British Library, Additional MS 28260
(Bestiaire of Gervaise)


Produced: France, late 13th century
Location: British Library, London, England, UK
Type: Miscellany
Family: Gervaise
Language: French
Folios: 101
Author: Gervaise
Illustrated: Yes
Binding: Wooden boards, covered with stamped leather, of the 15th century
Media: Parchment
Script: Gothic
Dimensions: Height: 15 cm Width: 10.5 cm


The short (1280 lines) rhymed Bestiaire of Gervaise is thought to have been written at the beginning of the thirteenth century. In the prologue the author states:

Gervases... / Vuet .1. livre en roman traite. / Li livres a non Bestiaire. / A Barbarie est [en] l'armaire / Li latins qui mult est plaisanz; / De illuec fu estraiz li romanz. / Celui qui lor natures escrit / Fu Johanz Boche d'or nommez, / Cristhomus rest apelez. (32-40)

The Barberie mentioned in these lines is thought to be Barberie or Barbery, a Cistercian abbey of the doicese of Bayeaux founded in 1176, and although three men by the name of Gervasius have been noted in this region, there is nothing that with any certainty connects one of them with this work. ... There are small, crude drawings in the margins up to that of the Raven, which is with the body of the text (f.93), but afterwards the spaces in the text are empty. The attribution of this work to John Chrysostum would inevitably lead to a comparison of its contents with the version known as the Dicta Chrysostomi. Lauchert ... made this comparison and found a decided similarity as well as some differences between Gervaise's composition and the various manuscripts of the Dicta Chrysostomi. - [McCulloch, 1962 p.55-56]

Contains (f.84r-100v): 'Li liures des bestes;' the spiritual application of the Bestiary in French verse. It is stated in the prologue to have been extracted by 'Geruases' from the Latin, and St. Chrysostom is referred to as treating of the 'semblances des bestes.' The prologue begins: Cil fablaor qui toz iors mantent / Et qui de riens ne se desmantent. The text begins: Trois natures ha li lions / Et iii signfficationi; and ends: Jci fenist li bestiaires / Plus nen auoit en lessemplare / Et de mentir seroit folie / Qui plus en set plus uos endie / Geruaises qui le romain fit / Plus nen troua ne plus nen dit / Ci fenist li liures des bestes / Dex nos gart nos biens et nos testes. In Sloane MS. 278, f. 44, with part of the work of Hugo de Folieto, 'De bestiis et aliis rebus,' is a very similar Latin prose treatise, possibly the original of this work. f. 84.

[adapted from the British Library description]

Additional Descriptions

Additional description

Editions and Facsimiles

Printed editions

Meyer, 1872

Digital editions

Le Bestiaire de Gervaise