Scan through digital images from the Aberdeen Bestiary and you’ll find a marvelous stew of myth and reality. Alongside familiar animals — leopards, panthers, hyenas — this glorious 12th century illuminated manuscript includes some strange ones: A satyr, for instance, with a humanoid shape and a thoughtful expression on its face, and a dazzling phoenix, resting in a goblet as flames encircle the cup’s rim. Bestiaries were attempts in the Middle Ages to catalog the world’s living things, whether they had been truly observed or rumored to exist. And it’s no wonder that modern writers have been inspired by the idea of a fanciful menagerie to create whimsical bestiaries of their own — Borges did it, and so have the VanderMeers, Ann and Jeff, to give just two examples. Several new books made me think of these golden, beastly books of yore, for the subjects of “Tracking the Chupacabra,” “Monsters of the Gévaudan,” and “Kraken” seem like nothing less than fugitives from a bestiary — creatures that have slipped from its pages and fled to the jungles of South America, the woods of France and the depths of the sea.
more from Nick Owchar at the LA Times here.