The Book of Beasts Hardcover – Nov 1969
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From the Back Cover
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, author of The Once and Future King and outstanding medievalist. Of The Book of Beasts, White writes: "No Latin prose bestiary has ever before been printed, even in Latin. This is the first and only English translation in print."
The bestiary was a bestseller in the Middle Ages, a kind of natural history cum-zoological survey that presumed to describe the animals of the world and to point out the human traits they exemplified. Combining the surprisingly accurate with the endearingly phantasmagorical, the bestiarists came up with a bewildering array of real and exotic creatures. The behavior or attributes of the animals often functioned as a metaphor for teaching religious, moral, and political precepts.
In addition to a multitude of real mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish, described here with varying degrees of zoological accuracy, the bestiarist introduces a swarm of fanciful denizens thought to haunt the Dark Ages: manticore, a creature with a man's face, a lion's body, and a ravenous appetite for human flesh; dragon or draco, the biggest serpent and the embodiment of the Devil; amphivia, a fish that could walk on land and swim in the sea; jaculus, a flying serpent; the familiar phoenix; the griffin; and other exotic fauna.
Unabridged republication of the edition published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1954.
About the Author
Theodore H. White (1915 1986) was an American political journalist, historian, and novelist, best known for the Making of the President series: his accounts of the1960, 1964, 1968, and 1972 presidential elections, all of which are being reissued withnew forewords by Harper Perennial Political Classics. His other books include ThunderOut of China, America in Search of Itself, and In Search of History: A Personal Adventure.
T. H. White (1906 1964) is the author of the classic Arthurian fantasy "The Once and Future King", among other works. He was born in Mumbai, India, to English parents and educated at Queen s College, Cambridge. His writings have had a strong influence on both J. K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The text is full of gorgeous illustrations, and the author's bizarro witticisms are almost as amusing as the claims that he's translating. While it may not be the right book to base serious, humorless research on--the author, while academic, is adorably distractible--it's a fantastic companion for creative inspiration and amusing reading. I've collected a number of medieval bestiary reference books, and this is by far my favorite.
If you're looking for a pile of facts done analytically and systematically, this is probably not for you. Personally, I have a lot of love for science/academia-gone-awry (which inspired my love of bestiaries in the first place), and this text is a delightful example of exactly that. The unreliability and downright absurdity of the actual content is beautifully reflected in the author's own meandering, quirky voice and footnotes (oh, the glorious footnotes!)--unintentional, I'm sure, but delightful as a piece of art, a portrait of not only 12th-century naturalism but of 20th-century classical academia.
It came in perfect shape, and super fast, I was excited to have it in my hands.
This translation from a 12th century bestiary turned to be very quoted and famous.