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The Bestiary in British Library, Royal MS. 2 C. XII and its Role in Medieval Education

Ilya Dines (notes)

Abstract

The process of medieval education is still very obscure to us, and indeed very little is known about how texts were used in schools. This is particularly true of the role and function of the influential genre of medieval bestiaries in the process of educating novices and pupils in cathedral schools and monasteries. The Royal collection contains one peculiar manuscript, namely Royal 2 C. XII, a bestiary of the so-called BIs Family, made in the first quarter of the thirteenth century, probably at the abbey of St Peter at Gloucester. The text of this bestiary was published at the end of nineteenth century, and thus Royal 2 C. XII is one of the first bestiaries published by modern scholars. The published text has almost nothing exceptional, and it was perhaps for this reason that this manuscript has been almost absolutely neglected by specialists in the field. Nevertheless, the manuscript (contrary to almost all other known manuscripts of this genre) has a large number of contemporary glosses, which were not published, and which shed a light on how the bestiary was used and how students were intended to learn the basic tenets of Christian doctrine from its stories about animals and birds.

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