BETH MORRISON: Very few medieval model books have survived, but they give great insight into how manuscripts were made in the Middle Ages. Model books are usually composed just of images.
NARRATOR: These images were used as models to more easily create multiple copies. Look carefully and you notice little pin-pricks along the edges of the animals, especially at lower right. Dark powder could be pressed through these holes to create a pattern on a new sheet.
BETH MORRISON: It would have created an almost connect-the-dots kind of image on a separate piece of parchment, which you could then use as a model for your image.
NARRATOR: Now, let’s look and hear about the animals. On the top left, you see a fox.
BETH MORRISON: The story of the fox, according to the bestiary, is that It’s very wily. And in fact, that’s where we get the expression “wily as a fox.” According to the text, the fox would roll himself in mud and pretend to be dead. As the birds came down to feed on his carcass, he would snap his jaw shut and catch the birds unaware. In the image, you can see him lying on his back pretending to be dead.
NARRATOR: On the bottom left there’s an ostrich. It may not look like one to us, but medieval viewers would have known it by its cloven hooves and the three eggs lying behind it.
BETH MORRISON:The story is that the ostrich is a very bad mother. She will just lay her eggs anywhere and then wander off, as if she has no care in the world.
NARRATOR: The image on the right below, is actually a beaver.
BETH MORRISON: The bestiary talks about how the testicles of the beaver are incredibly valuable as medicine. The beaver knows this. When it sees a hunter and his dogs coming—and you can see the hunter and dogs represented above—it will actually chew off its own testicles and throw them behind.The Christian moral associated with the story of the beaver is that one should be able and willing at any moment to sacrifice one’s nearest and dearest in order to evade the clutches of lust and the devil.