Accounts of Animals

Bestiarium. Folio 189r.

The first page serves as an introduction to the book, as well as providing a depiction and description of lions, the artwork for which is shown here.

Bestiarium. Folio 191r.


The descriptions of lions and elephants are some of the earliest to appear in the Bestiary, as the manuscript begins with descriptions of "beasts". Other beasts that are described include several great cats (tigers and leopards), large grazing mammels (antelopes and ibexes), as well as a variety of other animals (apes and bears). Many of the beasts described are accompanied with "Spiritualiters", biblical verses that seem to correlate with the actions or qualities of an animal. In the instance of lions, their cubs are described as being born "dead" before having life breathed into them by their father three days after they are born. This is compared to Jesus being dead for three days before having life breathed into him by his Father, God. These "Spiritualiters" can vary in message, from commending an animal for behaving in a certain way, to simply finding some justification for why an animal acts as it does, and even to being described as an embodiment of the devil in certain instances.

In many cases, the descriptions of these beasts are often greatly exaggerated or contain incorrect information. In referencing Pliny the Elder's centuries old writings, lions are described as bold and also respectful, never attacking women and children. Often times the physical descriptions of these beasts are accurate enough, but when it comes to characteristics of these beasts, things get stretched out of proportion.

In terms of nature and knowledge, the collection of information on these beasts is certainly impressive. However, the knowledge seems to be overreached, as fantastical stories and biblical references get in the way of truly describing the natures of these beasts.

Bestiarium. Folio 196r.

Various domesticated animals.

Beastiarium. Folio 201r.

Various birds.

Bestiarium. Folio 206v.

Various snakes

The following sections of the Bestiary are fairly well categorized, with sections on domesticated animals, small rodents, birds, serpents, and sea creatures. In the case of domestic animals, the descriptions are very muted when compared to the preceding descriptions of beasts. This is also true in the descriptions of birds and serpents as well, with only a few descriptions treading into fantastical territories. "Spiritualiters" make appearances through these sections, serving much the same purpose as above with the beasts. A wide range of spiritualiters occur throughout the Bestiary. Some notable examples include comparing pelicans to Jesus through a fantastical story of how they bleed themselves out to give life to their young, comparing owls to Jews because neither has "seen the light", in the case of Jews meaning that they have not yet embraced Christianity, to the story of eagles rejecting their offspring that cannot look directly into the sun which parallels to God rejecting those that cannot see his divine light. There is an incredibly range of metaphorical allegories created by the spiritualiters and descriptions of animals.

Accounts of Animals