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Medieval English Bestiaries: The "Transitional" Family Re-examined

Rachel R. Correll

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Thesis Description


Medieval English Bestiaries: The "Transitional" Family Re-examined


Rachel R. Correll


Dorothy M Shepard




  • Bestiaries
  • Illumination of books and manuscripts, English
  • Manuscripts, English
  • Animals in art
  • English literature -- Special subjects -- Animals


    This thesis surveys medieval English bestiaries, focusing on three of the anomalous “transitional” family manuscripts and two animals within these, the hedgehog and the bee. These three manuscripts are New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.81 (dated before 1187; also known as the Worksop Bestiary); London, British Library, Royal MS 12 C.XIX (ca. 1200-1210); and Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 100 (ca. 1250-1260; also known as the Northumberland Bestiary). To place these in a larger context, an earlier and a later (stylistically speaking) manuscript is also considered in depth: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 247 (ca. 1110-1130) and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 764 (ca. 1220-1250). Through an examination of the depictions and descriptions of the hedgehog and bee in all of these manuscripts, this thesis proposes that the bestiary, which began basically as a compilation of sermon material, eventually became a pseudo-zoological, historical text which emphasized the animals over the religious morals they originally symbolized. This change is further evidenced by a reorganization of chapters, the addition of chapters on the history of the world and humankind, less reliance on the religious text the Physiologus, and evidence of secular patrons and owners. There is also an examination of the relationship between the texts and images for the animals with a discussion about the transformation of this relationship throughout the development of the bestiary, resulting in the images focusing more on ornamental detail than the animals themselves.




Rachel R. Correll, “Medieval English Bestiaries: The "Transitional" Family Re-examined,” History of Art & Design Theses, accessed October 18, 2018,


© 2011 Rachel R. Correll