Corpus Christi College Parker Library, MS 53
(The Peterborough Psalter and Bestiary)


Produced: England, 1304-21
Current Location: Corpus Christi College Parker Library, Cambridge, England, UK
Manuscript Type: Bestiary
Bestiary Family: Second
Language: Latin/French
Folios: 210
Illustrated: Yes
Media: Parchment
Dimensions: Height: 34.8 cm Width: 23.6 cm
Folio 193v


The Bestiary is on folio 189r-210r. It has numerous small full-color illustrations, many with gold backgrounds. The images are remarkably bright and clean with little damage. The Psalter and Office of the Dead is on folio 1r-179v. Folios 1r-5v have small paintings with gold backgrounds in roundels at the bottom of each page; some relate to animals as signs of the zodiac.

The bestiary chapters are arranged in sections:

  • Beasts (mostly mammals): folio 189r-198r
  • Birds: folio 198v-204v
  • Serpents: folio 204v-207v
  • Fish and aquatic animals: 207v-210r (only one illustration)

[From Faksimile Verlag Luzern]

The Peterborough Bestiary is among the most sumptuously decorated extant bestiaries. A total of 104 miniatures adorn all pages of the manuscript; they are either set on glowing golden grounds within colored Gothic ornamental frames or on colorfully patterned grounds framed in gold. 108 colorfully decorated initials extending over several lines precede the individual chapters on each animal. Their decoration alternatively consists of either biomorphic interlace or of small male or female portraits. These are a typical feature of English book production. Colored scrollwork runs in the inter-columnar space, housing small birds and drolleries. The page format of 348 x 236 mm makes the Peterborough Bestiary one of the largest manuscripts of its kind.

[Adapted from M.R. James, 1912]

In an exquisite hand, double columns of 42 lines. Folio 189r: Bestiarum uocabulum proprie conuenit leonibus pardis CXI 217. Phisici dicunt leones tres principales naturas habere. The last section is on Rane (frog). Rane a garulitate eo quod circa genitales strepunt paludes. ending: pelidorum. popillorum. solearum. lacertorum. ut luligo et huic similia.

[From the Corpus Christi Library catalog description]

It is called the Peterborough Psalter and Bestiary because the Psalter was adapted for the use of of that abbey, at which time the chronicle was added. The Bestiary, which has been cut down to match the page size of the Psalter, was probably added to the book at some later date. The dating of the Bestiary to c. 1300-10 is earlier by a decade or so than that of the Psalter which is considered to be of c. 1310-20. Both are elaborately illuminated but by quite different artists.

Additional Descriptions

Additional description 1
Additional description 2

Editions and Facsimiles

Printed editions

de Hamel & Sandler, 2001

Printed facsimiles

de Hamel & Sandler, 2001

Digital facsimiles

Corpus Christi College Parker Library