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Bestiary Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 764 by Richard Barber
  

Synopsis

Bestiary Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 764 by Richard Barber

Bestiaries are a particularly characteristic product of medieval England, and give a unique insight into the medieval mind. Richly illuminated and lavishly produced, they were luxury objects for noble families. Their three-fold purpose was to provide a natural history of birds, beasts and fishes, to draw moral examples from animal behaviour (the industrious bee, the stubborn ass), and to reveal a mystical meaning - the phoenix, for instance, as a symbol of Christ's resurrection. This Bestiary, MS Bodley 764, was produced around the middle of the thirteenth century and 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, fitting the text around them. Richard Barber's translation from the original Latin is a delight to read, capturing both the serious intent of the manuscript and its charm. RICHARD BARBER has written many books on the history of and life in the middle ages, from his Somerset Maugham Award-winning The Knight and Chivalry, by way of biographies of Henry II and the Black Prince, to an anthology of Arthurian literature from England, France and Germany, Arthurian Legends, and an account of the historical Arthur, King Arthur: Hero and Legend.

Reviews

The translation is pellucid, and the colourful late-gothic illustrations really delightful. Epic begets epic: stupendous and thought-provoking. FORTEAN TIMESAn invaluable resource for readers and writers who aspire to understand how mediaeval men and women viewed the natural world, both actual and fantastical. HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEWExcellent translation from the Latin original makes for fascinating reading about beasts, real and imaginary, of the medieval world. The most delightful picture-book about animals you'll ever see. EVENING STANDARDHugely enjoyable, this English version of a 13th-century manuscript in the Bodleian Library offers every kind of beast... The illustrations are gorgeous and well reproduced. INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY
This beautiful book is an English version of a 13th-century illuminated bestiary, MS Bodley 764, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, with all the original miniatures reproduced in facsimile. It is a medieval illustrated encyclopedia of beasts, birds, snakes and fishes, a blend of natural history, mystical meaning, and moral instruction: the ant and the bee display humility, obedience and industry; the viper warns against adultery. The animals vary from the instantly recognizable, like the cat ('This creature is called mouser because she kills mice') to the wholly fantastic, like the monoceros, with the body of a horse, the feet of an elephant, and the tail of a stag. (The fantastic ones are often based on a grain of truth - the unicorn may be a Greek traveller's misreading of the perspective of Persian sculpture, so that two horns are seen as one.) A good, short introduction explains where this manuscript fits in the tradition of the bestiary, and the pictures and text speak for themselves. (Kirkus UK)


About the Author

Richard Barber has had a huge influence on the study of medieval history and literature, both as a writer and as a publisher. His major works include The Knight and Chivalry (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe and The Holy Grail: The History of a Legend. He lives in East Anglia.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st January 1992

Author

Richard Barber

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Publisher

The Boydell Press an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd

Format

Paperback
206 pages

Categories

Illustration
Folklore, myths & legends
History of art: Byzantine & Medieval art c 500 CE to c 1400
Literary essays
Natural history

ISBN

9780851157535

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