Richard de Fournival
Richard de Fournival was a thirteenth century French writer, best known for his Bestiaire d'amour.
Richard was born in Amiens, France in October, 1201, the son of Roger de Fournival (a personal physician to King Philip Augustus) and Elisabeth de la Pierre. He had a half-brother, Arnoul, who was the Bishop of Amiens. Richard had several clerical posts at the cathedral chapter of Notre Dame d'Amiens, including cannon, deacon and chancellor. In addition to being a cleric and a writer, Richard was also a licensed surgeon, a privilege granted to him by two successive popes. He died in either 1259 or 1260.
Richard is most known for his Bestiaire d'amour, or Bestiary of Love, but he also wrote (or had authorship ascribed to him) other works on the subject of love: Commens d'amours ("Commendations of love"), Censes d’amore ("Senses of love), Poissance d’amore ("Power of love") and Amistié de vraie amour ("Friendship of true love"). He was also the author of Speculum astronomiae ("Mirror of astronomy"), an astrological autobiography, the Nativitas and a book on alchemy, De arte alchemica. Richard was known as a "trouvier" or troubador, a poet-composer, and several of his songs/poems are known.
The Bestiaire d'amour
Richard's Bestiaire is not a traditional bestiary. Instead of using animal characteristics to illustrate a moral or allegorical teaching, Richard use bestiary themes and animals to plead his case to an unnamed lady who he claims to love, but who does not love him in return.
Richard calls his Bestiaire his "arrière-ban", a term meaning the calling up of reserve troops. In the prologue he says (from the Långfors edition):
"This writing, sweet heart, is like the arrière-ban of all those that I have already sent to you. Because a king who goes to war outside his country brings with him a good part of his men, but leaves the best part to keep his land. But if he realizes that the forces he has brought are not enough for him, he calls to the rescue those he has left behind in his country and makes them his arrière-ban. I should do the same. For I have already sent you many fine words, but they have not benefited me much. For that I must send you this writing as my arrière-ban so that I know if you like it and if you could ever love me. It is my last aid, and I must speak to it with more force than before."
Richard's use of bestiary animals in his arguments often differs from the usual accounts. In some cases he changes an attribute; for example, for the pelican he says that it is the father that kills his his chicks and revives them with blood, whereas in the bestiary it is the mother pelican. In other cases he transfers an attribute from one beast to another, as with the viper where he uses attributes from the snake that are never said of the viper. He also describes some animals incorrectly, calling the salamander a white bird and saying it is the muti-headed hydra that eats its way out of a crocodile rather than the hydrus. In some accounts he twists the usual meaning of an animal to further his own ends. In general, however, most of his animal characteristics match those in bestiaries.
The meaning Richard ascribes to the animals differs greatly from the allegorical meaning found in bestiaries. The comparisons are often strained, with the meaning only vaguely matching the characteristic of the animal. The table below shows the characteristics Richard claims the animals have and his interpretation of their meaning.
|Ape||After watching a man put on shoes, the ape does likewise, and unable to climb a tree, is captured||Man is not captured until he is in love|
|The female ape always has two babies but does not love them equally; she carries the one she favors in her arms while the other must cling to her back; when she is hunted and must run on all fours to escape, she drops the baby she is holding while the other continues to hold onto her||Richard says that if the lady were to love another man instead of him, she would lose the other man because she is holding him while Richard is holding her|
|Asp||To get the balm the asp guards, men must put to sleep with music; to prevent this the asp blocks one ear with earth and the other with its tail||Richard was captivated by the lady's voice, and should have blocked his ears|
|Beaver||The "member" of the beaver contains a healing medicine, and so he is hunted for that; when he sees he cannot escape he will bite off that"member" and leave it for the hunter, who will then not kill the beaver||Richard says if his pleading annoys the lady as much as she says, she should deliver herself from it by giving up her heart|
|Bee||Bees cannot hear, but they are affected by music because both bees and music are orderly||This shows the power of voice, hearing and song|
|Blackbird||The blackbird is kept in a cage for the beauty of its voice when it sings||Richard was held captive through the beauty of the lady's voice|
|Caladrius||If the caladrius looks at a sick person, it is a sign he will recover; if the bird looks away it means the person will die||The lady would enjoyed Richard's company if he did not speak of his love, but since he did she will not look at him, so he will suffer the death of love|
|Cock||Sings more often at daybreak and twilight, more forcefully at midnight||Twilight and daybreak signify love without complete confidence or complete despair, midnight signifies love without hope|
|Crane||When cranes sleep, one of them stands guard holding a stone with its foot so if it falls asleep the falling stone will wake it||The guard crane represents foresight, which Richard says he should have had|
|Cricket||The cricket so delights in singing that it forgets to eat and dies||Singing (lyrics) has done Richard little good; when he sent her his best lyrics things were worst for him|
|Crocodile||When a crocodile finds a man it will eat him, but when it has done so it will weep daily for him all its life||Since the lady has devoured Richard and killed him with love's death, he would wish her to repent and to weep tears from her heart|
|The way crocodile eats is a reversal of the way other animals eat; they keep their upper jaw still and move their lower jaw, while the crocodile keeps its lower jaw still and moves it upper jaw||The lower jaw, being underneath, signifies things concealed, while the upper jaw, being above, signifies that which is revealed; so it is when speaking of one's love to anyone else one moves the upper jaw|
|Crow||Crows will not feed their chicks until their feathers turn black||Richard says the lady should not have cared for him before he loved her, but after that she should have cherished him|
|When a crow finds a corpse, it eats the eyes first so it can get to the brain||Man is first captured by love through the eyes|
|Dog||After vomiting the dog returns to its vomit and re-eats it||Richard says he would like to swallow down the words of love he spoke to the lady|
|Dove||Doves sit on water so they can be forewarned of an attack by a hawk, because they can see the hawk's shadow in the water in time to escape||The person who acts with foresight can guard from afar against anyone who would do harm|
|Dragon||The dragon does not kill by biting but poisons with a flick of its tongue||Some men spread things a woman tells them to someone else|
|Eagle||When the eagle's beak is so overgrown that it cannot eat, it shatters its beak and sharpens it again on a hard stone||Richard says the lady has too much of the pride that cannot coexist with love, and she should cut down that pride|
|Elephant||Elephants give birth in water to keep their natural enemy, the dragon, from attacking the child, because the dragon cannot survive in water||Giving birth signifies retaining in love, and giving birth in water signifies foresight|
|Fox||When a fox is hungry it will roll in red earth and will lie down with its tongue hanging out; birds will see this and thinking the fox is dead will try to eat its tongue, and the fox will then kill and eat them||A man may pretend to be in love when he does not care at all and intends only treachery|
|Hedgehog||The hedgehog can roll up in its spines, and no one can touch it without being being hurt. When the hedgehog rolls in apples, it can load itself with them everywhere because it has spines everywhere||Some men are like the hedgehog, for they can take from every place and cannot be taken in any place|
|Hoopoe/Owl||Both the owl and hoopoe spend much time caring for their young, and when they are old their young will care for them in the same way||Richard says if the lady would take him as her love there is nothing he would not do for her in return|
|Hydra||The hydra is the natural enemy of the crocodile; it rolls itself in mud so the crocodile swallows it, but then it tears the crocodile to pieces from the inside||This signifies men who break up their heart into many pieces so they can give part of it to several women|
|The hydra has several heads; if one is cut off it will grow two more in place of the one that was lost||If a woman tricks a man, he will trick seven women, or if she tricks him once he will trick seven times|
|Lion||If a man looks at a lion while it is eating, it will immediately attack||Love is like the lion because it does not attack a man unless he looks at love|
|When a lion is being hunted it will erase its tracks with its tail so it cannot be followed||When a man must do something that may bring him blame, he must ensure it will never be known|
|Lion cubs are born dead and after three days their father roars over them to bring them to life||Richard says if the lady would give him her love it could revive him from his love death|
|Mole||The mole lives underground and so is blind, but to compensate its hearing is acute||Richard's account of the mole is the start of a section on the senses|
|Ostrich||The ostrich leaves its egg in the sand and will not look at it again, trusting the warmth of the sun to hatch it||Richard says he is the egg that is hatched by nobody, and would be lost if not warmed by his naturally cheerful heart|
|Panther||When other animals sense the sweet odor of the panther, they will follow it to the death||Richard says he was captured by the sense of smell, along with sight and hearing|
|Partridge||When the partridge has laid her eggs, another partridge will steal them to raise the chicks as her own, but when when the chicks are grown and can fly, they hear the call of their true mother and fly to her, abandoning the false mother||As an egg is without life when laid and does not live until it is hatched, so a man who is captured by love is dead and does not live until he is taken as a lover|
|Peacock||The peacock's tail is full of "eyes"||The eyes on the peacock's tail signify foresight, and as the tail is behind it signifies what is to come|
|Pelican||The father pelican loves his chicks and plays with them, but when in their play they peck at him, he kills them; later he revives them with his own blood||When Richard first met the lady and told her what would most please him, his words displeased her so she "killed" him with the death of love; Richard says she could revive him by giving him her heart|
|Sawfish||The sawfish loves to race with ships and will do so for long distances, but when it sees it is being beaten it gives up and drops back into the sea||Some men will do as a woman wants as long it is not contrary to what he wants, but will abandon her completely once it is no longer so|
|Siren||A siren lulls a man to sleep with her song, and when he is asleep she kills him||The siren is guilty of killing the man, but the man is also guilty because he trusted her; so Richard says both he and the lady are guilty of causing his "love death"|
|Swallow||If the swallow's chicks are blinded, she uses some mysterious medicine to cure them||Richard says he does not know what medicine could cure his love sickness|
|The swallow does not eat or drink or feed its young except when it is in flight||There are people who do everything "in flight"; it is only when their love is in sight that it has meaning for them|
|The swallow cannot be captured by any bird of prey||There are men who can never be captured because no love of woman can hold them|
|Swan||The swan sings its best song just before it dies||Richard says he fears the "death" of love so he has abandoned song|
|Tiger||When the tiger's cubs are stolen and she chases the thief, he will drop a mirror in her path to distract her||Richard says he was captured through sight|
|Turtledove||If a turtledove loses its mate it will will refuse to ever have another||Richard says he would never leave the lady for someone else|
|Unicorn||The unicorn is too fierce to capture, but if it senses a virgin by her smell it will kneel before her and fall asleep in her lap; clever hunters will place a maiden in its path and then will come and kill it as it sleeps||Richard says he had thought he could never be captured by love, but when nature the clever hunter put the lady in his path, he fell asleep at her sweetness and died the "love death"|
|Viper||The viper flees from a naked man but attacks a clothed man||When Richard first met the lady he was "naked" of love so he dared to speak his heart, but when she knew he was "clothed" with love for her she attacked him with words|
|The female viper conceives by taking the male's head in her mouth and biting it off, killing him; when the young are born they burst out of the mother's side, killing her; thus vipers come into the world having killed both of their parents||Some men cannot obtain the worth they speak of without noising abroad the women who help them be worthy|
|Vulture||The vulture follows armies because it lives on corpses and knows where the army goes there will be dead men and horses to eat||The vulture represents men who follow women to take advantage of them, without caring about how the woman will be hurt|
|Weasel||The weasel conceives through the ear and gives birth through the mouth||Women after hearing fair speech from a man may feel they should grant their love, but then deliver a refusal|
|The weasel transports her litter from one place to another for fear of losing them||This represents love's greatest despair, that one will not speak of what might have the greatest value, but will always want to speak of something else|
|If the weasel's young are killed, she can revive them by some unknown means||Richard says he thinks there is some medicine the lady could use to resuscitate him from his love death|
|Whale||Sailors mistake the back of a whale for an island, so they land on it and build a cooking fire, but when the whale feels the heat it dives, drowning the sailors||Richard say that one must trust least that which seems most trustworthy|
|Wild ass||The wild ass brays only when it is hungry but cannot find what it needs to satisfy its hunger||Richard says he needed to speak more forcefully when the lady showed him no mercy|
|Wolf||The wolf loses its strength when it is seen first by man but renders man speechless when it sees the man first||If a man sees first that a woman loves him she will lose the strength to resist him; if the woman sees first that the man loves her she will escape him|
|The wolf's neck is so stiff that it cannot look back without turning its whole body||A woman can only give herself totally|
|A wolf never captures prey near its den, but only at a distance||When a man is far away a woman will love him passionately, but when he is near she will show no sign of love|
|If a wolf is sneaking up on sheep and it steps on a twig and makes a noise, it will punish its foot by biting it||If a woman too quick to declare her her love, she will use words to disguise and undo her indiscretion|
|Woodpecker||If the woodpecker's nest hole is plugged, it uses a herb that has loosening properties to remove the plug||Richard says if he had some of the herb he could use it to open the lady's heart|
The "standard" order of the animals in the Bestiaire is: cock, wild ass (onager), wolf, cricket, swan, dog, viper, ape, crow, lion, weasel, caladrius, siren, asp, blackbird, mole, tiger, unicorn, panther, crane, peacock, Argus, swallow, pelican, beaver, woodpecker, hedgehog, crocodile, hydra, ape, sawfish, turtledove, partridge, ostrich, stork, hoopoe, eagle, elephant, dragon, dove, whale, fox, vulture. Several of these are referred to more than once, with the repeats often embedded in the account of another animal.
The Elements and Senses
At one point Richard diverges from his love theme for an extended discussion on the four elements and the five senses and how animals exemplify them, something not found in traditional bestiaries. He says that some animals live exclusively on pure elements and never eat anything else. The bird is nourished by air; the salamander is nourished by fire; the mole is nourished by earth; and the fish is nourished by water.
He claims that there are five animals that show the five senses better than any other animals, and that nature corrects the defect in one sense by enhancing another. So the mole, being blind, has the best hearing. A white worm called the "lins" that crawls on walls has the best sight (an oddity not found in bestiaries, where the eagle exemplifies sight). The vulture has the best sense of smell, being able to detect a corpse that is three days journey away; the monkey has the best sense of taste; and the spider the best sense of touch.
Bestiaire in verse
The original version of the Bestiaire was written in prose, but Richard later produced a verse edition, with the text very similar to the prose version. Richard explains why he did this: "It is to satisfy all tastes that Master Richard has put the Bestiary in rhyme. So you can choose what you like best, prose or verse: it's just like we offer meat either roasted or boiled." The verse Bestiaire is found in only one manuscript (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 25545), and appears to be incomplete; only the prologue and six animal sections are included (cock, onager, wolf, cricket, swan, dog). The bottom half of the final page has been filled with a later prayer and the next few pages are blank, suggesting there is more to the poem that was never copied.
The Response to the Bestiaire d'amour
The author of the Response is not known. Jeanette Beer rejects the hypothesis that Richard himself was the author, and says the author "was a woman of exceptional ability who could reason with cogency and argue with style; her philosophical background differed markedly from Master Richard's; and her feminist defense of woman may have been directed specifically at Richard de Fournival." (Beer, p. xxii)
The lady in her prologue relates a probably heretical version of Adam and Eve, which she uses to show that God made women out of better materials than he did man. The lady says God chose to create Adam out a substance that was not the best (i.e. earth), and from the same substance created a woman who did not please Adam. When Adam killed his first wife and God asked him why he had done that, he said the woman was nothing to him and so he did not love her. God then created the second woman, Eve, out of Adam's rib, a substance much improved over the original.
The lady says this shows that woman was made of equal if not better material than man, but since God created woman from man it is right that man has dominion over woman. The lady admits that as a woman she must obey Richard, a man. How she "obeys" him is to acknowledge truth of the animal characteristics shown in his Bestiaire, but then deny Richard's interpretation of the meaning of those characteristics, thus refuting his arguments. She seems to grow angrier as the Response progresses, with her remarks becoming more pointed and cutting but less coherent. The table below shows how she re-interpreted the animal attributes to her own ends.
|Ape||After watching a man put on shoes, the ape does likewise, and unable to climb a tree, is captured||The lady says she would be crazy to come near when Richard has spread nets to capture her, that it is good to be barefoot and that no one would be so foolish as to do what the ape is said to have done|
|Asp||To get the balm the asp guards, men must put to sleep with music; to prevent this the asp blocks one ear with earth and the other with its tail||The lady says she must do like the asp so that she will not be deceived|
|Caladrius||If the caladrius looks at a sick person, it is a sign he will recover; if the bird looks away it means the person will die||The lady says if she were as wise as the caladrius she would not be so wary of what she said|
|Cat||The cat seems soft and gentle until its tail is pulled, and then it will attack with its claws||Some men may initially behave gently and say what will win confidence and allow him to get his way, but would do worse than the cat if he does not get what he wants|
|Cock||Sings more often at daybreak and twilight, more forcefully at midnight||The lady says Richard has spoken forcefully to her, in a way he thought necessary to get what he wanted, and so she does not know where to go for comfort|
|Crane||When cranes sleep, one of them stands guard holding a stone with its foot so if it falls asleep the falling stone will wake it||The lady says there seems to be no reason to deny Richard what he wants, but the crane teaches her to not trust even the most trustworthy|
|Cricket||The cricket so delights in singing that it forgets to eat and dies||The lady says she will disregard the cricket because it is not in her interest to listen to Richard's words, and she certainly must not trust them|
|Crocodile||When a crocodile finds a man it will eat him, but when it has done so it will weep daily for him all its life||The lady says if she were to be so deceived by a man that he had his way with her and she lost her honor, regret would be of little use to her|
|The nature of the crocodile is to eat in the wrong way by moving its upper jaw while keeping its lower jaw still||The lady says that if a man should claim he is dying for love of her and needs her to rescue him, such talk is like eating the wrong way and she would never trust him|
|Crow||Crows will not feed their chicks until their feathers turn black and they resemble their parents||The lady says that her nature and Richard's could never be in conformity and they would always be in conflict both in habit and will|
|When a crow finds a corpse, it eats the eyes first so it can get to the brain||The lady agrees that love captures the heart through the eyes, but says that the intelligence of man and woman is in the brain. and if the crow steals it through his vision it is a sign of hatred and treachery, not love|
|Dog||When a dog has an abundance of food, it eats as much as it can, then vomits the surplus in a secret place; when it has no food it can go to that secret place and eat the food it vomited||The lady says she must value what honor she has since Richard is so eager to get it, and she should have a surplus of honor she will keep it for any future time of need|
|Dove||Doves sit on water so they can be forewarned of an attack by a hawk, because they can see the hawk's shadow in the water in time to escape, and can only be taken by surprise||For one who has the greatest fear of being captured, the foresight shown by the dove on water is a wonderful thing; the lady says clerics who come to a woman with fine words are like the hawk|
|Dragon||The dragon does not kill by biting but poisons with its tongue||Men who use their tongues to deceive foolish women can rightly be called dragons, but though dragons poison only what they touch, such men use their poisonous tongues to say whatever might let them have their way with a woman, and when they have they boast about it|
|Eagle||When the eagle's beak is so overgrown that it cannot eat, it shatters its beak and sharpens it again on a hard stone||Richard accuses the lady of having too much pride, but she says pride that guards what she needs to guard is good, and if someone pretends to be charming to get what he wants from her but that would damage her, she must be cruel to prevent it, which some will call pride|
|Elephant||Elephants give birth in water to keep their natural enemy, the dragon, from attacking the child, because the dragon cannot survive in water||The lady would like all women to guard themselves as the female dragon does, so if man comes pleading to her he would be told to do something that he would be reluctant to do but that would cause the least harm (the implication being marriage)|
|Falcon||The falcon swoops on its victim so fast from so high above that its attack is not suspected||The lady says Richard needed his hunger to to be satisfied and so said the words he did|
|Hedgehog||The hedgehog has spines everywhere and can be captured only by spines||There are people who can only be caught by spines, yet they are caught somehow; the lady says she would like such people and the ones who hold them to be pierced by the spines and die|
|Hydra||The hydra has several heads; if one is cut off it will grow two more in place of the one that was lost||The lady says she is not like the hydra, so if anyone took her honor she would never get it back|
|Lion||If a man looks at a lion while it is eating, it will immediately attack||The lady says she will not look at what might hurt her, but rather she will go where she knows her advantage is|
|When a lion is being hunted it will erase its tracks with its tail so it cannot be followed||The lady says that if she were to do something that was not good, she should do like the lion and hide it before it can cause her damage|
|The lion gives birth to a piece of flesh that does not look to her as being the proper shape for a lion cub, so she goes around it shaping it with her tongue into its proper form||The lady says if she must say something she has not properly though out, she would like to go around it moulding it to sense and reason|
|Ostrich||The ostrich leaves its egg in the sand and will not look at it again, trusting the warmth of the sun to hatch it||The lady says she fears that if she put her trust in Richard as the ostrich trusts the sun, he would treat her badly; she curses anyone who trusts him, no matter how sincere he seems|
|Owl||The owl spends much time caring for its young, and when it is old its young will care for it in the same way||Though Richard has said that if the lady would care for him he would do anything for her, she is not so foolish to feel bound to do what he wants|
|Panther||When other animals sense the sweet odor of the panther, they are drawn toward it||The lady says she could not be drawn to Richard in any way that would not cause her harm|
|Partridge||When the partridge has laid her eggs, another partridge will steal them to raise the chicks as her own, but when when the chicks are grown and can fly, they hear the call of their true mother and fly to her, abandoning the false mother||The lady says that if she does not resist certain desires that are not good, that which she should have guarded could be stolen from her|
|Peacock||The peacock's tail is full of "eyes"||As the eyes on the tail signify foresight, the lady must look in all directions for that which could harm her|
|Pelican||The pelican has the ability to revives its dead chicks||A person who loses honor is as dead, and not having the pelican as a parent, has little hope of recovery|
|Sawfish||The sawfish loves to race with ships, but when it sees it is being beaten it is shamed and drops back into the sea||The lady says that if she were foolish enough to be taken, she would have to act as though nothing degrading had happened to her so to hide the truth, but in the end the truth would be known and she would be defeated|
|Siren||A siren lulls a man to sleep with her song, and when he is asleep she kills him||The lady says if she trusted herself to Richard's "fair words and sweet deceit" she would soon die|
|Swallow||If the swallow's chicks are blinded, she can restore their sight||The lady says it is not enough to rely on foresight alone, if she could lose her honor through carelessness|
|The swallow does everything in flight||There are people like this, who never really engage themselves in one place, who want know everything without revealing anything about themselves, and who never tell the truth|
|The swallow cannot be captured by any bird of prey||Some people take what belongs to others but can never be taken themselves|
|Swan||When the swan is about to die it has the most desire to sing||The lady says she must not do anything that could cause her misfortune or put her in a fool's power|
|Tiger||When the tiger's cubs are stolen and she chases the thief, he will drop a mirror in her patch to distract her||The lady says Richard sends her beautiful words, but does not care who may be hurt by them as long as he gets his way|
|Turtledove||If a turtledove loses its mate it will will refuse to ever have another, and will never again rest on anything green||The lady says if she ever had the misfortune of being deceived, she would never again be happy|
|Unicorn||The unicorn's horn can pierce anything and there is no protection against it||There is nothing so wounding as fair speech, and a well-placed word can pierce a hard heart|
|Viper||The viper flees from a naked man but attacks a clothed man||The lady asks if Richard thinks she is bound to attack him because he claims to be clothed by his love for her; she says she has not clothed him with her love, and he is naked of it|
|Vulture||The vulture can detect a carcass that is a day's journey away and flies toward it, even if it is not hungry||The lady says Richard was like the vulture when he heard about her from other people and came to see if anything about her pleased him|
|Weasel||The weasel conceives through the ear and gives birth through the mouth||The lady says some people will conceive something they hear and will give birth to something dangerous by saying what they should have kept secret||If the weasel's young are taken, killed, and returned to her lifeless she knows by nature how to revive them||The lady says she is sure she could not do likewise and so must be be on her guard|
|Whale||Sailors mistake the back of a whale for an island, so they land on it to rest, but when they do something that is disagreeable to the whale it dives, drowning the sailors||The lady says this is like certain clerics who seem worthy of trust, but women who believe their words are caught and undone|
|Wild ass||The wild ass only brays when it is desperately hungry||The lady says she can certainly bray because she is in great need of help|
|Wolf||The wolf loses its strength when seen first by man but renders man speechless when it sees the man first||The lady implies that Richard is the wolf, and since he saw her first she has difficulty countering his words and must be on her guard|
|Its neck is so stiff that it cannot look back without turning its whole body||The lady says that it would be foolish of her to to now give Richard what he wants when she has had no desire to do so|
|Woodpecker||The woodpecker builds its nest in a tree hollow where it can be safe, but then some fool plugs the nest; the woodpecker knows of a herb that will cause the plug to fall out||Even when someone has done her best and thinks she need not fear anyone, someone comes along to disturb and distress her|
The "standard" order of the animals in the Response is: cock, wild ass (onager), wolf, cricket, swan, dog, viper, ape, crow, lion, weasel, caladrius, siren, asp, tiger, panther, unicorn, crane, peacock, Argus, swallow, pelican, woodpecker, hedgehog, cockatrice (crocodile), hydra, sawfish, turtledove, partridge, ostrich, owl, eagle, crocodile, ape, dragon, elephant, dove, whale, falcon, vulture. As in the Bestiaire some animals are used more than once.
There are 24 known manuscripts (or manuscript fragments) of the Bestiaire d'amour, plus possibly three more, probably incomplete, where the current location is uncertain. The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has the most manuscripts (nine), with various other French libraries holding four more. There are five in Italy, and the remainder are in England, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium. There is only one outside of Europe, at the Morgan Library in New York. Two copies are in private libraries: one was in Saint Petersberg as of 1925; the location of the other is unknown (it is designated here as Private Library - Unknown Owner, PL01).
Only four of the manuscripts include the lady's Response, with one having not only the usual Response but two others as well; the authors of the two additional Responses are not identified. The manuscripts containing the Response are:
One manuscript, Morgan Library, MS M.459, is an extended version, with 20 further animals and a different ending (folio 22v-29v) and an extract from his Livre de li arriere bans, both illustrated.
One manuscript, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 25545, has the later version Richard wrote in verse, which includes only the prologue and six animal sections (cock, onager, wolf, cricket, swan, dog).
The manuscripts of uncertain location are (from Elizabeth Leach, Richard de Fournival’s Bestiary of Love):
There was as of 1925 a one folio fragment in a private library in Saint Petersburg, Russia; the manuscript is designated "Z" (see Lozinski, 1925) .
There are two manuscripts where Richard's French text has been translated into other languages. There is one manuscript in German translation (Niedersächsischen Landesbibliothek, Ms IV, 369), and a two folio fragment in Middle Dutch (Universiteit van Amsterdam Bibliotheek, IA 24 f; see Gera Dambrink, 1999). There may also be one or two in Italian.
The Bestiaire d'amour rimé is found in manuscript Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951; it is by an anonymous author and is loosely based on Richard's Bestiaire, but differs from it in the order of the animals and has significant differences in the text. It also includes several animals and animal attributes not found in Richard's Bestiaire. The text is in rhyming verse.
Most of the manuscripts are illustrated, some lavishly so. In most cases the artist has followed the text, though in some images it is not obvious what exactly is being illustrated. Because both the Bestiaire and the Response describe the same animal more than once, there are often two or more images of the same animal showing different attributes. The Response is also usually illustrated, with the animal images showing the lady's interpretation of the story. Images sometimes include a man or a woman or both, with man presumably being Richard and the woman the lady. In the images for the Bestiaire in Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 308 Richard is often shown pointing out the animal to the lady, who does not look at all impressed.
The known French prose version manuscripts each have a standard letter designation, as follows:
|A||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 25566|
|B||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 412|
|C||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 12786|
|D||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 12469|
|E||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 14444|
|F||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 24406|
|G||Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 15213|
|H||Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon, Ms. 526|
|I||Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Ms. 2200|
|J||Bibliothèque Municipale de Arras, Ms. 139|
|K||Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, Ms. 10394-10414|
|L||British Library, Harley MS 273|
|M||Morgan Library, MS M.459|
|O||Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 308|
|P||Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut.76.79|
|Q||Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Ashb.123|
|R||Private Library, location unknown|
|S||Bibliothèque de Genève, Comites latentes, 179|
|T||Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria di Torino, L. III. 22|
|V||Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 2609|
|W||Biblioteca Ambrosiana, I 78 sup.|
|Y||Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, AC.X.10|
|Z||Private Library, St. Petersburg|