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Bestiary

From Academic Kids

A bestiary is a medieval book that has short descriptions of various real or imaginary animals, birds and even rocks. All of these are often accompanied by a moralising explanation and a picture (which helped educate the illiterate). This reflected the belief that the world itself was literally the Word of God, and that every living thing had its own special meaning. For example, the pelican, which was believed to tear open its breast to bring its young to life with its own blood, was a living representation of Jesus. This kind of symbolism was well known and widespread. Any animals depicted in religious art of the time were not just animals, they were symbols. This kind of bestiary symbolism was also found in church sculpture, where the familiar images would remind the viewer of the story and its allegorical meaning.

Bestiaries were particularly popular in England and France around the 12th century and were mainly compilations of earlier texts, especially the Physiologus and the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville.

The most well-known bestiary of that time is the Aberdeen Bestiary. There are many others and over 50 manuscripts survive today.

Jorge Luis Borges wrote a modern day bestiary of sorts, the Book of Imaginary Beings, which collects imaginary beasts from bestiaries and fiction.

External links

de:Bestiarium es:Bestiario he:ספר חיות nl:Bestiarium ru:Бестиарий

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