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Bestiary: Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford M.S.Bodley 764 with All the Original Miniatures Reproduced in Facsimile [Hardcover]

Richard Barber
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Book Description

1 July 1993 0851153291 978-0851153292 New edition
Bestiaries are a particularly characteristic product of medieval England, and afford insight into the medieval mind. Richly illuminated and lavishly produced, they were luxury objects designed for noble families. Their three-fold purpose was to provide a natural history of birds, beasts and fish; to draw moral examples from animal behaviour, like the industrious bee and the stubborn ass; and to reveal a mystical meaning, for instance, the phoenix as a symbol of Christ's resurrection. Bestiaries drew their inspiration from classical sources, to which were added very early Christianized versions of the work of natural historians. Thus, unreal animals and whimsical names derive from travellers' tales, from the symbolism of oriental art and from misunderstood observations of animal behaviour, giving form to the mysterious unicorn, the man-eating manticore and the phoenix-phenomenon of "anting" in birds. Mixed with this are descriptions of familiar and readily recognizable creatures. It is the combination of engaging text and a vividly depicted animal world, put together with an entirely serious purpose, that makes bestiaries objects of such fascination. This "Bestiary", MS Bodley 764 in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, was produced around the middle of the 13th century, and there are some clues to the patron who commissioned it in the heraldry incorporated in the artist's work. Whomever it was, the resulting manuscript is of singular beauty and interest. The lively illustrations have the freedom and naturalistic quality of the later Gothic style, and make dazzling use of colour. This book reproduces the 136 illuminations to the same size and in the same place as the original manuscript, the text being fitted around them. Richard Barber's translation from the original Latin is a delight to read, reflecting the manuscript's serious intent with a feeling for the underlying charm of the beasts as seen by the medieval world.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 205 pages
  • Publisher: The Boydell Press; New edition edition (1 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851153291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851153292
  • Product Dimensions: 26.2 x 17.3 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,438,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Medieval Beasts at their best 22 Mar 2004
This is one of my favorite book about the Middle Ages. Richard Barber 'simply' translated the original text and gives us all the 136 wonderful illuminations of the original Bodleian manuscript in facsimile. The Bodleian Manuscript, dating from the 13th century, is one of the most beautiful bestiaries and I'm glad it is published so well. This book is a real treasure. You will meet well known beasts, ordinary cats, mice, cows, swallows, ants and some not so ordinary beasts as well... Ever heard about the Barnacle? It's a bird... and he grows on a tree! You know the story of the Basilisk? Or did you know that the hedgehog lives on grapes?
If you like animals, beautiful books, if you want to get more insight in the Medieval mind -don't hesitate another moment, get Barber's Bestiary!
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