Book of beasts : a facsimile of MS Bodley 764 / introduction by Christopher de Hamel.

Book of beasts : a facsimile of MS Bodley 764 / introduction by Christopher de Hamel.

Bodleian Library. Manuscript. Bodley 764.
Publication Information: 
Oxford : Bodleian Library, 2008.
Special Collections -- Rare Book Collection -- Oversize
Call Number: 
PR275.B47 H36 2008
November, 2010

Book of Beasts Jacket

Full facsimile reproduction of a 13th century illuminated manuscript, a bestiary, created in England, perhaps in Salisbury, possibly commissioned by Roger de Mohaut.

On the jacket cover there are two illustrations, cropped from illustrations in this wonderful book. 

At the top is an image from the section THE LION, and shows two lions blowing on their dead cubs to bring them to life three days after their birth.

At bottom is a cropped image from THE PANTHER, and shows "A multicoloured creature standing beneath a tree roaring with a breath so sweet that all the other animals gather appreciatively before it, except for the snake, which tries to hide in the earth."

Each illustration, and there are over a hundred of them, has a similar description and story, often with a moral tale.

From the introduction, "We may look at a Bestiary through modern eyes conditioned to the scientific study of natural history for its own sake, but the original readers in their cloisters would have considered animal characteristics to represent a conscious message from God to mankind, like the Bible, to be analysed and decoded."

MS. Bodley 764 at "The Medieval Bestiary: Animals in the Middle Ages", a website.

Beasts and birds of the Middle Ages: the bestiary and its legacy, a book in Western Libraries

Keeper's Welcome from the Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library, where the original manuscript is kept.

Early Manuscripts at Oxford University, a website with digital facsimiles of many manuscripts, but not as nice as looking through this book of the month!

~Peter Smith, Digital Initiatives Librarian

Library Department: