Bestiary Families - French

The French versions of the bestiary are all by known (or commonly attributed) authors, and are classified by author here. They are all in a dialect of early French: Norman, Anglo-Norman, Picard, etc.

Bestiaire in Verse by Philippe de Thaon

Written by the Anglo-Norman poet Philippe de Thaon in the early thirteenth century, this is a 3194 line verse bestiary, composed in the Anglo-Norman dialect of French. Philippe dedicated the work to Aelis de Louvain, the second wife of Henry I of England; the two were married in 1121. The poem has a prologue in Latin, as well as Latin rubrics before each chapter, which summarize the contents or give instructions for the illustrator. The poem appears in three existing manuscripts, with some variation in the text; two of the three are illustrated, the exception being British Library Cotton MS Nero A V, which has spaces left for illustrations that were never completed. The bestiary consists of 38 chapters, divided into Beasts, Birds, and Stones. It is thought that Philippe used a Latin bestiary of the B-Is type as a basis for his translation. He cites both the Physiologus and Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae, though it is not clear whether he had access to Isidore's text directly. The manuscripts date from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. A digital edition of the poem is available here.

Bestiaire of Gervaise

Almost nothing is known about Gervaise. His Bestiaire, in 1280 lines of rhymed verse, is thought to have been written around the beginning of the thirteenth century, in France (probably Normandy). Gervaise says in his prologue that he translated a Latin bestiary that he attributes to "Crisosthomus" or John Chrysostom, who in the Middle Ages was said to be the author of a bestiary titled Dicta Chysostomi (the "DC" Latin version). The text appears in only one manuscript. A digital edition of the poem is available here.

Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc

Also called the Bestiaire divin, the Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc at 3426 lines is the longest of the French bestiaries. It was written around 1210 by the Norman cleric Guillaume, who probably based his rhymed verse on the B-Is Latin bestiary version. Guillaume states in his prologue that his aim is that the reader should profit from the moral teachings in the Bestiaire; each of his beast chapters includes allegorical details. It was the most popular of the French bestiaries, now existing in at least 23 manuscripts, which date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries. Most are illustrated.

Bestiaire of Pierre de Beauvais

This prose bestiary, written some time before 1218, is by Pierre de Beauvais, also called Pierre le Picard. The earliest version of it is in the French Picard dialect. There are two forms, both by Pierre: a short version of about 38 chapters; and a long version of about 71 chapters. The short version is based on the B-Is Latin version, with similarities to BL, Royal 2 C.xii. The long version contains all of the chapters from the short version, with additions from a variety of other sources. The manuscripts date from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries.

Bestiaire d'amour by Richard de Fournival

Richard of Fournival's thirteenth century prose Bestiaire d'amour is not a traditional bestiary. While it uses bestiary themes, animal descriptions and illustrations, it does not use them as a basis for allegory. The purpose of the Bestiary is to attempt to persuade an unnamed lady to give in to Richard's amorous wishes. Some copies of the Bestiaire include a response from the lady, firmly rejecting Richard's advances; these manuscsripts are indicated below. Richard also wrote a version of the Bestiaire in verse, found in one manuscript. Most of the manuscripts are illustrated. In addition to the 23 manuscripts listed below, there are three others, probably fragmentary, the current location of which is unknown. There was as of 1925 a one folio fragment in a private library in Saint Petersburg, Russia; the manuscript is designated "Z" (see Lozinski, 1925). The letter in parentheses after the manuscript listing is a standard designation code.

Translations: There are two manuscripts where Richard's French text has been translated into other languages. There is one manuscript in German translation, and a fragment in Middle Dutch (see Gera Dambrink, 1999).

There is another version of a Bestiaire d'amour in rhyming verse by an anonymous author, titled Bestiaire d'amour rimé, loosely based on Richard's Bestiaire, but with significant differences.