The Bestiary, now preserved at the Saint Petersburg Public Library named after Saltykow-Chshedrm (LatQ.v.V.I)
The manuscript, now preserved at the Saint Petersburg Public Library named after Saltykow-Chshedrin and registered „Lat. Q.v.V.I.”, is one of the English bestiaries of the end of the twelfth century. It contains 91 sheets of stiff vellum (The foliotation of the manuscript is posterior and does not include the first, clean sheet of vellum. References to pages are made according to their numbers on the margins of the manuscript). The size of the page is 20X 14.5 cm, the size of the space taken up by the text and illustrations is 14X8.5 cm. The text is written in large early Gothic handwriting of the second half of the twelfth century, 24 lines on a page. The book is illustrated by 114 miniatures, representing real and fantastic animals.
The manuscript has come to us in an old parchment binding, well preserved but for a slight fading of colour and gold in the miniatures. The contours of figures on sheets 29, 36 v., 37 v., 40,40 v. and some others might have been outlined anew at a later date.
The manuscript is stitched of 15 separate files. Like in most medieval manuscripts in-quarto, the body of our book is made up of quaternions, files consisting of 8 sheets each. At the same time, instead of the usual files of 4 sheets each /binions/, put at the beginning and the end of the manuscript in quarto, the first file is a quaternion with two sheets cut off (with the beginning of the genesis text on the creation), and the second is a binion. Then the first file /extracts from the Bible — ff. 1—4 v. and the text on animals’ denomination — ff. 5—8/ is an extension to the manuscript, the fact which explains the origin of an addition of chapters from Genesis to the text of the bestiary and accounts for the stylistic distinction of the first miniatures from the rest of them. However, the hand-writing and the style of the first miniatures, though originating from a different model as compared with the other miniatures of the bestiary, shows that the extension was produced simultaneously with the main part of the manuscript.
The file, concluding the manuscript, consists of three sheets: its last sheet is cut off; the last but one file consists of two sheets, the eleventh /the story about the whale and fishes/ and the twelfth /about the crocodile/ consist of four sheets. The heterogeneity of the general make-up of the book indicates that its creation was a complex process, with insertions and additions being made. Besides, this also shows that several models were used in compiling the manuscript. Between sheets 42 and 43 two sheets are missing, judging by the corresponding miniatures in the bestiary of the Morgan Library /ms. 81/, they contained texts about the dromedary, the donkey and the beginning of the chapter on horses with relevant miniatures.
On the first and the last sheets of the manuscript, as well as on the margins of many pages, one can discern illegible drawings in pen, traces of erazed notes and inscriptions presumably made in the period from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The names of animals in French, handwritten in ink on the margins or right on the miniatures /15th—16th centuries/ indicate that at that time the manuscript was in France. In all probability, the only Greek caption on the margins »’аяо TCOV %epctT(ov« may also be referred to that period; see page 31 next to the text about the stag. The caption gives an explantation of the origin of the Greek work “stag” discussed in the text.
The last page bears the Latin inscription made by the owner of the book in the eighteenth century, “Hie liber attinet ad Franciscum de la Morliere”, i.e. “This book belongs to Fran-cisc de la Morlier”. Below is the figure 1232. Obviously, the owner was the offspring of a small aristocratic family whose descendants were the Amiens canon and historian Adrien de la Morlier in the eighteenth century and Charles — Jacque de la Morlier /1719—1785/, a playwright and the king’s musketeer.
F. Gille (Gille F. Musee de l’Ermitage imperial. St. Petersbourg, 1860, p. 39). and A. de Laborde (Laborde A. de. Les principaux manuscripts a peintures conserves dans l’ancienne Bibliotheque imperiale publique de Saint-Peters-bourg, v. 1. Paris, 1936—1938, N. 12, p. 9)., without undertaking any serious analysis of the manuscript proper or of its artistic analogies, dated the book the thirteenth century, mistaking it for an expanded and modified variant of the work “On Animals” created by Albert the Great in the third quarter of the thirteenth century. Their error seemed to have been caused by the date 1232, which Laborde had probably read as 1732. In Gille’s opinion, 1232 is the dating of the manuscript suggested by the owner of the manuscript. A. Goldsmith, on the other hand, believed that 1232 stood for the library index in de Morlier’s collection (Konstantinowa A. Ein englisches Bestiar des XII. Jahrhunderts in der Staatsbibliothek zu Saint Petersburg, mit einem Vorwort von A. Goldeschmidt. Berlin, 1929).
A. A. Konstantinova in her work about the Saint Petersburg Bestiary, published in German only, and A. Goldsmith in his foreword to Konstantinova’s publication refer the manuscript to the end of the twelfth century (Ibid). In modern literature on the history of book illumination and medieval bestiaries the Saint Petersburg Bestiary is rightly believed to have been created in the late twelfth century (Culloch F. Me. Medieval Latin and French Bestiaries, p. 34, 74) or, more precisely, in its eighties or nineties (Boose T.S.R. English Art, 1100—1216.—The Oxford History of English Art, v. III. Oxford History of English Art, v. III. Oxford, 1935, p. 295).
If the date, read by de Laborde as 1732, is correct then Gille, and later Laborde, were wrong to believe that the manuscript had belonged to the library of Cardinal Coislin who inherited the famous library of Chancellor Seguier and later on gave over his enormous collection of books and manuscripts to St. Germain’s Abbey in Paris. Coislin died in 1732. Monfaucon made the catalogue of his library in 1715. If in 1732 the manuscript was still in de Morlier’s possession it could not have been listed then in Monfaucon’s “Biblioteca
In the years of the French Revolution the manuscript was obtained by P. Dubrovsky, secretary of the Russian Embassy in Paris during the reign of Catherine II. He signed the first and the last pages of the book. During more than thirty years Dubrovsky amassed a wonderful collection of West European manuscripts which he later on handed over to Alexander I.
That is how the bestiary appeared in the collection of the Imperial Public Library. After a brief stay in the Hermitage among other luxuriously illustrated codices the manuscript, registered as 5.2.35 was dispatched to the department of manuscripts in the Public Library, by all rights one of the best gems in its precious collection of illuminated manuscripts.