MS M.890, fols. 16v–17r

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Fountains Abbey bestiary

England, probably North Yorkshire
ca. 1325–1350
227 x 152 mm

Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1958

MS M.890, fols. 16v–17r
Page description: 

Left Page (Fol. 16v)
Fire Stones: This is a drawing of personified “fire stones”: gendered stones that ignited and destroyed everything around them when a female stone came into contact with a male stone. The bestiary treats them as a cautionary tale for the clergy, who were warned to distance themselves from lustful women.

Amos: Here Amos, a shepherd mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, is depicted wearing a Phrygian cap, associated with Jews. This drawing illustrates an anti-Jewish passage—typical of the bestiary—which compares Jews to sinful goats that Christ was unable to convert into sheep.

Right Page (Fol. 17r)
Asp: Typically, the asp plugs its ear with its tail in order to resist the snake-charmer’s musical wiles— but here the snake’s tail rests on top of its head. The snake-charmer holds up a shield to protect himself from the snake’s venomous bite.

Scitalis: The scitalis pictured here does not much look like a snake with its pointed ears, wings, whiskers, and claws: it is said to stun its prey with its marvelous appearance and glittering scales.

Amphisbaena: The two-headed amphisbaena can move quickly with either head in the lead.

Hydrus: The hydrus lubricates itself with mud and slips down the throat of a crocodile in order to kill it from the inside, as Christ coated himself in human skin and defeated the devil.