Westminster Abbey Bestiary

BESTIARIO-DE-WESTMINSTER-editorial siloe facsimiles

12th century. Anonymous.

Westminster Abbey Library. England. Latin.

One of the most beautiful and richly-decorated bestiaries in the world.

It contains a total of 164 fantastic miniatures in special harmonious shades of red and blue.

Its 130 parchment pages measuring 160 x 220 mm, in the purest tradition of superb medieval bestiaries, are filled with all kinds of succulent descriptions, legends and myths.

Handmade leather binding, accompanied by a study book and a preservation display case.

Limited edition of 898 numbered copies with notarial certificate.

National Prize 2014. Best books published in 2013. Ministry of Culture. Modality: facsimile books.

About Westminster Abbey Bestiary

One of the most iconic bestiaries to survive from the Middle Ages is the Westminster Bestiary, also known as MS 22. This 13th-century manuscript, dating back to 1275-1290, is a treasure trove of illustrations depicting a variety of beasts and creatures from the natural world. The bestiary is a compilation of texts and images that were used to moralize and educate readers about the animals around them, both real and mythical. The illustrations in the bestiary include exotic animals like the war elephant, dragon, griffin, siren, and chimera, as well as common creatures like snakes and insects.

Illustrating the Natural World


The Westminster Bestiary features intricate illuminations that not only depict the physical appearance of the animals but also add a layer of symbolism and meaning to them. Each illustration is accompanied by a textual explanation that helps the reader understand the moral lessons associated with each creature. The illustrations in the bestiary are a prime example of medieval illuminated manuscripts, with detailed initial letters and vibrant colors that bring the animals to life on the page.

Adam Naming the Animals


Just like in the biblical story of Adam naming the animals, the bestiary seeks to categorize and name the various beasts and creatures found in the natural world. The exotic and wild beasts illustrated in the manuscript provide a glimpse into the medieval understanding of the animal kingdom and the role of humans in naming and understanding them. The bestiary’s illustrations not only trace the natural history of these creatures but also serve to educate and entertain readers with their vivid depictions of the animal kingdom.

Facsimile Edition and Reproduction 


In recent years, a facsimile edition of the Westminster Bestiary has been produced, allowing modern audiences to experience the beauty and complexity of this medieval masterpiece. The full transcript of the text, along with a reproduction of the entire original manuscript, provides scholars and art lovers with a rare opportunity to study the codicology, iconography, and background of this surviving medieval bestiary. Thanks to projects like the Bestiario de Westminster, the legacy of these mythical creatures and exotic animals continues to be preserved and appreciated in institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, and beyond.

Images of Westminster Abbey Bestiary

Find our Bestiary of John of Austria wich is a splendid example of medieval bestiaries, offering a captivating glimpse into the natural world as understood through allegory and symbolism. This illuminated manuscript features a diverse menagerie of animals, both real and mythical, meticulously illustrated and accompanied by moralizing interpretations. From noble lions symbolizing courage to graceful unicorns embodying purity, each creature in the bestiary serves as a conduit for exploring virtues, vices, and the mysteries of creation. The Bestiary of John of Austria thus not only showcases the artistic skill of its creators but also reflects the intellectual and spiritual curiosity of the medieval era, where the study of animals was intertwined with moral and philosophical teachings.

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