Help for Beast Pages

Beast Lists

The beast names are listed in three ways: Alphabetic, Cross Reference and Category. You can select which you want to see from the beast introduction page, and switch between them by clicking "Alphabetic", "Cross Ref" or "Category" at the top of the list pages.

The Alphabetic and Cross Reference lists have the same functions. The green alphabet bands at the left allow you to jump directly to the sections containing beasts whose name starts with the selected letter of the alphabet. Click on a beast name to see detailed information on that beast.

The Alphabetic list shows only the "standard" name for each beast, as is used on this site. The Cross Reference list shows the standard name and all known alternate names for each beast. For each alternate name, the standard name is shown in brackets, like this: Aptalon [Antelope]. Clicking on any of the alternate names for a beast will show you the detailed information for that beast.

The Category lists shows the beasts grouped by general categories:

Medieval writers did not neccessarily categorize animals in the same way modern zoologists do, so the categories in this list are not rigorous. Different writers sometimes classified the same animal in different categories or lumped several categories together or didn't classify creatures at all. The categories used here should not be taken as a taxonomy!

Filtering the Beast Lists

The Alphabetic and Cross Refrence lists can be filtered. When you type in the box above the list (the "input box", conveniently labeled "Type here to filter the beast list"), any rows in the list that do not contain the word or partial word you type will be hidden. This is called an "incremental search": the search is redone with each letter you type to eliminate the non-matching rows and thus narrow the search. It also works in reverse: if you delete some or all of the text, more rows will appear as the search is widened.

Below the box are some radio buttons that let you specify which columns in the list will be searched. The "All" option will search all of the visible rows; if the text you type is not found in any column, the row will be hidden. The other three options refer to the column headings of the list, as shown in the image above. If the text you type is not found in that specific column, the row will be hidden. When you click any of the radio button options the search will automatically be redone with whatever text is in the input box, using the option you selected.

The filter can be used to do some other useful things. For example, you might want to see only the entries for birds. To do this, type "birds" in the input box and click the "Type" option radio button. You will be left with a list of only beasts that were called "birds" in the bestiaries (which also included bats and bees!). With the Cross Reference list, you can see all the alternate name used for a paricular beast. Type the common name of the beast in the input box and click the Common option radio button, and all the names for that beast will be listed.

Beast Detail Pages

There are four beast detail pages: Description, Manuscripts, Bibliography, and Gallery. You can switch between them by clicking their names in the bar at the top of the screen.

Description Page

The description page gives a general description of the beast, usually with a representative picture, and a list of its alternate names. There may be up to six sections in the descriptions for the beast, titled General Attributes, Allegory/Moral, Sources, Illustration, Heraldry and Reality. The titles will only appear if there is information available for that section.

General Attributes : Gives a general description of the beast, usually derived from bestiary manuscripts. Note that this is in no way a modern, scientific, zoological description; it is a description of the beast as the medieval writers knew it.

Allegory/Moral : Gives the meaning ascribed to the beast or its properties by medieval or earlier writers; this is normally based on the bestiaries or the Physiologus. Because the Middle Ages were a decidedly Christian era in Europe, the allegory is mostly based on Christian teachings, and often refers to the Christian Bible. Where non-Christian allegory or meaning is used, this will be noted in the text.

Illustration : This section provides some general information on how the beast was usually illustrated in manuscripts and on sculptures and carvings.

Uses Magical, Medical, Alchemical and Culinary : This section describes how the beast or parts of the beast could supposedly be used in magic, medicine and alchemical formulas, and for food.

Heraldry : Some beasts were used in heraldry, with attributes often based on the bestiaries. Where such information is available, it is shown here.

Reality : Notes about where the idea for the beast may have come from, what it may actually be, and what it is in the modern world.

Sources Page

The Sources page gives descriptions used by primary sources (writers of the Middle Ages or earlier). These are either direct quotes or paraphrases of the actual text. Each source is listed, in chronological order by approximate time of writing (the century of origin is shown next to the name), along with book titles or other identifying information. There will usually be some duplication here, since medieval writers frequently "borrowed" material from earlier writers.

Manuscript Page

The Manuscript page displays a list of medieval manuscripts that describe or have pictures of the beast. The manuscript title or shelfmark is usually a link; click it to see more detail about the manuscript.

Bibliography Page

The bibliography page displays a list of books, electronic texts, web sites and other material related to the beast. The bibliography item title is usually a link; click it to see more information (in a popup window) for that item.

Gallery Page

The gallery page shows images of the beast, taken from manuscripts, carvings and other sources. Images are not yet available for all beasts, so some galleries may be empty.

More help for galleries

Note: The gallery pages may not display correctly with older browser versions, and will probably not display at all with Microsoft Internet Explorer.