The Medieval Book of Birds: Hugh of Fouilloy's Aviarum

The Medieval Book of Birds: Hugh of Fouilloy's Aviarum

The Medieval Book of Birds: Hugh of Fouilloy's Aviarum

The Medieval Book of Birds: Hugh of Fouilloy's Aviarum

Excerpt

Medieval scribes gave a variety of titles to the Book of Birds: De avibus, De columba deargentata. De natura avium, and Libellus ad Rainerum. Here I will refer to it as the Aviary, for in many respects it parallels prose versions of a familiar genre, the bestiary. Its author, Hugh of Fouilloy (Hugo de Folieto), wrote the work some time between about 1132 and 1152, during his tenure as prior of St.-Nicolas-de-Regny, an Augustinian house near Amiens. Although the Aviary is focused on the natural world, Hugh treats his material as moral theology and directs it toward a monastic audience.

The Aviary is extant in at least ninety-six manuscripts, of which fifty-five are fully or partly illustrated, with another nine having spaces left for illustrations. Both the text and illustrations of the Aviary are preserved in a surprisingly consistent, two-branch tradition, in which there is a clear link between textual and visual variants (see stemma immediately following the introduction). The Aviary text has been printed in four related editions as part of the collected works of Hugh of St. Victor. In each case the text varies from the one commonly seen in the manuscripts, with additions, omissions, and division into fifty-six rather than the sixty chapters typically found in the manuscripts. The earliest edition was pub lished in Paris in 1526 by the canons of St. Victor. The same collection of works, edited by Thomasso Garzoni, was published in Venice in 1588 by J. B. Somascho; it was published again by the Paris Victorines in Rouen in 1648; it was published a fourth time by J. P. Migne, Patrologia latina 177: 13–56, based on the Rouen edition. No specific manuscript source or sources for these editions have been identified, although Paris, Bibl. Nat. MS. lat. 14429 (catalogue no. 46) has much in common with these early editions. In the Middle Ages the Aviary was translated into French verse and into Portuguese; only one manuscript exists for each translation (catalogue nos. 42, 48). There is no modern translation in any language, nor any modern edition.

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