Friday, July 13, 2012

More medieval critters from the Aberdeen Bestiary

I spent some more time going through the Aberdeen Bestiary featured yesterday, and since so many of you enjoyed the images, here are some more, chosen on the basis of artistic merit and/or weirdness. These were painted on vellum in the 16th century to accompany a scientific/religious narrative in Latin. Below is Jesus naming the animals, with an enlarged detail.
The good old-fashioned art of dragon slaying. I love how Sir Knight's foot comes out of the frame.
Text: Snakes are reptiles. Many are poisonous. The Dragon is bigger than all snakes. Illustration: The dragon strangles an elephant. The text says the dragon has a crest, small mouth and does not kill with its teeth but with its tail. The illustrator has added massive teeth and wings. The description applies to an African python, which can kill deer if not actually elephants by strangulation. (Aberdeen Library website)
Text: "A many coloured animal, handsome and gentle, whose only enemy is the dragon. When he roars, he exhales a sweet odour which draws all animals to him except the dragon. The dragon retreats to his hole and lies stiff with fear, as if dead."
A satyr
This knight throws a glass ball down to distract the beast, who supposedly think it's an offspring and begins to nurture it (far-fetched, I know!)
Everyone loves turtledoves!


  1. Dragons are fascinating because they appear in both European and Asian legends separately--so neither culture seems to have influenced the other. The dragon is the only animal of the 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar that can't be found in a zoo today. (It's Dragon Year, by the way).
    My favorite creature is the Great Horned Owl, which I thought was a North American bird--European owls are generally smooth of head. But the artist seems to have seen the Bubo Virginianus; his genus name appears in the text.
    I love these postings--thanks so much!

    1. Thank YOU for your observations!

    2. Further research has shown me the Eurasian eagle-owl is a tufted owl that could be seen as having horns. His scientific name is Bubo bubo, which sounds silly but don't tell him--he is huge, with a wingspan over six feet, able to dine on little foxes!
      Your images always serve as springboard to new knowledge, which is why I love this blog.

    3. Who knew that such a little icon could yield such a magnificent mental image as a bubo bubo in flight! Thanks for the love ... love you back! Your comments are always enlightening and engrossing.

  2. I have to say I am really a fan of the little owl, why is it that owls are always cute?

  3. this is very interesting I love all the artwork. My favorites include the ones with the dragons and...well all of them. :-) I really enjoyed the photos from the day before as well although I'm super creeped out by mermaids lol