Medieval Writing
Paleography Exercises
English Bestiary, 12th century (British Library, Royal 12 C XIX, f.52v). All images by permission of the British Library.
This section of a page from a late 12th century English bestiary shows the beginning of the section on the partridge, a creature of fraudulent habits. The script is a protogothic book hand in which the letters are angular and the small letters are composed of minims. However, it is not so laterally compressed as to create conjoined letters. The little miniatures of each creature are painted on a gold ground. The language of the text is Latin and the work is of English origin.
The small segment we have used for this example shows certain definitive characteristics of the bestiary. A bit of dubious natural history is used to make a moral statement. The partridge was, at least, a real and familiar creature to the readers.
English versions of the text of specific bestiary manuscripts can be found in Barber 1993 and in White 1954. The former has exquisite facsimiles of the illuminations. A full bestiary with transcript, translation and notes can be seen on the web at The Aberdeen Bestiary site., The Bestiaire site from the Bibliothèque nationale de France shows an array of miniatures from bestiaries.

| overview | text | alphabet | abbreviations | exercises | transcript | translation |

Click on each of the above to walk your way through a segment of the text. The transcript will appear in a separate window so that you can use it for reference at any time. These exercises are designed to guide you through the text, not test you, so you can cheat as much as you like.
Script sample for this example
Index of Exercises
Index of Scripts

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 1/5/2005.