Upcoming from Abbeville Press, The Grand Medieval Bestiary: The Animal in Illuminated Manuscripts
has nearly nearly 600
illustrations, ranging from the margins of gospels to pages from commissioned luxury books like the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.
Whether allegorical, symbolic, heraldic, or misguided attempts at natural history, they're all splendid.
According to their catalog, "It is arranged in the manner of a proper bestiary, with essays on one hundred animals alphabetized by their Latin names, from the alauda, or lark, whose morning song was thought to be a hymn to Creation, to the vultur, which enjoyed a certain respect due to its impressive appearance, but whose taste for carrion also made it a symbol of the sinner who indulges in worldly pleasures. The selection includes a number of creatures that would now be considered fantastic, including the griffin, the manticore, and of course the fabled unicorn, tamable only by a gentle maiden."
We're looking into whether we can carry this title, but in the meantime, here's a related one from our shelves: Illuminations in the Robert Lehman Collection.
Below are some sample illustrations and texts from the Aberdeen
Bestiary, thought to have belonged to Henry VIII. It will shortly go on
display at that university's library in Scotland.
The top two panels illustrate a story about a dog who carries some meat over a bridge. Seeing its own reflection in the water, the dog drops the meat to grab the reflection. Below are two dogs licking their wounds with their healing tongues.
"The fox is crafty and deceitful. When it is hungry it rolls in red earth to look as if it is covered in blood. It feigns death by holding its breath. Birds come to sit on the body whereupon the fox jumps up and eats them."