Encyclopedia

De bestiis et aliis rebus

The De bestiis et aliis rebus is a constructed text. As Haureau says, "C'est un ouvrage fabriqué par des copistes" - It is a work fabricated by the copyists. While it is difficult to pin down what exactly constitutes the De bestiis, in general terms it is a composite work in four books, probably by different authors, that includes an Aviary, a version of the the Physiologus, a bestiary, and a dictionary of Latin words.

The De bestiis is often attributed to Hugh of Saint Victor, though there is no evidence that he was involved in any way.

Hugh of Saint Victor (ca. 1096-1141)

Little is known of the early life of Hugh of Saint Victor. His father may have been a minor noble in the Saxony region of Germany. Hugh became a member of the canons regular at the Priory of St Pancras. Due to civil unrest at the time, he was advised to move to Paris, where he joined the Abbey of Saint Victor to continue his studies. He spent the rest of his relatively short life there, becoming the head of the school.

Hugh of Saint Victor's only relationship to the bestiary genre was the mistaken attribution to him of the De bestiis et aliis rebus. In some cases the attribution is in found in manuscript copies of the De bestiis (e.g. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden, .Dresd.A.198). The error was perpetuated by later print editions, particularly that of Migne in his Patrologia Latina (volume 177). Though Hugh of Saint Victor wrote many texts, none were explicitly bestiary-related.

Manuscripts

While there are several manuscripts where the title De bestiis et aliis rerum appears, there are few (if any) that include all four books. One that has at least parts of the first three books is Cambridge University Library, Gg.6.5. Most have only Books I and II, or excerpts from them. There are many manuscripts that include only Book I, the De avibus of Hugh of Fouilloy, but these cannot be considered to be the De bestiis. Whether a manuscript is the De bestiis or the De avibus or the Physiologus or a standalone bestiary is often a matter of opinion.

The order of the books in manuscripts is not consistent. While the De avibus often appears first, in some manuscripts the Physiologus (Book II) is first, followed by De avibus.

There are at least three illustrated manuscripts (McCulloch, page 32):

Printed Editions

At least three printed editions of the complete works of "Hugh of Saint Victor" were published in the 16th and 17th centuries, in addition to Migne's edition of 1854. Migne based his edition on one (or more) of the earlier publications. The De bestiis et aliis rebus sections of two of the early editions (1526 and 1648) are available in the Digital Text Library, as is Migne's 1854 edition. There are other printed editions from the 16th to 18th centuries, all apparently very similar, if not identical.

It can be argued that the early printed editions are the true source of the four books of the De bestiis et aliis rebus. The source of the printed text is not clear; it was probably taken from more than one manuscript, though the manuscripts are not identified.

Scholarly Analysis of the De bestiis

There is considerable variation and limited agreement in how scholars assess the De bestiis text.

  • Migne (Patrologia Latina, volume CLXXV (175), column cxviii): "The treatise De bestiariis includes four books: The first deals with birds, the second with ferocious beasts, the third is a compilation of the first two, the fourth is a kind of dictionary in which the properties of animals, plants and minerals are explained in alphabetical order. The author of this compilation is uncertain. The Benedictines attribute the first to Hugues de Foulis, the second to Henry of Ghent, the third and fourth to Guillaume Perrault. These attributions are perhaps not beyond dispute."
  • Carmody (page 155, 158): "The attribution of De Bestiis to three different authors rather than to Hugh of St-Victor6 is borne out in part by the fact that different versions of the Physiologus were used in the several books. ... De Bestiis is one of the more authentic and complete collections of chapters from the Latin Physiologus."
  • Ives (page 7): "[The De bestiis] , unlike the earlier bestiaries which intermingled the natural objects described without regard to genera, has relegated the birds to Book I, the animals, fish and stones to Book II. Book III repeats the first two books in a large measure , though adding much new material , while Book IV is an outright alphabetical dictionary of natural history. ... We have already stated that this first book of Hugo , called the Aviarium is often isolated from the other three books in codices. This fact would appear evident from its frequent citation as an individual work...however, it seems very likely that Book II was a completely independent production..."
  • Haureau (page 170-173): "The second book is a paraphrase, composed in the same style, on wild beasts. The author describes the shape and describes the habits of the animals; then he moralizes this story and this description. There is nothing original in this whole work except the moralities: the rest belongs to the gloss of the Physiologus inserted in the works of Saint Epiphanius, to the Polyhistor of Solinus and to the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville..... We do not come across, moreover, any manuscript which names Hugh de Fouilloy as the author of this work. ... one of the parts of the third book, that which concerns precious stones, is a mystical explanation of the twelve stones of the Apocalypse borrowed almost entirely either from an insignificant pamphlet which was long believed to be from Saint Augustine, or to the author of the moralized lapidary that Beaugendre published under the name of Marbode. This third book is therefore the work of a compiler less ancient than our two canons. ... We still inscribe in the name of Guillaume Péraud the treatise De proprieiatibus ac epithetis rerum which is given to us as the fourth book of the artificial collection."
  • M. R. James (in A Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge,1895, page 116) says "... it is ... difficult to see exactly where the treatise addressed to Rainer ends, and where the Bestiary begins - if indeed the whole be not one work".
  • McCulloch (page 31-32) classifies Books I and II as part of the Bestiary Family structure, and calls the two First Family, H Version. She suggests that the two books were intended to be seen as a single work, and in some manuscripts there is no break between the two books.
  • Oliveira (page 117): "...then some believed that the Book of Birds was not an independent work, but a specially made text for this particular book, and finally most researchers up until recently though that the De bestiis was a medieval collection from the 12th and/or 13th centuries. As contrary to what was thought, the De bestiis is a 16th century edited assemblage made by the canons of the Parisian abbey of St. Victor that had attached an Opera Omnia, by Hugh of Saint Victor."

The Four Books

The first three books have similarities; they are all moralized animal stories, like the Bestiaries. The morals, allegories and exempla derived from the accounts of real and fabulous birds, beasts, reptiles and fish are the true purpose of the text. The De bestiis is not an encyclopedia, where the stated characteristics of the animals are to be taken as "truth". In the moralized tales the description of an animal is secondary; it may even be modified or adapted to better serve the teaching of religious values.

The chapters for each book listed below are derived from Migne. Some chapter titles have been abbreviated.

Book I

Book I is generally recognized as being the De avibus, a moralized book on birds by Hugh of Fouilloy. The De avibus is found on its own in many manuscripts, and sections from it are embedded in some bestiaries.

The chapter order of Book I matches that of the De avibus, though the chapters are sometimes divided differently, so the De avibus has 60-62 chapters (the coot and ibis chapters are sometimes omitted), while Book I (as reported by Migne) has 58. The different division of what is in a chapter also means that the chapter numbers do not match perfectly. The chapter titles are mostly similar though there is some variation.

  1. De tribus columbis (three doves)
  2. De columbae ad Ecclesiam (dove and the Church)
  3. De columbae ad fidelem animam (dove and the faithful soul)
  4. De columbae ad praelatum (dove and the prelate)
  5. De columbae habentis pedes rubros ad Ecclesiam (the red feet of the dove and the Church)
  6. De pennis de argentatis columbae (feathers of the silver dove)
  7. De sapphirino colore alarum columbae (sapphire wings of the dove)
  8. De coloribus columbae (dove's colors)
  9. De oculis croceis columbae (cross-eyed dove)
  10. De colore reliquo columbae (other colors of the dove)
  11. De diversis columbae proprietatibus (many properties of the dove)
  12. De aquilone et austro ventis (north and south winds)
  13. De accipitre quomodo plumescat expandens alas suas ad austrum (hawk spreads its wings to the south)
  14. De duabus accipitrum speciebus (two kinds of hawk)
  15. De domesticorum accipitrum curatione (care of the domestic hawk)
  16. De accipitris in laeva gestatione (hawk carried in the left hand)
  17. De pertica, super quam stat aut sedet accipiter (pole where the hawk sits)
  18. De accipitrum pedicis seu compedibus (fettered feet of the hawk)
  19. De loro seu corrigia, et ligamine accipitris (strap binding the hawk)
  20. De turture et passere (turtledove and sparrow)
  21. De palma, quomodo ei comparatur justus (palm tree and the just)
  22. Quomodo ei comparentur Ecclesia et anima fidelis (Church and soul compared)
  23. De nido turturis, id est fidelis animae in palma (turtledove nest in the palm tree)
  24. De voce turturis ad animam comparata (turtledove voice and the soul)
  25. De turture Ecclesiae (turtledove and the Church)
  26. De Libano et cedro mysticis et de passeribus (mystical cedar tree of Lebanon and the sparrow)
  27. Quis per passerem sit mystice intelligendus (mystical meaning of the sparrow)
  28. De domo quam passer invenit (sparrow lives in houses)
  29. De vigilia passeris (watchful sparrow)
  30. Quomodo passer assimiletur animae (soul compared to the sparrow)
  31. De passerum duorum et quinque (mystical meaning of two and five sparrows)
  32. De duobus passeribus...mundatione a lepra (two sparrows as a cure for leprosy)
  33. De pelicani natura (nature of the pelican)
  34. De nycticorace, id est noctua (owl)
  35. De corvo (raven)
  36. De galli gallinacei natura moraliter (moral nature of the cock)
  37. De struthione, et ejus pennis...et accipitris (feathers of the ostrich, and the hawk)
  38. De vulture, et ejus natura Christo applicata (nature of the vulture applied to Christ)
  39. De gruibus ordine litterato (cranes flying in order)
  40. De natura milvi ad vitiosos applicata (nature of the kite applied to the wicked)
  41. De hirundinis natura, moraliter animae poenitenti addicta (swallow and the penitent soul)
  42. De ciconiae natura (nature of the stork)
  43. De merulae natura moraliter (moral nature of the blackbird)
  44. De bubonis natura moraliter (moral nature of the owl)
  45. De graculi natura moraliter (moral nature of the jackdaw)
  46. De anseris natura moraliter (moral nature of the goose)
  47. De natura ardeae (nature of the spider)
  48. De caladrio ave (caladrius)
  49. De phoenice (phoenix)
  50. De perdicis natura (nature of the partridge)
  51. De coturnice, seu qualea ave (quail)
  52. De upupae natura (nature of the hoopoe)
  53. De olore vel cygno (swan)
  54. De classe Salomonis et Josaphat (fleets of Solomon and Jehoshaphat)
  55. De pavonis natura (nature of the peacock)
  56. De natura aquilae (nature of the eagle)
  57. De ibe seu ibide ave (ibis)
  58. De fulica (coot)

Book II

Book II is a version of the Physiologus. The compiler of this version of the text is unknown; it is highly unlikely to have been Hugh of Saint Victor.

It is likely that the compiler of Book II had Book I available, because most of the birds were omitted from Book II, probably because they had already been covered in Book I. The two birds included in Book II, the pelican and the caladrius, also appear in Book I; they may be repeated because of their significance to the Christian moralizations.

  1. De leone (lion)
  2. De antula seu anto aut antelope animali (antelope)
  3. De onocentauro (onocentaur)
  4. De herinaceo, seu hericio (hedgehog)
  5. De vulpe et ejus natura (fox)
  6. De monocerote sive unicorni animali (monocerus or unicorn)
  7. De hydro et hydra (hydrus and hydra)
  8. De crocodili natura (crocodile)
  9. De Castoris naturae (beaver)
  10. De hyaena, de qua vulgati sunt versiculi (hyena)
  11. De onagro (onager)
  12. De Simiis (ape)
  13. De capri natura (domestic goat)
  14. De cervorum natura (stag)
  15. De ibice (ibex)
  16. De stellione et salamandra (newt and salamander)
  17. De canibus et eorum naturis (dog)
  18. De mustela et aspide (weasel and asp)
  19. De lapidibus igniferis (fire stones)
  20. De luporum natura (wolf)
  21. De viperae natura (viper)
  22. De serra bellua marina (sawfish)
  23. De pantherae natura (panther)
  24. De dracone animantium maximo (dragon)
  25. De elephantis natura (elephant)
  26. De elephantis natura iterum (more on the elephant)
  27. De pelicani natura (pelican)
  28. De lacerto, stellione et lacerta (lizard and newt)
  29. De formicae natura (ant)
  30. De aspidis natura (asp)
  31. De charadrio seu charadro ave maritima (seabird caladrius)
  32. De sirenarum seu sirenum natura (siren or mermaid)
  33. De onocentauro rursus (again on the onocentaur)
  34. De adamantis virtute (virtue of the diamond)
  35. De concha seu concha margaritifera (conchis or pearl-oyster)
  36. De aspidochelone, bellua aquatica (whale)

A comparison between the Book II chapters and the usual chapters of the A, B, C, Y and Dicta Chrysostomi versions of the Physiologus shows that there is no exact match to any of them in chapter order or in the animals described, though it is most similar to version B. Some animals in Book II do not appear in the Latin Physiologus versions or are there combined with other animals. The crocodile is usually included in the hydrus chapter of the Physiologus, but has its own chapter in Book II. The asp is included in the weasel chapter in both, but also has its own chapter in Book II. The ibex, dog, dragon and wolf appear in most bestiaries, but not in their own chapter in any of the five Physiologus versions. These may have been added to Book II to make up for the omitted bird chapters.

In the table below, the numbers in each column are the chapter numbers where the animal appears in the Physiologus version. If there is no number, that animal does not appear in that version.

Book II A B C Y DC
Lion 1 1 1 1 1
Antelope 2 2 20 2  
Onocentaur 11 12 11 15 5
Hedgehog 29 13 12 16 18
Fox 12 15 13 17 15
Unicorn 13 16 15 35 3
Hydrus and hydra 18 19   38 4
Crocodile          
Beaver 14 17   36 16
Hyena 15     37 6
Onager 17 21   12 7
Ape 19 21   25 7
Goat 16 20   21 14
Stag   29 17 43 13
Ibex          
Salamander 22 30 18 45  
Dog          
Weasel and asp   26   34  
Book II A B C Y DC
Fire stones 3 3   3  
Wolf          
Viper 27   8 12 11
Sawfish 4 4 21 4  
Panther 36 23 13 29 2
Dragon          
Elephant 31 33 22 20  
Pelican 6 6 4 7 20
Lizard and newt   37 2 49 12
Ant 10 11 10 14 17
Asp          
Caladrius 5 5 3 5 26
Siren 11 12 11 15 5
Onocentaur   12 11 14 5
Diamond 33 35   24  
Pearl-oyster   36 23 23  
Whale   24 15 30  

Book III

Book III goes beyond the Physiologus. It incorporates animals from the Physiologus, but adds many others from other sources. The chapters are grouped by the kind of animal (beasts, birds, reptiles and fish), and there are chapters on trees, stones and humans. The book is effectively a full bestiary.

The editors of the print edition of Book III chose to skip some chapters on animals that were already covered in Books I and II, only giving a reference to the earlier chapters. It is not clear whether this was also done in manuscripts, since the source manuscripts for the print editions are not known. The abbreviated list has a total of 61 chapters.

  1. De tigride (tiger)
  2. De pardo, et leopardo (pard and leopard)
  3. De lynce (lynx)
  4. De gryphe (griffin)
  5. De bonaso (bonnacon)
  6. De urso (bearr)
  7. De leucrocuta (leucrota)
  8. De Manticora (manticore)
  9. De tharando (parandrus)
  10. De eale animali (yale)
  11. De cane, et ejus natura (dog)
  12. De animalium in genere nominibus, et speciebus ac proprietatibus (names, species, properties of animals)
  13. De ove (sheep)
  14. De vervece (wether)
  15. De agno (lamb)
  16. De hirco et haedo (he-goat and kid)
  17. De apro (boar)
  18. De juvenco, et tauro (bull)
  19. De bove, et uro, et similibus (ox, aurochs and similar)
  20. De cameli natura (camel)
  21. De dromedario (dromedary)
  22. De asino et asello (ass and colt)
  23. De equo, et ejus natura (horse)
  24. De cato, seu musione (cat)
  25. De mure et sorice (mouse and shrew)
  26. De talpa (mole)
  27. De avibus in genere (birds in general)
  28. De psittaco (parrot)
  29. De halcyone (kingfisher)
  30. De cinnamulgo (cinnamologus)
  31. De herciniis avibus (hercinia)
  32. De pica et pico (magpie and woodpecker)
  33. De luscinia (nightingale)
  34. De vespertilione (bat)
  35. De cornice, et corvo iterum (more on the crow and raven)
  36. De anate (duck)
  37. De ovis et ex eis natis (eggs and what is born from them)
  38. De apibus (bee)
  39. De arbore quadam in India (peridexion tree)
  40. De serpentum generibus (snakes in general)
  41. De basilisco et sibilo (basilisk)
  42. De ceraste (cerastes)
  43. De scitale ex Plinio et Solino (scitalis according to Pliny and Solinus)
  44. De amphysibaena (amphisbaena)
  45. De boa serpente iterum (more on the boa)
  46. De jaculo (jaculus)
  47. De sirenis serpentibus (siren serpent)
  48. De sepe serpente (seps)
  49. De dypsade serpente (dipsa)
  50. De lacerto iterum, et batracha (more on the lizard, and the botrax)
  51. De saura (lizard)
  52. De stellione iterum, et aliis serpentibus (more on the newt and other snakes)
  53. De serpentum varia natura (various natures of snakes)
  54. De vermibus (worms)
  55. De piscium diversorum naturis (various fish)
  56. De arboribus (trees)
  57. De margaritarum inventione, et procreatione (pearl-oyster)
  58. De duodecim lapidibus pretiosis (twelve precious stones)
  59. De natura in communi, et de natura hominis (nature in common, and the nature of man)
  60. De hominis membris ac partibus (limbs and parts of man)
  61. De aetatibus hominis, et vocabulis earum, etiam usque ad mortem, et mortuos (ages and death of man)

Adding the skipped chapters brings the total to 110. The added chapters are shown in this color, with the original references shown as [book, chapter].

  1. De lione, et ejus naturis (lion) [II, 1]
  2. De tigride (tiger)
  3. De pardo, et leopardo (pard and leopard)
  4. De panthera (panther) [II, 23]
  5. De antalope seu antula (antelope) [II, 2]
  6. De unicorni (unicorn) [II, 6]
  7. De lynce (lynx)
  8. De gryphe (griffin)
  9. De elephante (elephant) [II, 26]
  10. De castore (beaver) [II, 9]
  11. De ibice (ibex) [II, 15]
  12. De hiena (hyena) [II, 10]
  13. De bonaso (bonnacon)
  14. De simiis (ape) [II, 12]
  15. De cervis (stag) [II, 14]
  16. De capro (goat) [II, 13
  17. De monocerote sive unicorni (monocerus or unicorn) [II, 6]
  18. De urso (bearr)
  19. De crocodilo (crocodile) [II, 8]
  20. De leucrocuta (leucrota)
  21. De Manticora (manticore)
  22. De tharando (parandrus)
  23. De vulpe (fox) [II, 5]
  24. De eale animali (yale)
  25. De lupo (wolf) [II, 20]
  26. De cane, et ejus natura (dog)
  27. De animalium in genere nominibus, et speciebus ac proprietatibus (names, species, properties of animals)
  28. De ove (sheep)
  29. De vervece (wether)
  30. De agno (lamb)
  31. De hirco et haedo (he-goat and kid)
  32. De apro (boar)
  33. De juvenco, et tauro (bull)
  34. De bove, et uro, et similibus (ox, aurochs and similar)
  35. De cameli natura (camel)
  36. De dromedario (dromedary)
  37. De asino et asello (ass and colt)
  38. De equo, et ejus natura (horse)
  39. De cato, seu musione (cat)
  40. De mure et sorice. (mouse and shrew)
  41. De mustela (weasel) [II, 18]
  42. De talpa (mole)
  43. De formica (ant) [II, 29]
  44. De hericio seu herinaceo (hedgehog) [II, 4]
  45. De avibus in genere (birds in general)
  46. De aquila (eagle) [I, 56]
  47. De vulture (vulture) [I, 38]
  48. De gruibus (crane) [I, 39]
  49. De psittaco (parrot)
  50. De caladrio (caladrius) [I, 40]
  51. De ciconiis (stork) [I, 42]
  52. De holore aut cygno (swan) [I, 53]
  53. De ibide (ibis) [I, 57]
  54. De assida seu strutione (ostrich) [I, 37]
  55. De fulica (coot) [I, 58]
  56. De halcyone (kingfisher)
  57. De phoenice (phoenix) [I, 49]
  58. De cinnamulgo (cinnamologus)
  59. De herciniis avibus (hercinia)
  60. De epope dictum est upupa (hoopoe) [I, 52]
  61. De pelicano (pelican) [II, 27]
  62. De notua seu nycticorax (owl) [I, 34]
  63. De syrenis (siren) [II, 32]
  64. De perdice (partridge) [I, 50]
  65. De pica et pico (magpie and woodpecker)
  66. De accipitre (hawk) [I, 13]
  67. De luscinia (nightingale)
  68. De vespertilione (bat)
  69. De cornice, et corvo iterum (more on the crow and raven)
  70. De columba (dove) [I, 1-3]
  71. De turture (turtledove) [I, 20, 23-25]
  72. De hirundine (swallow) [I, 41]
  73. De coturnice seu qualea (quail) [I, 51]
  74. De pavone (peacock) [1, 55]
  75. De upupa (hoopoe) [1, 52]
  76. De gallo (cock) [1, 30]
  77. De anate (duck)
  78. De ovis et ex eis natis (eggs and what is born from them)
  79. De apibus (bee)
  80. De arbore quadam in India (peridexion tree)
  81. De serpentum generibus (snakes in general)
  82. De dracone dictum (dragon) [II, 24]
  83. De basilisco et sibilo (basilisk)
  84. De vipera (viper) [II, 21]
  85. De aspide (asp) [II, 30]
  86. De ceraste (cerastes)
  87. De scitale ex Plinio et Solino (scitalis according to Pliny and Solinus)
  88. De amphysibaena (amphisbaena)
  89. De hydro et hydra (hydrus and hydra) [II, 7]
  90. De boa serpente iterum (more on the boa)
  91. De jaculo (jaculus)
  92. De sirenis serpentibus (siren serpent)
  93. De sepe serpente (seps)
  94. De dypsade serpente (dipsa)
  95. De lacerto iterum, et batracha (more on the lizard, and the botrax)
  96. De salamandra (salamander) [II, 16]
  97. De saura (lizard)
  98. De stellione iterum, et aliis serpentibus (more on the newt and other snakes)
  99. De serpentum varia natura (various natures of snakes)
  100. De vermibus (worms)
  101. De piscium diversorum naturis (various fish)
  102. De aspido chelone dictum est (whale) [II, 36]
  103. De est etiam bellua in mari, quae dicitur serra (sawfish) [II, 22]
  104. De arboribus (trees)
  105. De margaritarum inventione, et procreatione (pearl-oyster)
  106. De lapidibus igniferis (fire stones) [II, 19]
  107. De duodecim lapidibus pretiosis (twelve precious stones)
  108. De natura in communi, et de natura hominis (nature in common, and the nature of man)
  109. De hominis membris ac partibus (limbs and parts of man)
  110. De aetatibus hominis, et vocabulis earum, etiam usque ad mortem, et mortuos (ages and death of man)

Book IV

Book IV is a dictionary, an alphabetical list of definitions of Latin words.The source of Book IV is unknown, but it may well have been created by the editors of the early printed editions, based (at least in part) on the first three books. No manuscripts containing Book IV have yet been found.

The definitions are usually single sentences, though some are longer. Many of the defined words are the names of animals; these are listed below.

  1. De his quibus prima littera est A
  2. De his quibus prima littera est B
  3. De his quibus prima littera est C
  4. De his quibus prima littera est D
  5. De his quibus prima littera est E
  6. De his quibus prima littera est F
    • None
  7. De his quibus prima littera est G
  8. De his quibus prima littera est H
  9. De his quibus prima littera est I et J
    • None
  10. De his quibus prima littera est L
  11. De his quibus prima littera est M
  12. De his quibus prima littera est N
    • Nicticorax (owl)
  13. De his quibus prima littera est O
  14. De his quibus prima littera est P
  15. De his quibus prima littera est Q
    • None
  16. De his quibus prima littera est R
  17. De his quibus prima littera est S
  18. De his quibus prima littera est T
  19. De his quibus prima littera est U et V