The Bestiaire d’amour or Bestiary of Love is not a traditional bestiary. It has bestiary animals doing bestiary things, but it has a much different purpose. Where the traditional bestiary is a tool for teaching Christian morality, the Bestiaire is a desperate attempt by the author, Richard de Fournival, to win the love of a lady. It is a peculiar concept, radical for its time: A merging of a religious text with courtly love literature.

Richard de Fournival was a thirteenth century French writer, poet, songwriter, surgeon and Catholic church cleric. He was also, in modern terms, a misogynistic jerk. In any court today the lady would have no problem getting a restraining order against him. We don’t know who the lady was, but she wrote a spirited Response to Richard’s Bestiaire in which she made her distaste for his advances very plain.

There are around 24 manuscripts currently known which contain the Bestiaire; four of them also contain the lady’s Response. The text is in one of the dialects of Old French, in prose, though Richard did produce a version in verse. Most of the manuscripts are illustrated, and manuscript images have been loaded for three of them so far:

There is a new and fairly long article on Richard de Fournival and his Bestiaire in the Encyclopedia, with samples of the text from some of the manuscripts and excerpts from an English translation of both the Bestiaire and the Response. There is also a surprisingly large bibliography; lots of people have written about the Bestiaire, often from a feminist viewpoint. The Bestiary Family French page has also been updated with a list or the Bestiaire manuscripts.

This update is almost entirely about Richard, the Bestiaire, the lady and the Response. There are a few changes in other areas, and several corrections here and there, but little other unrelated new content. Finding and entering all of the data for this update was a big, time-consuming job, and I am now very tired of Richard, so I won’t be adding much more about him for a while.

The next update will be mainly structural and functionality changes to the site itself; there are several areas I am not yet satisfied with. Of course I will probably sneak in some new content along the way.