A Possible Illustrated Books Timeline

Bestiaries of the Middle Ages
Compiled by Estela Agudelo

Illustrations from Physiologus di Berna. (1) Panther. (2) Lion.
These illustrated volumes that were especially popular in England and France around XII century, were a compendium of all kinds of animals illustrations, real and imaginary. Those compendiums were usually accompanied by moralizing explanations that reflected the belief that the world was literally God’s creations, and therefore, every living thing had a role in it. The first bestiary was an old Greek anonymous volume dated from the II and IV centuries known as Physiologus.

Adam names the animals. Illustration from the Aberdeen Bestiary;
in the vignette above are the big cats: Lion, panther and leopard,
and in the lower corner, a rabbit and two cats.

One of the best known bestiaries is the Aberdeen  Bestiary; a compendium appeared in England during the XII century. One of the most striking elements of this bestiary, are the illustrations, in which artists let fly freely their imagination.
Illustration from the Aberdeen Bestiary.
Many artists created their own bestiaries, some of them are Leonardo da Vinci, and in more modern times Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Saul Steinberg. Julio Cortázar also wrote a book of short stories titled Bestiary. The fantasy fiction writers are inspirited by the extraordinary beasts described in mythology and medieval bestiaries. Similarly, authors of rol games often compile their own bestiaries as a reference, such as the Moster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons. 

John of Austria's Bestiary , Philippe of Thaon's Bestiary and Anne Walshe´s Bestiary, are only three samples from a hundred fascinating manuscripts that survive today.



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