Gossuin de Metz
Gossuin de Metz (or Gautier de Metz) lived in the Lorraine region of France in the thirteenth century. Almost nothing is known about his life. Even his name is uncertain; most manuscripts say Gossuin, but some say Gauthier. The dates of his birth and death are not known, but he wrote the Image du monde around 1245 CE.
L'image du monde
The Image du monde (Image of the World or Mirror of the World) is an encyclopedia on multiple topics, including theology, philosophy, history, astronomy, astrology, physics, geography and zoology. It is in three parts, with multiple chapters in each part. The three parts can be broadly categorized:
The Geography section has all of the animal descriptions. It also has several examples of the monstrous human races said to live in India.
The original version of the text (1245 CE) was written in a Norman-French dialect as a rhymed poem of 6594 octosyllabic lines. In 1247 a second verse version was produced, with an additional 4000 lines; it was divided into two parts instead of three. A prose version also exists, probably written around the same time as the first verse version. The prose version closely follows the first verse version in content and structure.
Gossuin's encyclopedia is a compilation taken from earlier authors, such Jacobus de Vitriaco, Honorius Augustodunensis, Alexander Neckam, Claudius Ptolemy, and several others. Gossuin was obviously well read, both in Greek and Roman classics and in texts closer to his own time. He does not appeared to have added much to the text himself; even the structure is based (perhaps loosely) on the Imago mundi of Honorius Augustodunensis. This "borrowing" from earlier authors was common in medieval encyclopedias.
There are about 50 animals described in the original verse version and the prose version of the encyclopedia, all in the Geography section. They are scattered across several chapters. The descriptions are usually brief, and mostly follow the description for the animal as found in bestiaries, though there are no moralizations or allegories.
The animals listed in the table below are based on two sources. [Prior] and [Caxton] are used to refer to these sources in the table. Both are the prose version of the text, though the original verse version of 1245 CE has the same animals in the same order. The second verse redaction has almost the same list of beasts with a few in a different order.
The first column gives the title of the chapter where the animal is described, from both [Prior] and [Caxton]. The Name column shows the animal name as used on this website; the Name: Prior column is the name as found in [Prior]; the Name: Caxton is the name as found in [Caxton]; and the Notes column provides further information. The animals are listed in order of appearance in the text.
|Chapter Title||Name||Name [Prior]||Name [Caxton]||Note|
Things found in India
||Griffin||Gripon||Gryffon||Griffins guard gold; they have bodies like flying lions, and can carry away an armed man sitting on his horse.|
The diversity of India
||Crane||Grue||Crane||Cranes are constantly fighting with small people of India called pygmies.|
The serpents and beasts of India
||Unknown||Centicore||Centycore||Probably an error. Centicore is another name for the yale, but the description does not match (breast and thighs of a lion, ears like a horse, a round mouth, face like a bear, voice of a man).|
|Yale||Not named||Not named||The description says the beast holds one horn pointed back in reserve while fighting with the one pointing forward.|
|Leucrota||Not named||Bullys||The description says it has a mouth that stretches from ear to ear.|
|Manticore||Manthicora||Manticora||The face of a man, three huge teeth, eyes like a goat, body like a lion, tail of a scorpion, voice of a serpent, draws people to it with a song.|
|Unknown||Bues||Oxen or buefs||Said to have three horns on the front of its head, and round feet. This could be the Odontotyrannos from the Alexander the Great mythology.|
|Unicorn||Monotheros||Monotheros||The description says a maiden can tame the beast, which is characteristic of the unicorn.|
|Tiger||Tygres||Tygris||A fierce blue beast with white spots, it can be tricked with a mirror.|
|Beaver||Castoire||Castour||When hunted they will bite off their testicles because they know that is all the hunter wants.|
|Muscaliet||Musqualiet||Musk or muskaliet||A small animal, like a mouse, with a small mouth.|
|Salamander||Salemandre||Salemandre||A beast that is nourished by fire.|
|Mouse||Souriz||Myse||Mice as big as cats.|
|Lion||Lyon||Lion||The bring their cubs to life, sleep with their eyes open, erase their tracks with their tails.|
|Leontophone||Not named||Not named||A small animal that is deadly to lions.|
|Panther||Panthere||Panthere||A multi-colored beast that attracts animals with the sweet odor of its breath.|
|Horse||Jumanz||Mare||In the land of Capadoce there are mares that conceive from the wind.|
|Elephant||Olyfant||Olyphauns||In India and Persia elephants carry a wooden tower on there backs; it is filled with soldiers.|
|Eel||Anguile||Eele||Eels 300 feet long living in the Ganges River|
|Basilisk||Basilique||Basylicocks||The king of the serpents, with the head of a cock and tail of a serpent; kills with its gaze.|
|Cerastes (?)||Not named||Not named||A serpent with horns like a sheep|
|Asp||Aspis||Aspis||Blocks it ear with its tail to avoid hearing a spell.|
|Unknown||Tygris||Tygris||Men make an anti-venom potion from these serpents.|
|Snake||Not named||Not named||This serpent has long arms that it uses to attack elephants. To shed its skin, it fasts then crawls through a hole in a rock.|
The countries of India
||Phoenix||Fenix||Ffenyx||It builds a fire with aromatic twigs and burns itself to ash, from which an identical bird rises.|
|Camel||Chamuel||Camel||In the land of Antioch there are many kinds of camels.|
|Parrot||Papegaut||Popengayes||A green bird that can learn to speak in two years.|
|Pelican||Pellican||Pellicane||It cuts open its breast and feeds blood to its dead chicks to revive them.|
The fish of India
||Unknown||Not named||Not named||Fish that have hairs on their skins that are long enough for people to make clothes from.|
|Echeneis||Eschinuz||Escimuz||If it touches a ship, the ship will be unable to move forward or back.|
|Dolphin||Daufin||Dolphyn||They warn ships of coming storms by showing themselves and playing in the water.|
|Whale||Not named||Not named||A large fish that sailors mistake for an island.|
|Siren||Seraine||Serayne or mermayden||They have the head and body of a woman but the tail of a fish, and sometimes bird wings; their song is marvelous to hear.|
The Diversity of Europe and Africa
||Barnacle goose||Not named||Barnacle||The description is of a bird of Ireland that grows on trees and falls in water when mature.|
The beasts of Europe and Africa
||Fox||Gourpix||Foxe||The fox pretends to be dead to lure and catch birds.|
|Stag||Cers||Herte||When the stag wants to renew his youth he will eat a venomous beast (i.e. a snake).|
|Frog||Bouteriaus||Tode, Crapault||If it bites a person he or she may die.|
|Spider||Yraingne||Spyncop||The spit of a man will kill spiders if it touches them.|
|Wolf||Leus||Wulf||When a wolf and a man see each other, whoever is seen first will become afraid.|
|Ape||Singesse||Sheape||Caxton's sheape is an error. The text is about the ape and her two children.|
|Dog||Chien||Hounde||Dogs protect their master's property and will not leave the master's body if he dies.|
|Weasel||Mustele||Moustele||Weasels can kill the basilisk. They carry their young from place to place to protect them.|
|Hedgehog||Heriçon||Hyrchon||They roll on fallen apples to stick them to their spines; if attacked they will roll themselves into a ball with the spines pointing out.|
|Lamb||Aigniaus||Lambe||Lambs are afraid of wolves even if they have never seen one.|
The birds of Europe and Africa
||Eagle||Aigle||Egle||The eagle holds its chicks in its beak, and any that cling feebly it drops and rejects; it renews its sight by flying up to the sun and diving into water.|
|Turtledove||Turterele||Turtle||If a turtledove loses its mate it will not take another and will not sit in a green tree.|
|Ostrich||Ostruce||Hostryche||A bird the can eat iron.|
|Heron||Hairon||Heyron||When it sees a storm coming, it flies above the clouds to avoid the rain.|
|Jackdaw||Choè||Chowe||If it finds gold or silver its takes it away and hides it.|
|Crow||Corbiaus||Crowe||While its chicks are white it will do nothing for them, only caring for them when their feathers turn black.|
|Peacock||Paon||Pecock||A bird that is very proud of his tail and its colors, but ashamed of the appearance of his feet.|
|Hawk||Ostour, Esprevier||Goshawke, Spehawk||Hawks take their prey by rivers; if they are tame they take the prey back to their master.|
|Dove||Coulon||Culuer, Dowue||A simple bird that watches for the shadow of hawks on the water.|
|Hoopoe||Hupe||Huppe, Lapwynche||If a person anoints himself with the bird's blood, he will dream that all the devils of hell are attacking him.|
|Nightingale||Rousignol||Nyghtyngal||Sings so well and long that it dies singing.|
|Lark||Aloete||Larke||Often dies while singing|
|Swan||Cigne||Swanne||Sings before its death.|
There are at least 68 manuscript copies of L'image du monde still existing. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has about 30 copies, the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique about 7, and the British Library about 6. The rest are held in other European libraries, with one in the USA. Few of the manuscripts are illustrated, with Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Médecine, H. 437 being an exception. All three versions (two verse, one prose) are represented. The three manuscripts listed below serve as examples of each redaction.
Some of the 68 manuscripts are listed here (under the Manuscripts tab above); a more complete list can be found on the ARLIMA Gossouin de Metz page.
L'image du monde was also printed in various editions in the fifteenth and later centuries, most notably the Early English translation by William Caxton in 1480, based on British Library, Royal MS 19 A IX.