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The Book of Beasts: Being a Translation from a Latin Bestiary of the 12th Century

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  217 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
If a serpent swallows the spittle of a fasting man, it dies. Trees felled in the wrong season breed termites. If eels are drowned in wine, those who drink it get a loathing for liquor.
These and similar flights of fancy were articles of faith in the twelfth century — the era of the fascinating Latin prose bestiary translated in this volume. The translator is T. H. White, au
Paperback, 296 pages
Published December 22nd 2010 by Dover Publications (first published 1954)
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Douglas Summers-Stay
Sep 26, 2014 Douglas Summers-Stay rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, non-fiction
There is really only one Bestiary; everybody who wrote one copied liberally from everyone else. T.H. White's translation is accompanied by numerous footnotes and a long essay at the end. The footnotes often try to figure out what real animal the book could be referring to. The entry on the dragon, for instance, is clearly describing a boa constrictor in this version. The monk who wrote it clearly liked and identified with bees-- how they all did their jobs, and lived in little cells, and worked ...more
May 23, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
An interesting literary translation of the ancient transcriptions of historical myth and facts about animals and beasts. Filled with notes in regard to Greek and Latin terminology relating to the descriptions and annotations to explain the derivative description of a real world species or how the myth of a beast might have developed. The book of beasts is not a story, nor is it a linear form of text but rather a compilation of information broken down into categories of a few chapters and Greek, ...more
Apr 19, 2015 Alberto rated it it was amazing
One of the better books I've read on magical beasts. I was thankful there was a mention of fire stones for once. Interesting to compare with my other books on fantastical creatures. I'm still comparing notes though, it's always so hard to find reliable sources.
Catherine Alber
Jul 30, 2008 Catherine Alber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and, since the field of zoology has come a long way since the 12th century, unintentionally funny, like this description of the hyena:
"This is an animal called the YENA, which is accustomed to live in the sepulchres of the dead and to devour their bodies. Its nature is that at one moment it is masculine and at another moment feminine, and hence it is a dirty brute" (White 31).

Or this one:
"There is an animal called an ELEPHANT, which has no desire to copulate" (24).

Enhanced by charmin
Bethany Wade
Jun 14, 2015 Bethany Wade rated it it was ok
I feel like any book that can use both "awhoring" and "bugaboos" successfully deserves at least two stars!
Katherine Sas
Apr 21, 2015 Katherine Sas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval, reference
A wonderful peak into the medieval mind and imagination. This translation of 12th century Latin bestiary, providing first-hand exposure to one of the most fascinating literary genres of its age, combining biology, fantasy, mythology, and theology into one seamless whole. TH White's erudite and witty commentary, as ever, further elevates the whole thing.
May 12, 2012 Igor rated it it was ok
The way of thinking of the 12th century towards animal is needless to say completely outdated. It is interesting to know how they thought, but it is much more interesting because it made me ask myself if what we know today for truth or fact is really that.
May 26, 2007 Laura rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: cool people
This book is full of Medievil drawings of all animals and creaters they believed exsisted from A-Z. Unicorns, dragons, deer and dog. Need I go on? Yes, they also describe the animals quilities as they thought fit. Weirdos.
Aug 07, 2008 Bryce rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys things Medieval
The Bestiary is a fascinating peek into the Medieval mind. The contents of this book represent how even the "learned" saw their world, and suggests the "logic" behind the thought of the pre-Rennaissance world.
Sarah Sammis
May 24, 2011 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it
I remember reading this at UCLA but my book diary tells me that's not possible. I was already done with school by the time I read it.
Feb 06, 2008 Sal rated it it was amazing
White brings out-- or just matches, himself-- the wackiness of the Middle Ages.
Benji Cossa
Sep 18, 2007 Benji Cossa rated it it was amazing
Not a cover to cover read, but a great book. Flip it open and be amazed!
Abraham Ray
May 01, 2015 Abraham Ray rated it it was ok
Shelves: animals
not the best book I have ever read, sorry.
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Born in Bombay to English parents, Terence Hanbury White was educated at Cambridge and taught for some time at Stowe before deciding to write full-time. White moved to Ireland in 1939 as a conscientious objector to WWII, and lived out his years there. White is best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, "The Once and Future King", first published together in 1958.
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