|English Bestiary, 12th century (British Library, Royal 12 C XIX, ff.52v, 53r). All images by permission of the British Library. These images are made available by the British Library under a Creative Commons licence.|
This section across two folios of an early 13th century English bestiary shows the section on the partridge, a creature of fraudulent habits. The text shown in the following pages begins next to the little miniature of the partridge on f.52v and contiues on the next page down to beside the miniature of the next creature, the turtle dove. The script is a protogothic book hand in which the letters are angular and the small letters are composed of minims. However, it is not so laterally compressed as to create conjoined letters. It is a close call whether to designate this as a protogothic or an early Gothic textura script, but categories in paleography are never entirely definitive.
The little miniatures of each creature are painted on a gold ground. The language of the text is Latin and the work is of English origin. The segment we have used for this example shows certain definitive characteristics of the bestiary. A bit of dubious natural history is used to make a moral statement. The partridge was, at least, a real and familiar creature to the readers, unlike some of the inhabitants of the bestiary.
|English versions of the text of specific bestiary manuscripts can be found in Barber 1993 and in White 1954. The former has exquisite facsimiles of the illuminations. However, no two bestiary texts are exactly alike. A full bestiary with transcript, translation and notes can be seen on the web at The Aberdeen Bestiary site., The Bestiaire site from the Bibliothèque nationale de France shows an array of miniatures from bestiaries.|
|Click on each of the above to walk your way through a segment of the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.|
|Script sample for this example|
|Index of Exercises|
|Index of Scripts|
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