Cambridge University Library, Ii. 4. 26


Produced: England, 1200-10
Location: Cambridge University Library (University of Cambridge), Cambridge, England, UK
Type: Bestiary
Family: Second
Language: Latin
Folios: 74
Illustrated: Yes
Media: Parchment
Script: Caroline minuscule
Dimensions: Height: 28 cm Width: 19 cm
Folio 3v


A second family bestiary. There are two full color paintings of the lion at the begining of the bestiary, and four colored drawings of the tiger, pard, panther, and lynx. The remaining illustrations are all uncolored but finely done line drawings. The animal illustrations end with the whale on folio 54v.

[Adapted from Cambridge University Library description]

There is an Arboreum (book of trees) on folio 60r-63r, followed by a section on the life stages of humans (starting on folio 73v and abruptly ending mid-sentence on folio 74v with folio 75 missing).

The Cambridge University Library bestiary is among the best known of English bestiaries, largely due to it being the subject of James's 1928 facsimile (The Bestiary: Being A Reproduction in Full of Ms. Ii 4. 26 in the University Library, Cambridge...), whose commentary laid the groundwork in listing and grouping many other bestiary texts. Also, the 1954 book by T.H. White (The Book of Beasts, Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the Twelfth Century) provided an English translation of its texts, accompanied by its illustrations, so knowledge of this manuscript reached a wide popular audience.

Some pages have been excised, and these perhaps contained illustrations of the antelope, unicorn, the first scene of the story of the dog and the murder of his master, 'Adam Naming the Animals', and three birds (perhaps the raven, crow and dove). The iconography of the creatures and birds in several cases is quite close to the Worksop bestiary (New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MS M.81) and the St Petersburg bestiary (St Petersburg, National Library of Russia, MS Q.v.V.1), although there are difference in their order of the texts. The Cambridge bestiary more closely compares with the order of texts and iconography of the Aberdeen and Ashmole bestiaries (Aberdeen, University Library, MS 24 and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 1511), although unlike them it does not contain either the Creation scenes from Genesis at the beginning or Hugh of Fouilloy's aviary with its accompanying pictures. This explains why the maximum number of pictures it contained, 107, is much less than the 131 in the Ashmole bestiary.

Otherwise, the text is relatively close to that of the Ashmole bestiary, both similar to a bestiary of c. 1170 (London, British Library, MS Add. 11283), which seems to be the earliest manuscript to have more or less the same order of texts. A notable difference from Ashmole is the placing of 'Adam Naming the Animals' between the scenes concerning dogs and the account of the sheep, whereas Ashmole places the Adam scene at the beginning before the account of the lion. The leaf with the Adam scene has been excised from the Cambridge manuscript, but the missing leaf is between the scenes of the habits of dogs and that of the sheep. This placing of the Adam scene also occurs in two bestiaries of the second quarter of the thirteenth century:London, British Library, Royal MS 12 F. xiii and Harley MS 3244.

Additional Descriptions

Additional description

Editions and Facsimiles

Printed editions

James, 1928

Printed facsimiles

James, 1928

Digital facsimiles

Cambridge University Library