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Ashmole Bestiarylocked

  • Debra Higgs Strickland

Richly illustrated bestiary manuscript (275×185mm, 105 fols; Oxford, Bodleian Lib., Ashmole 1511), written in Latin and illuminated probably in southern England around 1210. The original patron is unknown. It contains the text and illustrations of a complete bestiary, with prefatory Creation scenes and excerpts from Genesis and part of Hugh de Folieto’s Aviarium (Book of Birds). It is a luxury manuscript with lavish use of gold leaf, sometimes tooled, in the backgrounds of the full-page miniatures and numerous smaller framed animal ‘portraits’. Its images are especially notable for their ornamental qualities, evident in both the pictorial compositions and a wide variety of geometric framing devices. The prefatory cycle includes a full-page miniature of Adam Naming the Animals. The Ashmole Bestiary is considered a ‘sister’ manuscript to the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen, U. Lib., MS. 24), to which it is iconographically very closely related, but owing to major stylistic differences the two manuscripts have been attributed to different artists. The chronological relationship between the two has been disputed: based on proposed workshop methods, Muratova (1989) argued that the Ashmole Bestiary was the earlier one, but Clark (2006) and others support a later date for the Ashmole Bestiary on stylistic grounds.

See also Bestiary.


  • N. Morgan: Early Gothic Manuscripts I: 1190–1250 (London, 1982), p. 19
  • Vollstandige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Originalformat der Handschrift MS Ashmole 1511-Bestiarium (Graz, 1982)
  • X. Muratova and others: Bestiarium: Facsmilé du manuscript du Bestiaire Ashmole 1511 (Paris, 1984)
  • F. Unterkircher: Bestiarium: Die Texte der Handschrift Ms. Ashmole 1511 in der Bodleian Library Oxford in lateinische und deutschen Sprache (Graz, 1986)
  • X. Muratova: ‘Workshop Methods in English Late Twelfth-Century Illumination and the Production of Luxury Bestiaries’, Birds and Beasts of the Middle Ages: The Bestiary and its Legacy, ed. W. B. Clark and M. T. McMunn (Philadelphia, 1989), pp. 53–68
  • X. Muratova: ‘Les manuscripts “frères: Un aspect particulier de la production des Bestiaries enluminés en Angleterre à la fin du XIIe et au début de XIIIe siècle’, Actes du Colloque: Artistes, artisans et production artistique au Moye Age, 3 (Paris, 1990), pp. 69–92
  • D. Hassig: ‘Beauty in the Beasts: A Study of Medieval Aesthetics’, Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, 19–20 (1990–91), pp. 137–61
  • D. Hassig: Medieval Bestiaries: Text, Image, Ideology (Cambridge, 1995)
  • W. B. Clark: A Medieval Book of Beasts: The Second-Family Bestiary: Commentary, Art, Text and Translation (Woodbridge, 2006)