A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

MS. Ashmole 1511

Summary Catalogue no.: 7541

The Ashmole Bestiary

Bestiary ('The Ashmole Bestiary'); England, early 13th century


Language(s): Latin


A version of the so-called 'second-family' bestiary, incorporating at fols. 37v-74v material from the Auicularius of Hugh of Fouilloy (The Medieval book of birds: Hugh of Fouilloy's De avibus, ed. and tr. Willene B. Clark, 1992); on the bestiary 'families' see Ilya Dines, 'The Problem of the Transitional Family of Bestiaries', Reinardus 24 (2012), 29-52

For a critical edition, with translation, of the second-family bestiary text, from British Library Addit. MS. 11283, with selected variants from the present manuscript (sig. Am), see Willene B. Clark, A Medieval Book of Beasts (Boydell, 2006), pp. 117-220.
For editions of the text of the present manuscript with translations (French and German) see Fac-similé du manuscrit du Bestiaire Ashmole 1511, conservé à la Bodleian library d'Oxford, with commentary by X. Muratova and D. Poirion and French translation by M.-F. Dupuis and S. Louis; Vollständige Faksimile-Ausgabe im Originalformat der Handschrift Ms. Ashmole 1511-Bestiarium. Graz, 1982; Bestiarium: Die texte der Handschrift Ms. Ashmole 1511 der Bodleian Library, Oxford in lateinischer und deutschen Sprache, Graz, 1986
The text of the closely-related Aberdeen Bestiary has been edited and translated in a digital edition.
(fols. 1r-3v)

Blank except for 16th or early-17th century additions: fol. 1r, ex libris of Peter Manwood (see Provenance), and a pencil drawing of a building; fol. 1v, sketch of an animal's head, and fragmentary verses beginning 'A thing there is that hunger cannot kill'; fol. 3v, summary of the manuscript's contents.

(fols. 4r-7r)

Creation cycle (seven miniatures: see Decoration), with the text of Genesis 1:1 - 2:2, followed by two verses: ‘Non quod erat lassus quasi longa grauamina passus | Sed pro completis indicitur hora quietis.’

(fols. 8v-9v)

Preface (Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 32), with full-page miniature of Adam naming the animals, fol. 9r

Incipit: Omnibus animantibus Adam primus uocabula indidit
Explicit: uero caprarum et ouium

Fols. 11r-36v = Bestiary, ed. Clark, chs. 1-31, 33-50

(fol. 11r)
Rubric: Incipit liber de naturis bestiarium
Rubric: De leonibus et pardis [lion]

Fols. 10r and 10v, full-page miniatures each in three registers: see Decoration.

(fol. 12r)
Rubric: De tig(re) [tiger]
(fol. 12v)
Rubric: De pard(o) [pard]
(fol. 13r)
Rubric: De pantera [panther]
(fol. 14r)
Rubric: De avtalop(e) [antelope]
(fol. 14v)

Unicorn (no rubric)

(fol. 15r)
Rubric: De linc(e) [lynx]
Rubric: De grif' [griffin]
Rubric: De Elef(ante) [elephant]
(fol. 17r)
Rubric: De castore [beaver]
(fol. 17r)
Rubric: De animali quod dicitur ibex [ibex]
(fol. 17v)
Rubric: De yena [hyena]
(fol. 18r)
Rubric: De bonnacon ['bonnacon']
(fol. 18v)
Rubric: De simiis [ape]
(fol. 19r)
Rubric: De satiris [satyr]
(fol. 19r)
Rubric: De cervis [stag]
(fol. 20r)
Rubric: De capre [goat]
(fol. 20v)
Rubric: De cap(rea) [roe deer]
(fol. 21r)
Rubric: De monocero ['monoceros']
(fol. 21r)
Rubric: De urs(o) [bear]
(fol. 22r)
Rubric: De leucrota ['leucrota']
(fol. 22r)

Crocodile (no rubric)

(fol. 22v)
Rubric: De manticora [manticore]
(fol. 23r)
Rubric: De parand(ro) ['parandrus']
(fol. 23r)
Rubric: De wlp(e) [fox]
(fol. 23v)
Rubric: De eale [yale]
(fol. 23v)

Wolf (no rubric)

(fol. 25r)
Rubric: De natura canum [dog]

Fols. 26r, 27v: full page miniatures, see Decoration.

Fol. 26v is pasted to fol. 27r.

(fol. 25v)
Rubric: Item
(fol. 28r)
Rubric: Iterum de natura can(um)

Clark's ch. 31 follows on (fol. 29r) without a break.

(fol. 29v)
Rubric: De ov(e) [sheep]
(fol. 30r)
Rubric: De vervece [wether]
(fol. 30r)
Rubric: De agn(o) [lamb]
(fol. 30r)
Rubric: De hyrc(o) [he-goat]
(fol. 30v)
Rubric: De ap(ro) [boar]
(fol. 30v)
Rubric: De iuu(enco) [bullock]
(fol. 31r)
Rubric: De bov(e) [ox]
(fol. 31r)
Rubric: De cam(elo) [camel]
(fols. 31v-32r)

Dromedary (no rubric)

(fol. 32r)
Rubric: De asin(o) [ass]
(fol. 32r)
Rubric: De onag(ro) [wild ass]
(fol. 32v)
Rubric: De eq(uo) [horse]
(fol. 35v)
Rubric: De musione [cat]
(fol. 35v)
Rubric: De muribus [mouse]
(fol. 35v)
Rubric: De mustela [weasel]
(fol. 36r)
Rubric: De talpa [mole]
(fol. 36r)
Rubric: De ericiis [hedgehog]
(fol. 36v)
Rubric: De formicis [ant]
(fol. 37r)
Rubric: Hic incipit de auibus [birds]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 51.

(fol. 37v)
Rubric: De pennis deargentatis columbe [dove]

Hugh of Fouilloy, first prologue (from 'Columbam cuius penne sunt' to 'pauperibus presentatur')

(fol. 38r)
Rubric: De columba et accipitre [dove and hawk]

Hugh of Fouilloy, second prologue

(fol. 38r)
Rubric: Hic incipit de tribus columbis

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 1

(fol. 38v)
Rubric: Mistice de columba

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 2

(fol. 39r)
Rubric: Item de columba

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 3

(fol. 39v)
Rubric: Item de columba

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 4

(fol. 40r)
Rubric: De columbe pedibus

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 5

(fol. 40r)
Rubric: De pennis deargentatis

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 6

(fol. 40v)
Rubric: De colore alarum

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 7

(fol. 40v)
Rubric: De posterioribus dorsi columbe

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 8

(fol. 40v)
Rubric: De oculis columbe

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 9

(fol. 40v)
Rubric: De colore reliqui corporis

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 10

(fol. 41r)
Rubric: De diuersis proprietatibus columbe

Hugh of Fouilloy, chs. 11-15

(fol. 42r)
Rubric: Item de accipitre [hawk]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 74

(fol. 42r)
Rubric: Beatus Gregorius de accipitre quomodo plumescat

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 16

(fol. 42v)
Rubric: De domestico et siluestri accipitre

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 17

(fol. 43r)
Rubric: Qualiter accipiter plumescere debeat

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 18

(fol. 43r)
Rubric: Quod accipiter in sinistra manu gestatur

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 19

Rubric: Explicit de columba et accipitre
(fol. 43v)
Rubric: Incipit de turture et de passere [turtledove and sparrow]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 23

(fol. 43v)
Rubric: De turture

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 80

(fol. 44r)
Rubric: De palma et turture

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 24

(fol. 44v)
Rubric: Item de palma [palm tree]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 25

(fol. 44v)
Rubric: Item de palma

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 26

(fol. 45r)
Rubric: Item de palma

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 27

(fol. 45r)
Rubric: De cedro et passeribus qui in ramis cedri nidificant

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 30

(fol. 45v)
Rubric: Item de cedro

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 31

(fol. 46r)
Rubric: De pellicano [pelican]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 38

(fol. 47r)
Rubric: De nicticorace ['nycticorax']

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 39

(fol. 47v)
Rubric: De epopo [hoopoe]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 67

(fol. 48v)
Rubric: De pica [magpie]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 73

(fol. 49r)
Rubric: De corvo [raven]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 77, followed by Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 40

(fol. 50v)
Rubric: De gallo [cock]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 85

(fol. 50v)
Rubric: Item de gallo

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 41, beginning varied.

(fol. 52v)
Rubric: De strutione [ostrich]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 60, followed (fol. 53r) by Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 42.

(fol. 56r)
Rubric: De vulturibus [vulture]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 53

(fol. 56v)
Rubric: Item de wlturibus

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 43

(fol. 57r)
Rubric: De gru(e) [crane]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 54, followed by a section of Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 24 (ed. Clark, p. 204 'possumus autem per vigiles' - end).

(fol. 58r)
Rubric: De milvo [kite]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 45

(fol. 58v)
Rubric: De psitaco [parrot]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 55

(fol. 59r)
Rubric: De natura ibis [ibis]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 59

(fol. 59v)
Rubric: De yrundine [swallow]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 46

(fol. 60v)
Rubric: De cicon(ia) [stork]

Hugh, ch. 47

(fol. 61r)
Rubric: De merula [blackbird]

Hugh, ch. 48

(fol. 62r)
Rubric: De bubone [owl]

Hugh, ch. 49

(fol. 62v)
Rubric: De hupupa [hoopoe]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 84, followed by most of Hugh, ch. 57.

(fol. 63r)
Rubric: De noctua [little owl]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 69

(fol. 63r)
Rubric: De vespertilio [bat]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 76

(fol. 63v)
Rubric: De gragulo [jay]

Hugh, ch. 50

(fol. 64v)
Rubric: De lucinia [nightingale]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 75

(fol. 64v)
Rubric: De ansere [goose]

Hugh, ch. 51

(fol. 65r)
Rubric: De ardea [heron]

Hugh, ch. 52

(fol. 65v)
Rubric: De sirena ['siren']

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 70

(fol. 66r)
Rubric: De cinomolgo ['cinnamolgus']

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 65

(fol. 66r)
Rubric: De ercinea [waxwing]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 66

(fol. 66v)
Rubric: De perdice [partridge]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 71

(fol. 66v)
Rubric: Item de perdicibus

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 72

(fol. 67r)
Rubric: De altione ['halcyon']

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 62

(fol. 67v)
Rubric: De fulica [coot (?)]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 61

(fol. 67v)
Rubric: De fenice [phoenix]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 63

(fol. 68r)
Rubric: De fenice
Incipit: Fenix etiam potest significare resurrectionem iustorum qui aromatibus uirtutum collectis restaurationem prioris uigoris post mortem sibi preparant. Fenix est Arabie avis
Explicit: opus nature confirmat

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 54 (beginning at Clark, ed., p. 232 l. 5, varied)

(fol. 69r)
Rubric: De caladrio ['caladrius']

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 56

(fol. 69v)
Rubric: De coturnice [quail]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 56 (first section identical to Clark ch. 72)

(fol. 70r)
Rubric: De cornice [crow]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 78

(fol. 71r)
Rubric: De cigno [swan]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 58

(fol. 71v)
Rubric: De anatibus [duck]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 86, followed without a break by ch. 87

(fol. 72r)
Rubric: De pavone [peacock]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 83, followed by Hugh of Fouilly, ch. 59

(fol. 73v)
Rubric: De aquila [eagle]

Hugh of Fouilloy, ch. 60; cf. Clark ch. 52

Fols. 75v-95r = Bestiary, ed. Clark, chs. 88-123

(fol. 75v)
Rubric: De apibus [bee]
(fol. 77r)
Rubric: De arbore que dicitur per indens ['perindens' tree]
(fol. 78r)
Rubric: De serpentibus [serpent]
(fol. 78r)
Rubric: De draconibus [dragon]
(fol. 79r)
Rubric: De basilisco [basilisk]
(fol. 79r)
Rubric: De regulis ['regulus']
(fol. 79r)
Rubric: De vipera [viper]
(fol. 80v)
Rubric: De aspide [asp]
(fol. 81r)
Rubric: De scitali serpente ['scitalis']
(fol. 81v)
Rubric: De anphiuena ['amphisbena']
(fol. 81v)
Rubric: De ydro ['hydrus']
(fol. 82r)
Rubric: De boa angue [boa]
(fol. 82v)
Rubric: De iaculo ['jaculus']
Rubric: De sirenis ['siren serpent']

Seps, Clark ch. 102, no rubric, followed without a break by Dispas, Clark ch. 103.

(fol. 82v)
Rubric: De lacerto [lizard]
(fol. 83r)
Rubric: De salamandra [salamander]
(fol. 83v)
Rubric: De saura serpente ['saura']
(fol. 83v)

Newt and other serpents, Clark chs. 107-8 (no rubric)

(fol. 84r)
Rubric: De natura serpentium
(fol. 85r)
Rubric: Incipit de vermibus [worm; no miniature]

Clark chs. 110-111

(fol. 86r)
Rubric: Incipit de piscibus [fish]
(fol. 86v)
Rubric: De balena

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 113 (de aspidochelone). There are no miniatures on fols. 87r-95r.

(fol. 87r)
Rubric: Item de balena [whale]
(fol. 87v)
Rubric: De belua que dicitur serra [sawfish]
(fol. 87v)
Rubric: De Delfinis [dolphin]
(fol. 87v)
Rubric: De p(orco) m(arino) [sea pig]
(fol. 87v)
Rubric: De cocodrillo [crocodile]

Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 118, followed without a break (fol. 88r) by ch. 119.

(fol. 92r)
Rubric: De arboribus [trees]

Separate rubric 'De ficu', fol. 93r, thereafter 'item' or 'iterum' for most sub-entries.

(fol. 95r)
Rubric: Ysidorus de natura hominis
Incipit: Natura dicta eo quod nasci aliquid faciat
Explicit: hoc est humum inicere
Isidore, Etymologies

XI.i-ii = Bestiary, ed. Clark, ch. 121, 122.

(fol. 103v)
Rubric: De lapidibus igniferis

Clark, ch. 123.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: iv + 104 (fol. 26v pasted to fol. 27r) + iv
Dimensions (leaf): 275 × 180-5 mm.
Foliation: 1-26r (26v pasted to 27r), 27v-33, 35-105, skipping 34; endleaves not foliated.


1(6+2?) (fols. 1-8; fols. 7, 8 both apparently singletons added at the end of the quire; fol. 8r (blank) perhaps once pasted to fol. 7v (blank)), 2(8)-3(8) (fols. 9-24), 4(8+1, fol. 26 a singleton pasted to fol. 27) (fols. 25-33), 5(8) (fols. 35-42), 6(8+1, fol. 48 inserted after 5) (fols. 43-51), 7(8)-12(8) (fols. 52-99), 13(4) (fols. 100-3), 14(2) (fols. 104-5). Early forms of bifolium signatures sometimes visible, one system based around lines, upper margin toward gutter (e.g. fols. 28r, iii, 29r, iiii), one based around cross, star and circle (e.g fols. 76r-79r, lower margin, towards gutter).


1 col., typically 30 lines; written above top line; ruled in crayon. Ruled space typically 185 × 110 mm.


Formal early gothic book hand (textualis formata). Mostly by one scribe, with occasional passages and corrections by another hand (most extensively fol. 48r-v, but see also e.g. fols. 29r, 40r, 46r, 49r, 58r, 86r); fol. 9v by a third scribe.


Closely related in text and iconography to the Aberdeen Bestiary (Aberdeen, University Library, MS. 24), of uncertain origin, usually dated slightly earlier than the present manuscript; both manuscripts may derive from a common exemplar. For a detailed comparison see Jane Geddes, 'Observations on the Aberdeen Bestiary', Reinardus: Yearbook of the International Reynard Society, 11:1 (Jan. 1998), 67-84, recapitulated on the Aberdeen Bestiary web site. Clark (Aviarium, pp. 78, 296) identifies two artists (without providing further details) and compares (in addition to the Aberdeen Bestiary) St Omer, Bib. mun. 476 and cuttings in BL, Arundel MS. 104, fols. 350, 354, 364v (= Morgan, Early Gothic, no. 18).

Miniatures on gold ground (usually plain, sometimes worked with geometrical or figurative designs, or lettering). The miniatures vary considerably in size: most are approximately 8-12 lines high and occupy half to two-thirds of the width of the written area; main exceptions are noted below.

  • fol. 4r: Creation (approximately two-thirds page).
  • fol. 4v: Division of the Waters (approximately two-thirds page).
  • fol. 5r: Creation of plants and trees (approximately two-thirds page)
  • fol. 5v: Division of night and day (approximately two-thirds page).
  • fol. 6r: Creation of birds and fishes (approximately two-thirds page), in three registers.
  • fol. 6v: Creation of the animals (almost full page). In four registers: elephant; hare, cat, squirrel holding nut; lion and dog; ram, goat, bull, horse, stag.
  • fol. 7r: Creation of Eve (approximatley one-quarter page).
  • fol. 8v: God in majesty (full page), in mandorla, holding open book (alpha and omega), symbols of the Evangelists in roundels.
  • fol. 9r: Adam naming beasts and birds (full page); inscription on scroll in lombardic capitals 'hic dat nomina bestiis adam'; in four registers: great cats, stag, birds, dog, hare; camel or dromedary and horse; bull, squirrel, cat; ram, antelope (?), goat, pig.
  • fol. 10r: Lion (full page). Three registers: sick lion eating ape; lion sparing prostrate man; lion afraid of a cock.
  • fol. 10v: Lion (full page). Three registers: lion roaming amid mountain peaks (?); lioness with cubs; lion and lioness with cubs.
  • fol. 12r: Tiger (full width). Huntsman in coat of mail carrying off tiger cub and casting mirrors behind him.
  • fol. 12v: Pard.
  • fol. 13r: Panther (full width), followed by four other animals attracted by its breath (worked on gold), attacks dragon.
  • fol. 14r: Antelope, horns entangled in a tree, being speared by hunter.
  • fol. 14v: Unicorn (full width, approximately half page), in maiden's lap speared by hunter; another with blue skin attacks with an axe.
  • fol. 15r: Lynx, looking at a goat.
  • fol. 15v: Griffin carrying off a pig.
  • fol. 15v: Elephant and castle (15 lines).
  • fol. 17r: Beaver, biting off its testicles; two hunters.
  • fol. 17r: Ibex. 'If it falls from the top of a mountain, its body is kept safe by its horns'.
  • fol. 17v: Hyena devouring corpse.
  • fol. 18r: Bonnacon, spraying its dung on a hunter (a knight in mail with shield).
  • fol. 18v: Ape, speared by hunter, carrying one infant on its back and the other in its arms (full width).
  • fol. 19r: Satyr.
  • fol. 19r: Deer.
  • fol. 20r: Goat, scratching head with hind leg.
  • fol. 20v: Two wild goats, horns interlocked (16 lines).
  • fol. 21r: Monoceros.
  • fol. 21r: Bear, licking her cubs into shape.
  • fol. 22r: 'Leucrota'.
  • fol. 22r: Crocodile devouring naked man (full width).
  • fol. 22v: Manticore.
  • fol. 23r: Parandrus.
  • fol. 23r: Fox, feigning death to attract birds, while other foxes look on.
  • fol. 23v: Yale.
  • fol. 23v: Wolf, preying on sheep in fold.
  • fol. 25r: Three dogs, one chained by its collar.
  • fol. 25v: Dogs. Story of King Garamantes, in two registers, above, captured by his enemies, below, rescued by his dogs (18 lines).
  • fol. 26r: Dogs (full page). Story of a murder detected, in three registers: man murdered by soldier; his dog remains with his corpse; dog attacks the murderer.
  • fol. 27v: Dogs (full page). Story of a murder detected, continued, in three registers: dog continues to hold murderer before judge with sword; onlookers; burial of the victim.
  • fol. 28r: Dogs. Three registers: a dog carrying meat in its mouth; a dog carrying meat in its mouth crossing a river; two dogs licking themselves (18 lines).
  • fol. 29v: Sheep.
  • fol. 30r: Wether.
  • fol. 30r: Lamb.
  • fol. 30r: He-goat.
  • fol. 30v: Two boars.
  • fol. 30v: Cow nursing calf.
  • fol. 31r: Ox.
  • fol. 31r: Camel, ridden by an ape facing backwards.
  • fol. 31v: Dromedary, ridden by naked man.
  • fol. 32r: Ass. 'Asinus' inscribed in the gold ground.
  • fol. 32r: Onager. 'Onager' inscribed in the gold ground.
  • fol. 32v: Horse.
  • fol. 35v: Cat cleaning itself and two others catching mice.
  • fol. 35v: Mouse carrying grain (?) (5 lines).
  • fol. 35v: Weasel (4 lines).
  • fol. 36r: Mole (4 lines).
  • fol. 36r: Hedgehogs with grapes impaled on their spines.
  • fol. 36v: Ants, two rows of ants carrying grain in their mouths, three ants presumably inside anthill (3 lines).
  • fol. 38r: Dove and hawk, facing each other in a domed structure.
  • fol. 39v: Dove. Three small miniatures arranged diagonally in the lower half of the page, labelled 'Columba Christi', 'Columba Dauid', 'Columba Noe' (5 lines, 4 lines, 4 lines).
  • fol. 41v: Bird of prey, in the centre of a page dealing with the four winds; probably the hawk spreading its wings in the south wind, as described in the following section.
  • fol. 42r: Hawk.
  • fol. 43v: Two turtle-doves turning to face each other at the top of a tree.
  • fol. 43v: Two turtle-doves facing each other.
  • fol. 44r: Turtle-dove at the centre of a green cross which divides the lower half of the page into two columns; arms of the cross labelled 'Nidulus anime fidelis est fides passionis' and 'Nidulus turturis latet in arbore crucis'.
  • fol. 45v: Woman (?) holding a blue roundel containing a white bird, in a vesica surrounded by six other roundels, red and blue, each with a white bird. On the iconography of this image see Clark, Book of Birds, pp. 32-3 and the commentary on Aberdeen Bestiary, fol. 34r.
  • fol. 46v: Pelican: young attacking their parent; parent kills young; young having returned to life after the mother pierces her side (full width).
  • fol. 47r: 'Nycticorax'.
  • fol. 48r: Hoopoe. Four young, one (above) licking the eyes of its parent (centre), and three others (left, right and below) plucking its feathers: heading above, 'Ecce quomodo epopi plumas parentum euellunt et oculos eorum lingunt, et eos calefaciunt, ut pristinam sanitatem recuperent'. Full width, approximately half page.
  • fol. 48v: Magpie. Hunter with bow and arrow, shooting at four magpies in a tree. 'The significance of the hunter attempting to shoot them, not mentioned in the text, is not known' (Aberdeen Bestiary, commentary on fol. 37r) (24 lines).
  • fol. 49r: Raven.
  • fol. 50v: Cock.
  • fol. 52v: Two ostriches, one looking at a star (in the outer margin), another burying eggs in the sand.
  • fol. 56r: Two vultures turning to face one another (14 lines).
  • fol. 57r: Crane, holding a stone in its foot to ward off sleep, faces four other cranes.
  • fol. 58r: Kite.
  • fol. 58v: Parrot, in a tree.
  • fol. 59r: Ibis, holding down a snake with its foot and feeding the snake's eggs to its young.
  • fol. 59v: Swallow.
  • fol. 60v: Stork, eating a frog.
  • fol. 61r: Blackbird.
  • fol. 62r: Owl.
  • fol. 62v: Hoopoe.
  • fol. 63r: Night owl.
  • fol. 63r: Bat.
  • fol. 63v: Jay.
  • fol. 64v: Nightingale, standing on nest with eggs.
  • fol. 64v: Goose.
  • fol. 65r: Heron.
  • fol. 65v: 'Siren', portrayed as a mermaid, holding fish in one hand and comb in the other.
  • fol. 66r: 'Cinnamolgus': four birds in a nest at the top of a tree, one man below with a sling, another gathering fallen cinnamon in the fold of his cloak (17 lines).
  • fol. 66r: Waxwing (6 lines).
  • fol. 66v: Two partridges facing one another on a green rock.
  • fol. 66v: Partridge, stealing eggs from another bird's nest (6 lines).
  • fol. 67r: Halcyon.
  • fol. 67v: Coot (?) (fulica).
  • fol. 67v: Phoenix, between two trees, beating its wings; sun above.
  • fol. 68r: Phoenix on its pyre, sun above; 'Fenix etiam' inscribed on the gold ground.
  • fol. 69r: Caladrius, standing on the bed of a sick king and looking towards him (full width).
  • fol. 69v: Quail.
  • fol. 70v: Crow.
  • fol. 71r: Swan.
  • fol. 71v: Four ducks.
  • fol. 72r: Peacock, tail extending considerably outside the frame into the margin.
  • fol. 74r: Eagle, almost full page, in two registers, with sun above the frame in the upper margin. Above, two eagles, one catching fish; below, eagle restoring itself by immersion in a spring.
  • fol. 75v: Bees flying into three hives.
  • fol. 77v: Perindens tree, almost full page, with ten doves in its branches, the lower two menaced by two dragons.
  • fol. 78v: Dragon, suffocating an elephant.
  • fol. 79r: Basilisk, a weasel on its back and biting its neck.
  • fol. 79v: Vipers, the female biting the male's head off but dying from her three offspring.
  • fol. 80v: Asp and snake-charmer, asp blocking one ear with its tail, and the other ear to the ground; snake-charmer with shield and helmet (full width).
  • fol. 81r: Scitalis.
  • fol. 81v: Amphisbena.
  • fol. 81v: Hydrus, having got itself swallowed by a sleeping crocodile, tears open its throat and stomach and emerges unharmed.
  • fol. 82r: Boa.
  • fol. 82v: 'Jaculus' (two lines, full width of page).
  • fol. 82v: 'Siren serpent' (two/three lines, full width of page).
  • fol. 82v: 'Seps' (one line, half width of page).
  • fol. 82v: Lizard.
  • fol. 83r: Salamander (almost full page): tree with salamanders in its branches, some eating fruit (the text describes how a salamander can poison all the apples in a tree); a dead man at the tree's foot; on left, salamander poisons a well; right, salamanders emerging from flames.
  • fol. 83v: 'Saura serpent' (two/three lines, full width), passing through a crack in a wall to regain its sight.
  • fol. 83v: Newt.
  • fol. 84r: Snake, with wings, shedding its skin by squeezing through a narrow passage in a tower.
  • fol. 86r: Fish (full width), including some hybrid fish-quadrupeds (the text states that fish share an etymology with cattle, and crawl as they swim).
  • fol. 86v: Whale (almost full page): boat with three sailors lands on a whale swallowing fish.
  • fol. 95v: St. Isidore seated writing his book, 'On the Nature of Man' (22 lines).
  • fol. 103v: Firestones (full width, approximately half page), in two registers: above, naked man and woman on a mountain separated by a tree; below, man and woman grasp each other's shoulders standing on a flaming mountain. (The text describes how firestones are male and female, and do not ignite when separate, only when the female is near the male.)

6- or 7-line decorated initials in gold, red/orange and blue, fols. 85r, 92r, 95r; 3-line decorated initial, fol. 9v.

Alternating red and blue initials, typically 2-line, flourished in the other colour.


Rebound in plain alum-tawed calfskin, 1987; see Linda Lee, 'The conservation of pleated illuminated vellum leaves in the Ashmole Bestiary', The Paper Conservator, 16:1 (1992), 46-49, DOI: 10.1080/03094227.1992.9638575.

Former 17th-century binding (typical binding of the Ashmole collection) kept with the manuscript.


Origin: 13th century, beginning ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

The manuscript's place of production is uncertain: suggestions include Morgan (1982), 'North Midlands or Northern'; Pächt and Alexander, 'Peterborough (?)'; Clark (2006), southern England, perhaps Canterbury; Morgan (2019), 'perhaps Lincoln or York'. Equally uncertain is the nature of the original patron, whether aristocratic layperson, high-ranking ecclesiastic, or monastery. Clark (2006) has suggested that the inclusion of large parts of Hugh of Fouilloy's Aviarium might be more relevant to a monastic, perhaps especially Augustinian audience.

Corrections to the text throughout; a few medieval annotations in plummet, e.g. 'asinus', fol. 88v; 'nota', ?87v, fols. 89v-90r, 91r-v; 'eis' (a correction), fol. 100r; fols. 38r, 94r, probably remains of corrector's marginal marks; later annotations by 16th- and 17th-century owners (see below).

William Wright, vicar of Chipping (i.e. High) Wycombe, 1550 (ex libris, fol. 8r, 'Liber Willelmi Wryght vicarii de Chepynge Wycombe et theologiae professoris anno salutis 1550', faint and perhaps erased, but enhanced by a chemical reagent). On Wright see Emden, BRUO 1500-1540, p. 642.

William Man, esq.: given by him to Peter Manwood on 3 Aug. 1609 (fol. 1v; see below); probably William Mann, esq., of Canterbury, d. 1616 for whom see Hasted, Kent, III.509, and History of Parliament Online

Peter Manwood (-1625), antiquary: 'This booke was gyven mee by my good freinde William Man Esquire, this thirde day of August 1609. Pe: Manwood', fol. 1r). On Manwood's library see R. Ovenden, ‘The libraries of the antiquaries, 1580-1640 and the idea of a national collection’ in The Cambridge History of Libraries, vol.1 The Middle Ages and Renaissance, eds. T. Webber and E. S. Leedham-Green (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 527-561 at 531-3

John Tradescant, the elder; seen in his museum by a German traveller in 1638 (R. Poole, ‘A MS from the Tradescant collection’, Bodleian Quarterly Record VI (1931), 221).

By descent to his son John, the younger.

Elias Ashmole.

Ashmolean Museum.

Transferred to the Bodleian in 1860.

Record Sources

Description by Matthew Holford, Jan. 2023, with thanks to Bruce Barker-Benfield. Previously described in the Quarto Catalogue (W. H. Black, A descriptive, analytical, and critical catalogue of the manuscripts bequeathed unto the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole Esq...., Quarto Catalogues X, 1845).


To ensure its preservation, access to this item is restricted, and readers are asked to work from reproductions and published descriptions as far as possible. If you wish to apply to see the original, please click the request button above. When your request is received, you will be asked to contact the relevant curator outlining the subject of your research, the importance of this item to that research, and the resources you have already consulted.

Please note in addition that this manuscript will be on display in the exhibition ‘Unicorn: A Cultural History’ (Perth, Perth Museum) from 30 March to 22 September 2024. It will not be orderable between those dates or for a short period before and after.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (60 images from 35mm slides)


    Selected printed descriptions:

    Book of Beasts: the Bestiary in the Medieval World, ed. Elizabeth Morrison with the assistance of Larisa Grollemond (2019), cat. 8 (pp. 104-6) (by Nigel Morgan)
    Willene B. Clark, A Medieval Book of Beasts (Boydell, 2006)
    A. C. de la Mare, 'Manuscripts and printed books associated with the Tradescants in the Bodleian Library', in Tradescant's Rarities, ed. A. Macgregor (1983), pp. 351-7 at 353-4
    Nigel Morgan, Early Gothic Manuscripts I, Survey of manuscripts illuminated in the British Isles 4, (1982), cat. 19
    Pächt and Alexander iii. 334, pl. XXIX

Last Substantive Revision

2023-01: Description fully revised.

See the Availability section of this record for information on viewing the item in a reading room.