Aviary and bestiary


An illustrated aviary (or text about birds) appears in this manuscript, which was made in Northern France during the 13th century. The text was written by Hugh of Fouilloy (d. c. 1172), prior of St-Nicholas-de-Regny. It is made up of 23 chapters, each containing an illustrated account of a different bird.

The aviary is combined with an unusual type of bestiary, known as the Dicta Chrysostomi, which survives in relatively few manuscripts from this period. Although the full title of this text – The Words of John Chrysostom on the Nature of Beasts – suggests that its author was St John Chrysostom, who lived during the 4th century, it was actually written in France around the year 1000. The bestiary is illustrated with 24 representations of a variety of animals, both real and fantastical. One unusual image depicts a siren luring sailors from their ship, alongside a creature known as an onocentaur, which combines the body of a human with that of a donkey.

An illustration of the Virgin Mary, holding the Infant Christ, accompanied by a kneeling monk, appears towards the beginning of the manuscript (on f. 7r; image no. 3) and suggests that the book originally had a clerical readership.

Full title:
Hugh of Fouilloy, Aviarium; Bestiary, in the Dicta Chrysostomi form
1250–1300, Northern France
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Sloane MS 278

Full catalogue details

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