Peterborough Bestiary

Peterborough Bestiary

Peterborough Abbey / Cathedral (United Kingdom) — ca. 1300

Vividly painted on a golden background: over 100 Gothic animals and mythical creatures, often depicted in dynamic motion in a magnificent bestiary

  1. One finds 100+ miniatures with gold grounds or frames with various animals, birds, and mythical creatures

  2. Gothic depictions of animals, often shown in a burst of movement, are directly integrated in the text

  3. The text is based on the *Physiologus*, composed ca. A.D. 200, a Christian text concerned with nature

Peterborough Bestiary

Regular price without login (like new)1,390 
Login for a Better Price!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Peterborough Bestiary

The Peterborough Bestiary is a lovely, illustrated story of animals of both the familiar and fantastic sort. Even mystical creatures like phoenixes and unicorns make their appearance. Distributed over the entire text in more than 100 miniatures, the Illuminator shows his skills in the most realistic depiction of animals, many of which he himself would have never seen before. In addition, the magnificent design of the manuscript is emphasized with gold and luminous colors for miniatures, initials, and tendrils.

Peterborough Bestiary

The Peterborough Bestiary represents quite an influential example of the much beloved era of 12th century animal-themed manuscripts. Countless small picture fields illustrate the descriptive and interpretive text, which is illustrated with wonderful initials and tendrils. Within this text one finds familiar as well as exotic animals and mythical creatures, which are displayed as lovingly and realistically as possible.

Fantastic Depictions of Animals

In over 100 miniatures on gold grounds or in gold frames, one finds animals such as lions, beavers, different sorts of birds, crocodiles, and elephants, but also mythical creatures like unicorns, phoenixes, and satyrs. They illustrate the relevant text passages and include exhaustive detail in describing each animal individually, most of which have a Christian or moral connection. For example, there is an illustration of a crow with the purpose of representing the love and worry one experiences when raising children. The text is based on the Physiologus, composed ca. A.D. 200, which was an early Christian text that concerned itself with nature. Over the following centuries, Physiologus was amended and added to many times (for example, through Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae), and translated into many other languages, which inevitably changed it as well. Moving to the High Middle Ages, such descriptions of nature and myth became beloved subjects and offered illuminators the opportunity to be inspired to create their own depictions of animals in nature.

Glorious Design

It was not always an easy task for the artists to paint pictures of exotic animals, because they had never seen such creatures before. The only available templates were based off the descriptions of others that themselves drifted into the fantastic. The artist of the Peterborough Bestiary designed his manuscript in a diverse way. The depictions of animals are directly integrated with the text itself and not isolated in boxes separate from the words. The small rectangular pictures of fields are brightly colored and richly furnished with gold. The artistic style appears very Gothic in the natural depictions of the animals, who are often shown in a burst of movement. In addition to the animal representations, the other artistic designs of the bestiary are inspiring. Many initials adorn the text alongside the artful foliage. The initials are partially filled with wonderful portraits of men and women, some of them ornamentally designed.

Exotic Magic

In these magnificent pictures, the reader could plunge him or herself into the study of these informative but also amusing readings and can get to know the exotic realms, which they had surely never seen before. This instance of the exotic and unknown is owed to the presence of such mystical creatures as the unicorn or satyr, who are juxtaposed with more typical animals in everyday life. The fact that such bestiaries were made particularly in England and Northern France for both clerical and lay patrons, testifies to both their educational and entertainment value, which, despite the advances of scientific knowledge, still shines through for the modern reader and beholder.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Bestiarium aus Peterborough
Size / Format
44 pages / 34.8 × 23.6 cm
Date
ca. 1300
Style
Script
Gothic Textura Quadrata
Illustrations
104 miniatures, 108 initials, various drolleries and marginalia adorn all pages of the manuscript
Content
Master of the Jesus College MS D.40
Previous Owners
Peterborough Abbey
Matthew Parker (1504–75)

Available facsimile editions:
Peterborough Bestiary – MS 53 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2003
Limited Edition: 1480 copies (co-edition with Salerno Editrice)

Bestiario di Peterborough
Salerno Editrice – Rome, 2004
Limited Edition: 1480 copies (co-edition with Faksimile Verlag Luzern)
Detail Picture

Peterborough Bestiary

Dragons

Whether people in the Middle Ages actually believed that there were exotic regions of the world that were inhabited by dragons or if the fearsome mythical creatures were intentionally utilized for their symbolism by artists and scholars, they are present in virtually all medieval bestiaries. The upper miniature shows a dragon with a second head on the end of its tail. Meanwhile, another dragon battles in the sea with some kind of horned monster who has the dragon’s head in its mouth.

Bestiarium aus Peterborough
Single Page

Peterborough Bestiary

The Lion

In medieval allegory, the lion was a symbol of power, strength, courage, and generosity with symbolic significance to both the Judeo-Christian tradition as well as in ancient mysticism. The page at hand features both a miniature and a historiated initial with a seated lion looking out at the beholder. All is depicted in rich shades of red and blue with shimmering gold leaf.

In the lower left corner, a miniature shows five scenes from the life of a lion: it is being hunted in one and attacked by a snake in another, but in the other three we see animal, ape, and man alike fall prey to the mighty king of beasts. Birds fill the artfully rendered tendril borders, including a hybrid creature with an archer emerging from the body of a falcon.

Bestiarium aus Peterborough
Facsimile Editions

#1 Bestiarium aus Peterborough

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2003
Peterborough Bestiary – MS 53 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Peterborough Bestiary – MS 53 – Parker Library, Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, United Kingdom) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2003
Limited Edition: 1480 copies (co-edition with Salerno Editrice)
Binding: Blind-tooled brown leather binding, a faithful replica of a typical Cambridge binding. All sheets are trimmed in accordance with the original and stitched to the contents by hand. The cover is tooled using roulettes, showing motives of the griffon, the lion and the dragon.
Commentary: 1 volume by Christopher de Hamel and Lucy Freeman Sandler
Languages: English, German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Regular price without login (like new)1,390 
Login for a Better Price!

#2 Bestiario di Peterborough

Salerno Editrice – Rome, 2004

Publisher: Salerno Editrice – Rome, 2004
Limited Edition: 1480 copies (co-edition with Faksimile Verlag Luzern)
Binding: Blind-tooled brown leather binding, a faithful replica of a typical Cambridge binding. All sheets are trimmed in accordance with the original and stitched to the contents by hand. The cover is tooled using roulettes, showing motives of the griffon, the lion and the dragon.
Commentary: 1 volume (96 pages) by Christopher De Hamel, Lucy Freeman Sandler, and Valerio Marucci
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
You might also be interested in:
Oxford Bestiary
Oxford Bestiary
Possibly Peterborough or Lincoln (United Kingdom) – ca. 1210

One of the most beautiful representatives of this genre: golden pictures of wild animals and fantastic mythical creatures

Experience More
St. Petersburg Bestiary
St. Petersburg Bestiary
Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire, England (United Kingdom) – Late 12th century

One of the earliest Gothic bestiaries, now preserved in St. Petersburg: an English master manuscript with realistic depictions of animals on luminous backgrounds

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection
Publisher