- Feb 2019
The bestiary, or "book of beasts", is more than just an expansion of the Physiologus, though the two have much in common. The bestiary also describes a beast and uses that description as a basis for an allegorical teaching, but by including text from other sources it goes further; and while still not a "zoology textbook", it is not only a religious text, but also a description of the world as it was known.
The bestiary manuscripts were usually illustrated, sometimes lavishly, as for example in the Harley Bestiary and the Aberdeen Bestiary; the pictures served as a "visual language" for the illiterate public, who knew the stories - preachers used them in sermons - and would remember the moral teaching when they saw the beast depicted. Bestiary images could be found everywhere.