The mediaeval bestiary and its textual tradition
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This thesis examines the textual development of the medieval Latin prose bestiary throughout Europe over the course of the Middle Ages and uses this, in conjunction with a detailed study of the manuscripts, to propose new theories about bestiary users and owners. The Introduction describes previous bestiary research, focusing on that which concerns the relationships between manuscripts and the different textual versions, or bestiary ‘Families.’ This is used to justify my research and show how it is more comprehensive than that which has been done before and concentrates on English illuminated bestiaries. Part One takes a wider look at the bestiary in terms of geography and utilisation. The bestiary is shown to have been found across Europe in a variety of manuscript types, disproving the assumption that the bestiary is primarily an illustrated English text. Several manuscripts, both English and Continental, are then examined in greater detail to show how the physical qualities of the manuscript, along with the text, may be used to suggest (sometimes unexpected) bestiary users. Part Two makes an in-depth examination of the early development of the bestiary text, from various sources, into the different Families. A comparison of the bestiary texts allows the manuscripts of each Family to be grouped according to both the textual characteristics and place of production. The relevant features of each group and its members are discussed in detail, and the results of this examination are then used to propose new patterns of bestiary development and exchange between England and the Continent. Part Three summarises the textual changes made to each bestiary chapter and shows how these alter the sense of the individual chapter, and the text of each Family as a whole. The thesis concludes with a reiteration of the importance of the entirety of the manuscript evidence when making hypotheses about the development of a text and its users. This is particularly relevant in the case of the bestiary, which is found in such a variety of manuscripts throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy