Bestiary Families: French Versions
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The French versions of the bestiary are all by known (or commonly attributed) authors, and are classified by author here. They are all in a dialect of early French: Norman, Anglo-Norman, Picard, etc.

 

Bestiaire in Verse by Philippe de Thaon

Written by the Anglo-Norman poet Philippe de Thaon in the early thirteenth century, this is a 3194 line verse bestiary, composed in the Anglo-Norman dialect of French. Philippe dedicated the work to Aelis de Louvain, the second wife of Henry I of England; the two were married in 1121. The poem has a prologue in Latin, as well as Latin rubrics before each chapter, which summarize the contents or give instructions for the illustrator. The poem appears in three existing manuscripts, with some variation in the text; two of the three are illustrated, the exception being BL Cotton Nero A. v, which has spaces left for illustrations that were never completed. The bestiary consists of 38 chapters, divided into Beasts, Birds, and Stones. It is thought that Philippe used a Latin bestiary of the B-Is type as a basis for his translation. He cites both the Physiologus and Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae, though it is not clear whether he had access to Isidore's text directly. The manuscripts date from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. A digital edition of the poem is available here.

 

Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek Gl. kgl. S. 3466 8º [C, M]

London, British Library Cotton Nero A.v [C, M]

Oxford, Merton College MS. 249 [C, M]

 

 

Bestiaire of Gervaise

Almost nothing is known about Gervaise. His Bestiaire, in 1280 lines of rhymed verse, is thought to have been written around the beginning of the thirteenth century, in France (probably Normandy). Gervaise says in his prologue that he translated a Latin bestiary that he attributes to "Crisosthomus" or John Chrysostom, who in the Middle Ages was said to be the author of a bestiary titled Dicta Chysostomi (the "DC" Latin version). The text appears in only one manuscript. A digital edition of the poem is available here.

 

London, British Library Additional MS 28260 [C, M]

 

 

Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc

Also called the Bestiaire divin, the Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc at 3426 lines is the longest of the French bestiaries. It was written around 1210 by the Norman cleric Guillaume, who probably based his rhymed verse on the B-Is Latin bestiary version. Guillaume states in his prologue that his aim is that the reader should profit from the moral teachings in the Bestiaire; each of his beast chapters includes allegorical details. It was the most popular of the French bestiaries, now existing in at least 23 manuscripts, which date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Most are illustrated.

 

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam McLean 123 [C, M]

Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Mus. J.20 (formerly Berlin, Hamilton 273) [C, M]

Cambridge, Trinity College O.2.14 [C, M]

London, British Library Cotton Vespasian A.vii [C, M]

London, British Library Egerton MS 613 [C, M]

London, British Library Royal 16.E.viii [C, M]

Lyon, Palais des Arts 78 [C, M]

Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Bodley 912 [C, M]

Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Douce 132 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal 2691 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 902 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 1444 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 2168 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 14964 [C]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 14969 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 14970 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 20046 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 24428 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 25406 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 25408 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Rothschild IV.2.24 [C, M]

New Haven, Beinecke Library MS 395 (formerly Phillipps 4156) [C, M]

Vatican, Apostolic Library Regina 1682 [C, M]

 

 

Bestiaire of Pierre de Beauvais

This prose bestiary, written some time before 1218, is by Pierre de Beauvais, also called Pierre le Picard. The earliest version of it is in the French Picard dialect. There are two forms, both by Pierre: a short version of about 38 chapters; and a long version of about 71 chapters. The short version is based on the B-Is Latin version, with similarities to BL, Royal 2 C.xii. The long version contains all of the chapters from the short version, with additions from a variety of other sources. The manuscripts date from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries.

 

Long form:

Montpellier, Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Médecine H.437 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal fr. 3516 [C, M]

ex-Phillipps 6739 [C, M]

Vatican, Apostolic Library Reg. 1323 [C, M]

Short form:

Malines, Bibliothèque du Séminaire 32 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 834 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale fr. 944 [C, M]

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale nouv. acq. 13251 [C, M]

 

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