Ashmole Bestiary.jpg

The Ashmole manuscript (1511) is held in the collection of the Bodliean Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford. This Bestiary Book, in Latin Liber bestiarum, as with others, copied images and information from many sources, including from Etymologiae by the seventh-century Bishop of Seville, known as Isidore of Seville, which, in turn, relied heavily on an anonymous second-century bestiary called the Physiologus, which itself summarized ancient knowledge and wisdom about animals in the writings of classical authors such as Aristotle’s Historia Animalium and various works by Herodotus, Pliny the Elder, Solinus, Aelian and other naturalists.

“The phoenix is a bird from Arabia, so called either because its colour is like the dye from Phoenicia, or because it is unique in the whole world. It lives for five hundred years, and when it feels itself growing old, it collects twigs from aromatic plants and builds itself a pyre, on which it sits and spreads its wings to the rays of the sun, setting itself on fire. When it has been consumed a new bird arises next day out of the ashes.”

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