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The Oxford Bestiarium [bestiary ] Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Ashmole 1511, Southern England, 12th Century.
Published in 1982. Complete colour facsimile edition of the 244 pp. (105 + 17 fol.) and of the inner end pages in original size 280 x 180 mm. The all leather binding is a faithful replica of a Romanic binding, presently in the possession of Austrian National Library in Vienna. All folios are cut according to the original. + volume containing the Transcription and translation of the text into German by F. Unterkircher, Vienna, Limited edition. with fantastic animal pictures on rich gold leaf. Bestiaries, illustrated books of animals, whose moralistic contents relate to selected biblical texts, were highly popular in the late 12th century. ther Oxford manuscript probably ranks among the finest examples of its kind. The magnificent codex, richly embellished with gold leaf, not only exceeds itself with its marvellous luminous opaque colour painting and clear depiction of animals, plants and human beings, but also in its predilection for serene symmetry, refined ornament and frequent use of carefully executed diaper-patterned backgrounds. The pictures are irregularly dispersed throughout the text. According to our modern conception, the animals often depict a surreal view of nature: a crocodile with a serpent's head and bird's feet, a horned panther with rather arbitrary colouring are but a few examples of an astonishing iconography which, far from naturalistic sketches, was based on the free interpretation of literary models. The book contains an overwhelming wealth of animal depictions: for example: A magnificent many-finned whale catches fish, while misguided sailors, thinking it to be an island, try to land on its back. All in all 130 miniatures within only 105 pages illustrate several chapters on nature and the qualities of animals; birds, snakes, worms, fish, trees, flintstones, as well as the nature of mankind. Of special interest is the illustration of Genesis in the beginning of the book, which is set amongst exceptionally enlarged and boldly narrative painted scenes. Former owners a.o. : William Wright, vicar of High Wycombe; William Mann; Sir Peter Mancroft; John Tradescant; Elias Ashmole; Oxford University £ 375.00
The amphisbaena is a two-headed lizard or serpent. It has one head in the normal position, and another at the end of its tail. It can therefore run in either direction. Its eyes shine like lamps, and has no fear of cold.
The name "amphibaena" is now given to a legless lizard that can move either forward or backward, though this is a relatively modern use of the name.
Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 9, verse 843-844): "Dread Amphisbaena with his double head / Tapering...".
Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 35): The amphisbaena has a twin head, that is one at the tail-end as well, as though it were not enough for poison to be poured out of one mouth.
Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 4:20): The amphisbaena has two heads, one in the proper place and one in its tail. It can move in the direction of eaither head with a circular motion. Its eyes shine like lamps. Alone among snakes, the amphisbaena goes out in the cold.
The amphisbaena is often depicted as having wings and two feet, with horns on its head.
Ant Latin name: Formica , Other names: Formi, Furmi , Ants harvest grain to store for the winter
Ants are said to have these characteristics: they walk in order like soldiers; they carry grains in their mouths, and an ant with no grain will not try to take the grain from one which has it; they break each grain in half to keep it from germinating when it rains, because if it does the ants will starve in the winter; when it is time to harvest the grain, they go into the fields and climb up to the grain, where they distinguish wheat from barley by its smell and reject the barley because it is food for cattle. The ants working together for the common good is to be taken as a lesson to men, who should work in unity.
Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 11, 36): Ants are strong creatures, able to carry immense loads proportional to their size; they carry smaller loads with their mouths and push larger loads with their shoulders.
Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 3:9): The ant has its name (formica) because it carries bits (ferat micas) of grain. It prepares in the summer the food it will need in the winter; at harvest time it picks wheat but not barley. If rain wets its grain it puts it out to dry. It is said that in Ethiopia there are ants shaped like dogs which dig up grains of gold with their feet; they guard this gold so no one can steal it.
Guillaume le Clerc [13th century CE] (Bestiaire): There is another kind of ant up in Ethiopia, which is of the shape and size of dogs. They have strange habits, for they scratch into the ground and extract therefrom great quantities of fine gold. If any one wishes to take this gold from them, he soon repents of his undertaking; for the ants run upon him, and if they catch him they devour him instantly.
Sir John Mandevile [14th century CE) (Travels, chapter 33): In the isle also of this Taprobane [Sri Lanka] be great hills of gold, that pismires [ants] keep full diligently. And they fine the pured gold, and cast away the un-pured. And these pismires be great as hounds, so that no man dare come to those hills for the pismires would assail them and devour them anon. So that no man may get of that gold, but by great sleight. And therefore when it is great heat, the pismires rest them in the earth, from prime of the day into noon. And then the folk of the country take camels, dromedaries, and horses and other beasts, and go thither, and charge them in all haste that they may; and after that, they flee away in all haste that the beasts may go, or the pismires come out of the earth.
Antelope Latin name: Antalops , Other names: Antula, Antule, Aptalon, Aptalops, Autalops, Autula, Entulla . An animal so wild no hunter can approach it
The antelope is so wild that hunters cannot catch it, except in one instance: When the antelope is thirsty it goes to the Euphrates River to drink, but as it plays in the thickets of herecine trees there, its horns get caught in the branches and it cannot free itself. The hunter, hearing its cries, comes and kills it. Its horns are like saws, and with them it can cut down trees. The antelope is so wild that hunters cannot catch it, except in one instance: When the antelope is thirsty it goes to the Euphrates River to drink, but as it plays in the thickets of herecine trees there, its horns get caught in the branches and it cannot free itself. The hunter, hearing its cries, comes and kills it. Its horns are like saws, and with them it can cut down trees.