ETYM Late Lat. bestiarium, from Latin bestiarius pert. to beasts, from bestia beast: cf. French bestiaire.
A medieval book (usually illustrated) with allegorical and amusing descriptions of real and fabled animals.
Medieval book, especially illustrated, on beasts.
In medieval times, a book with stories and illustrations which depicted real and mythical animals or plants to illustrate a (usually Christian) moral. The stories were initially derived from the Greek Physiologus, a collection of 48 such stories, written in Alexandria around the 2nd century AD.
Translations of the Physiologus into vernacular languages (French, Italian, and English) date from the 13th century; illustrated versions are known from the 9th century. Much of later and contemporary folklore about animals derives from the bestiary, such as the myth of the phoenix burning itself to be born again.