January 7, 2020

Upcoming Bestiary Talk

        On Thursday I will be giving a presentation on “The Fantastic Bestiary,” which is my not-particularly-subtle pun with two meanings of fantastic: “really great” and “imaginative or fanciful.”  The thing that gets me so excited about medieval bestiaries is not just the wonderful creatures or just the quirky illustrations or just the strange “facts,” but the blending of so many different fascinating facets: art, science, mythology, morality, history, literature…  It’s a veritable smorgasbord of Interesting Things.  The title slide of my talk gives a sort of table of contents, and you can see that I’ll be trying to cover a range of all the good stuff that goes into medieval bestiaries, and then, of course, how I tried to take all that good stuff and adapt it into my own bestiary.
        In putting together the talk and slides I’ve really been going a little crazy, spending weeks scouring through about 80 on-line digitized manuscripts and incunabula, comparing creatures and contents, and selecting my favorite illustrative examples.  Obviously it’s been a labor of love, since otherwise it couldn’t possibly be worth the amount of time I’ve spent, and I’ve indulged many a fascinating tangent along the way.  I’m just astonished and grateful that there are so many digitized works available to me - 20 years ago this sort of research, encompassing rare works from about two dozen different libraries and museums, would have been extremely difficult and expensive for a scholar, and utterly unthinkable for an amateur like me.
        If you do happen to be local to the greater Boston area, and available during the day, the presentation will be at North Hill in Needham, Thursday, January 9, at 2:00pm.  If not, I do hope to be sharing at least a few highlights in coming blog posts.

[Pictures: Title Slide with three dragons;
A collection of griffins from 13 bestiaries, demonstrating a wide range of artistic talent (or lack thereof).]

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