A Medieval Book of Beasts

A Medieval Book of Beasts

The Second-Family Bestiary. Commentary, Art, Text and Translation.

Willene B. Clark


Boydell Press



Text, translation, and critical study of one of the most important medieval bestiaries.
The bestiary - a book of animals, both real and mythical - is one of the most interesting and appealing medieval artefacts. The "Second-family" bestiary is the most important and frequently produced version (some 49 known manuscripts exist). Of English origin and predominantly English production, it boasts a spiritual text "modernized" to meet the needs of its time, and features exceptional illustrations. This study addresses the work's purpose and audience, challenging previous assumptions with direct evidence in the manuscripts themselves, linking their use to teachers at the elementary-school level, and exploring the art, the text, and the cultural context for the bestiary. It includes a critical edition and new English translation, and a catalogue raisonné of the manuscripts. Fully illustrated.

The late WILLENE B. CLARK was Professor of Art History Emerita at Marlboro College, Vermont.


November 2006
15 colour, 61 black and white illustrations
344 pages
29.7x21 cm
ISBN: 9780851156828
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BIC ACK, 1D, 2AB, 3H
BISAC ART015070, LCO017000
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Table of Contents

Bestiary history; cultural setting
The Text, an overview
The Text, details
The Illustrations, an overview
The Illustrations in significant manuscripts
The Manuscripts: origins, owners, codicology; general audience
Past Assumptions
New evidence and specific audience
Decline of the Latin bestiaries


This is a major contribution which will long remain as the text to consult. Almost equally useful is the detailed catalogue of the forty-nine manuscripts concerned. For complete reproductions of the illustrations of individual manuscripts, the reader is still well served by facsimile monographs, such as Richard Barber's of Bodley 764,2 but for all other purposes concerning the second-family Bestiary this volume will remain the standard work for years to come. THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE