of Songs 1:4]. We must pursue the sweet scent of Christ's commandments as quickly as we can, like the young girls who are the souls received in baptism; and we must turn from earthly to heavenly things, so that the King leads us into His place, into Jerusalem, the city of the Lord of hosts, the mountain of all the saints. The panther is a beast marked with little circles of colour, like eyes with yellow, white and black circles.
The Latin of the bestiary is distinctly problematic. It contains words found nowhere else, and because the writers whoever they may have been among the many hands that contributed over the centuries are often trying to describe things about which they are unsure, the text is often obscure, and all translators who have attempted a rendering into modern languages have ended up by admitting to a degree of intelligent guesswork rather than an absolutely certain equivalent. In identifying the beasts, which is often very difficult, I have in general followed the modern equivalents set out by Wilma George and Brunsdon Yapp in their very useful study of the bestiary, The Naming of the Beasts.
The centre shield belonged to Roger de Monhaut; the Berkeley arms are on the right-hand shield, and the arms of Clare are on the pennant. The left-hand shield is a problem, but could be that of the Bohun family, earls of Hereford. Given the relative prominence of the different arms, it looks as if Roger de Monhaut, whose shield is in the centre, commissioned the book, but it could also be the Berkeley family. The miniature makes this one of the earliest examples of a manuscript which contains a heraldic reference to the family for whom it was made, a device which was common in the fourteenth century.
Bestiary: being an English version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford M.S. Bodley 764 with all the original miniatures reproduced in facsimile by Richard Barber