bestiary

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bestiary

(bĕs`chēĕr'ē), a type of medieval book that was widely popular, particularly from the 12th to 14th cent. The bestiary presumed to describe the animals of the world and to show what human traits they severally exemplify. The bestiaries are the source of a bewildering array of fabulous beasts and of many misconceptions of real ones. They were the artist's guide to animal symbolism in religious building, painting, and sculpture. Physiologus (the naturalist), an ancient work of the type, was probably the chief source of the bestiaries. A Middle English version is translated in J. L. Weston, The Chief Middle English Poets (1914). Variations of the genre remain popular. Modern authors who have written bestiaries include Lewis Carroll, James Thurber, T. H. White, and Jorge Luis Borges.

Bibliography

See W. Clark and M. McMunn, Beasts and Birds of the Middle Ages (1989).

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bestiary

A collection of medieval allegorical fables about animals, each with an interpretation of its significance to good or evil; in medieval churches, a group of highly imaginative and symbolic carved creatures.
See also: Ornament
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

bestiary

In a medieval church, a group of carved or painted creatures, often highly imaginative and symbolic.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

bestiary

a moralizing medieval collection of descriptions of real and mythical animals
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
What I would like to explore here is the affinities between medieval modes of conceptualizing anomolous bodies: on one hand, the creature bodies of the bestiaries, and on the other, the paradoxical body of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Glossing is found in almost a third of the second-family bestiaries (unlike B-Isidore manuscripts, for example, where it is rare).
There are thus many challenges for the translator in a poem that lives through the felicities of its original diction, wordplay, and verse, and presents its subject obliquely through allusions to falconry and the lore of the bestiaries. (The sparrowhawk, one learns, suffers by nature from cold feet and so seizes and holds a smaller bird in its claws at dusk to serve as a kind of hot water bottle - certainly a new light on the comparison of Troilus and Criseyde with a sparrowhawk seizing a lark in Troilus, Book III.) Gaudet and Hieatt have translated into English verse lines which convey the space and pace of the original, and let unfold Machaut's characteristically measured and reflective contemplation of emotional life and its crises.
Throughout history, we have used animals to symbolize the lust, danger and deceitfulness we see in ourselves, and tend to project upon women, Jews, Africans, and various "others." Beryl Rowland's Animals With Human Faces catalogues the animals of the medieval bestiaries and what they symbolized.
The numerous manuscripts of medieval bestiaries ultimately are derived from the Greek Physiologus, a text compiled by an unknown author before the middle of the 2nd century AD .
Since the ME text is basically a translation of the Physiologus Theobaldi, there is an obvious logic in the new title, but Physiologus itself is an ambiguous title: the earliest Physiologus texts include material on vegetables and minerals beside that on animals, while some later versions, including that of Theobaldus, omit the non-animal material and thus become purely bestiaries: the ME poem is undeniably a bestiary, and a different title would be justified only if there were another ME text adapted from one of the later expanded works to which Wirtjes restricts the title Bestiary.
Although the characteristics and habits assigned to each animal were largely legendary, bestiaries were often treated during the Middle Ages as treatises on natural history, as well as moral instruction, and were highly popular.
Some specific subjects include dogs in medieval Egyptian Sufi literature, bestiaries and the Bayeaux embroidery, the iconography of footrests on tomb monuments, dogs in Japanese handscrolls, and the dogs of God and the hounds of Hell in the later Middle Ages.
(In the tradition of Apollinaire's 1911 Le Bestiaire ou cortege d'Orpbee [The Bestiary or Procession of Orpheus], both books are bestiaries, as their punning titles intimate; had Broodthaers written a trilogy, the third might have been titled after Duchamp's talismanic phrase: bete comme un peintre ["stupid as a painter"]).
Mann makes it clear that there are many forms of beast stories: fable, epic, exempla and bestiaries. They are mostly didactic in nature, although some of the most popular contain a healthy amount of social satire.
Henry III's collection of animals continued to grow when in February, 1255, Louis IX of France presented him with an African elephant, a notable beast whose virtues were always praised in medieval bestiaries. Both Holinshed's Chronicles and Matthew Paris' Chronica Majora record the appearance of this elephant, the first since the invasion of Britain by the Emperor Claudius in 43 AD.