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Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World



Shortlisted for the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award

Edited by Elizabeth Morrison
With Larisa Grollemond

Brimming with lively animals both real and fantastic, the bestiary was one of the great illuminated manuscript traditions of the Middle Ages. Encompassing imaginary creatures such as the unicorn, siren, and griffin; exotic beasts including the tiger, elephant, and ape; as well as animals native to Europe like the beaver, dog, and hedgehog, the bestiary is a vibrant testimony to the medieval understanding of animals and their role in the world. So iconic were the stories and images of the bestiary that its beasts essentially escaped from the pages, appearing in a wide variety of manuscripts and other objects, including tapestries, ivories, metalwork, and sculpture.

With over 270 color illustrations and contributions by twenty-five leading scholars, this gorgeous volume explores the bestiary and its widespread influence on medieval art and culture as well as on modern and contemporary artists like Pablo Picasso and Damien Hirst.

This volume was published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center May 14 to August 18, 2019. 

Elizabeth Morrison is senior curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, coauthor of The Adventures of Gillion de Trazegnies (Getty Publications, 2015), and editor of A Knight for the Ages: Jacques de Lalaing and the Art of Chivalry (Getty Publications, 2018). Larisa Grollemond is assistant curator of manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Winner of 2020 PROSE Award, Art Exhibitions

“Book of Beasts is exceptional in that it can be enjoyed as a sumptuously illustrated coffee-table book, but also constitutes a valuable point of reference, and springboard for future research, for professional medievalists and for academics with an interest in ‘the animal turn’.”
Times Literary Supplement

“The volume is much more than a catalogue: it serves as an excellent introduction to the lore and images of beasts in medieval culture. . . . Including four appendixes that will have great value for scholars, this beautifully produced book is accessible to nonspecialists, who will find it sometimes strange and uniformly delightful reading.”

“This volume would make a good addition for students of medieval art, calligraphers, illuminators, artists, art lovers, and students of ecclesiastical Latin and Greek. It is written in a meticulous and scholarly style, but as a layperson I had no problems understanding and learning from the included essays.”
Nonstop Reader

“Like the manuscripts it considers, the book is a feast for the eye and a breath-taking cache of knowledge, which offers a much-needed balance to pre-existing scholarship on the bestiary’s textual history.”
Times Higher Education

The Washington Post

A remarkable book of art.
Art de l’enluminure

“The catalogue is a grand affair, with large pin-sharp illustrations, thorough data, bibliography and index. Care has been taken to balance scholarship with approachable text for the engaged non-specialist reader.”
Alexander Adams Art

354 pages
9 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches
281 color illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-590-7

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum