Liber Bestiarum

Ms Bodley 764 - Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

De animalibus

Facsimile edition
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Codiology

Alternate Titles

De animalibus

Type
Extent / Format

274 pages / 29.4 x 19.5 cm

Origin
Date
1243-1260
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Roger de Mohau

Illustrations

135 framed pictures of animals (mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, fictitious) and scenes from the daily, with the original gold leaf reproduced in foiling

Former owners

John of Gaunt

Short description

The bestiary from Oxford’s Bodleian Library counts among the most beautiful of these beloved 12th and 13th century manuscripts. In 135 miniatures, numerous animals and fantasy creatures are presented. These are depicted untypically in gorgeous scenes and often even while interacting with people. Glimmering gold leaf, filigree ornamentations, and gorgeous initials round out the elegant and valuable impression of this manuscript. An unknown master created this exceptional bestiary in the years 1243-1260 in Salisbury at the behest of the knight Roger de Mohaut.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Liber Bestiarum

The bestiary from Oxford’s Bodleian Library counts among the most beautiful of these beloved 12th and 13th century manuscripts. In 135 miniatures, numerous animals and fantasy creatures are presented. These are depicted untypically in gorgeous scenes and often even while interacting with people. Glimmering gold leaf, filigree ornamentations, and gorgeous initials round out the elegant and valuable impression of this manuscript. An unknown master created this exceptional bestiary in the years 1243-1260 in Salisbury at the behest of the knight Roger de Mohaut.

Not Merely a Simple Animal Book!

The manuscript with the shelf mark Bodley 764 of the Bodleian Library at Oxford is one of the great treasures of that library. The manuscript De animalibus is considered to be one of the most beautiful specimens of a medieval bestiary. These manuscripts were particularly widespread in England in the 12th and 13th century and enjoyed great popularity. With these bestiaries, it was not merely a matter of representing the animal kingdom in a zoological standard work of the Middle Ages, but were rather and above all concerned with the presentation of God’s creation – a religious aspect!

A Precious Commission

The Liber Bestiarum from Oxford is a 13th century work, made in Salisbury in the years 1243-1260. The patron of this manuscript was Roger de Mohaut, a noble knight. An indication of him can be found in the form an escutcheon in the miniature of the elephant. Additionally, the manuscript has other references to its later owners, Queen Isabella and her grandson, John of Gaunt, inter alia.

Gorgeous Natural Observations

The oxford bestiary collects 135 miniatures on 274 pages. Each is beautifully framed. The depictions of animals present mammals, birds, insects, fish, and fantastic creatures. The miniatures show, inter alia, a shaggy bear, who has caught something to eat, a gentle unicorn, an eagle, who sits in a burning eagle’s nest with broad wings, or a cat, who lurks toward a bird in a cage. In each case, an animal is depicted before a schematic background with floral decoration, stylized trees, and nature. Often times the animals are also depicted in their typical environment or even interacting with humans, an uncommon representation for a bestiary. This Liber Bestiarum is the work of a gifted miniaturist, who probably never saw some of the animals, e.g. the crocodile, with his own eyes, but was nonetheless able to give realistic images of them!

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