Open Content images tend to be large in file-size. To avoid potential data charges from your carrier, we recommend making sure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network before downloading.
This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.
Not currently on view
England (Place created)
about 1250 - 1260
Colored wahes and ink on parchment, bound between pasteboard and covered with red morocco
Closed: 21 x 15.7 cm (8 1/4 x 6 3/16 in.)
The bestiary--a collection of descriptions and images of real and imaginary animals intended to provide readers with moral lessons--was one of the most important traditions to emerge from medieval England. Although bestiaries were a kind of medieval encyclopedia of animals, they explored the world of animals primarily in order to explain their significance within the Christian worldview. Male lions were seen as worthy reflections of the God the Father, for example, while the dragon was understood as a representative of Satan on earth.
Each of the over one hundred animals featured in this manuscript (called the Northumberland Bestiary after a previous owner) has a unique and colorful story visualized in lively and animated terms. Tales of elephants carrying soldiers in far-away India must have seemed as incredible to the manuscript's owner as the images of the terrible six-headed hydra, who will grow three more heads for each head cut off. Executed in the colored drawing style that is part of England's distinctive contribution to history of art, the expressive naturalism seen in the images stands as a superb testament to the artistic heights achieved by English Gothic illumination.
Medieval Beasts (May 1 to July 29, 2007) (fols. 46v - 47)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), May 1 to July 29, 2007
Rare Finds: Ten Years of Collecting Manuscripts (February 12 to April 20, 2008) (fols. 12v - 13)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 12 to April 20, 2008
Pen and Parchment (June 1 to August 23, 2009) (42; fols. 12v - 13)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), June 1 to August 23, 2009
The Medieval Scriptorium (November 24, 2009 to February 14, 2010) (fols. 49v - 50)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 24, 2009 to February 14, 2010
Gothic Grandeur: Manuscript Illumination 1200-1350 (December 13, 2011 to May 13, 2012) (fols. 5v - 6)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 13, 2011 to May 13, 2012
Millar, Eric George A Thirteenth Century Bestiary in the Library of Alnwick Castle (Oxford: Roxburghe Club, 1958) facsimile.
McCulloch, Florence. Mediaeval Latin and French Bestiaries (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1962) p. 34.
Kauffmann, Claus Michael. A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles. Vol. 3, Romanesque Manuscripts, 1066-1190 (London: Harvey Miller, 1975) p. 126.
Einhorn, Jürgen W. Spiritalis Unicornis: Das Einhorn als Bedeutungsträger in Literatur und Kunst des Mittelalters (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1976) pp. 80, 336.
Third Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (1872; repr., Nendeln/Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1979) p. 112.
Yapp, William Brunsdon. Birds in Medieval Manuscripts (London: The British Library, 1981) pp. 18, 35.
Morgan, Nigel. A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles. Vol 4, Early Gothic Manuscripts 1190-1250 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982) pp. 60, No. 2 (1988), pp. 85-6; no. 115, and figs. 90-94.
Yapp, William Brunsdon. "Birds in Bestiaries: Medieval Knowledge of Nature." The Cambridge Review 105, no. 2282 (November, 1984) p. 187.
Muratova, Xénia, and Daniel Poirion. Le Bestiarium: fac-simile du Manuscrit Ashmole 1511 (Paris: Club du Livre, 1984) p. 33.
Kolve, Verdel A. Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984) p. 436.
Yapp, William Brunsdon "A New Look at English Bestiaries." Medium Aevum 54, no. 1 (January 1, 1985) pp. 1, 8.
Muratova, Xénia. "I manoscritti miniati del bestiario medievale: origine, formazione e sviluppo dei cicli di illustrazioni. [...]." Settimane di studio sull'Alto Medioevo. Vol. 31, L'Uomo di fronte al mondo an p. 1350.
Barker, Nicholas. Two East Anglian Picture Books (Oxford: Roxburghe Club, 1988) p. 5.
Clark, Willene B., and Meradith T. McMunn, eds. Beasts and Birds of the Middle Ages: The Bestiary and Its Legacy. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989) p. 199.
Sotheby’s, London. Western Manuscripts and Miniatures. November 29, 1990, pp. 138-61, lot 101, ill.
Baxter, Ron. Bestiaries and Their Users in the Middle Ages (Thrupp: Sutton Publishing, 1998) pp. 100, 111, 114-24, 147, 177.
Kline, Naomi Reed. Maps of Medieval Thought: The Hereford Paradigm (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2001) pp. 119-23, figs. 4.8-4.10.
“Getty’s Gothic English manuscript unveiled in LA.” The Guardian [London] (June 5, 2007) p. 19, ill.
Morrison, Elizabeth. "A masterpiece of Gothic illumination: the Northumberland Bestiary.” World of Antiques & Art 73 (August 2007 – February 2008) pp. 44-47, figs. 1-7.
Holocomb, Melanie, ed. Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages, exh. cat. (New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009). pp. 144-45, no. 42.
Nishimura, Margot McIlwain. Images in the Margins (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum; London: The British Library, 2009) pp. 44-45, fig. 45.
White, Cynthia. From the Ark to the Pulpit: An Edition and Translation of the "Transitional" Northumberland Bestiary (13th Century) (Louvain-La-Neuve: L’Institut d’ Études Médiévales, 2009) pp. 18-48, figs. 1-29.
White, Cynthia. "Un Serraglio Gotico: Il Bestario Northumberland." Alumina 10, no. 36 (January-March 2012) pp. 3-4, 6-17, ill.
Pedersen, Nate. "The Getty Goes Gothic." Fine Books & Collections 10, no. 1 (Winter 2012) pp. 23-24, ill.
Black, Maggie. The Medieval Cookbook. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012) p. 125, fig. 54.
Malafarina, Gianfranco. “La bella e la bestia.” Alumina: Pagine Miniate 13 no. 49 (April–June 2015) p. 41, ill.