Originating from the Latin word bestiarius, bestiary is a concept that is used with reference to collections of texts and illustrations of animals, whether real or from the realm of fantasy, which were made in the Middle Ages.
The medieval bestiary, therefore, gathered information about different beasts. They generally focused on the description of these creatures, also including lessons on morals. The characteristics of the animals that were mentioned were usually based on religious reasons: that is why they were more symbolic than scientific texts.
There were real bestiaries, about animals that were considered positive (such as eagles and lions) or negative (pigs, snakes), and fantastic bestiaries, which were oriented to mythological beasts such as centaurs or dragons.
The first bestiary for which there are records is the Physiologus, an anonymous author. This bestiary would have been written between the second and fourth centuries in Alexandria. Starting in the 12th century, these works began to become popular in countries such as France and England.
One of the best known bestiaries is the Aberdeen Bestiary, of English origin. It is a compilation of other bestiaries integrated into chapters of Genesis and with numerous illustrations.
Another use of the notion of bestiary is associated with gladiators who, in the Roman circus, faced ferocious animals. These bestiaries could be prisoners of war, young people who specialized in the handling of weapons or professionals dedicated to participating in these shows in exchange for money.
Finally, “Bestiary” is the title of severalartistic works, among them a famous book of stories by the Argentine Julio Cortázar.
In 1951 it was when this book was published, which was the first to be released under his name. And it is that before he had already made a publication but under a pseudonym, specifically with Julio Denis.
There are several stories that shape “Bestiary”: “Letter to a young lady in Paris”, “Far”, “Omnibus”, “Headache”, “Circe”, “The gates of heaven”, “Bestiary” …
Within the literary field, we have to highlight other works that also have the term we are analyzing in their titles. This would be the case, for example, of “Bestiary of Madrid. The mystery of the red book ”. It is a novel written by Nieves Rosendo, which takes as its protagonist little Carmen.
At the Athenaeum of the Spanish capital, he will meet a librarian who goes by the name of Lope. Man to forget there a red book. Upon realizing this, Carmen goes out looking for him to deliver the book. However, in doing so you will come across a totally different city. And you see a lion walking down the street, the fountains come to life, you can talk to the trees…
Bestiario is also the name of a fashion store in Madrid, specifically located in the well-known Vallecas neighborhood, or of an information display company in Barcelona. And that without forgetting that it is also called a coffee bar in the city of Seville, located in the heart of the city.