Richard de Fournival’s Bestiary of Love

Links to some of the manuscript sources for Richard de Fournival’s Bestiaire d’amours.

Richard threatens to make a horrible loud noise like the cock, rather than sing (i.e. write prose rather than lyric).
Richard is going to make a horrible loud noise like the cock, rather than sing (i.e. write prose rather than lyric).

This year (2013) I will be co-organizing a Middle French reading group with my colleague Jonathan Morton. This page is designed to be useful to others attending that group but also anyone else interested in this particular work. While the Bestiary of Love doesn’t have any music in it directly, its multi-talented author, Richard de Fournival, was a composer of vernacular songs, some of which were also used as voices in polyphonic motets.

The Bestiary of Love is a fascinating and curious prose work which has quite a lot to say about song and singing, as well as closing — in two sources — by citing a refrain that is the opening of a polyphonic motet found in several sources. Most sources of the Bestiary are richly illustrated (or at least designed for illustrations that were never completed). The Bestiary is often bound with musical material, which is noted here. Many are now available online. Here is a listing of some of these, using the sigla in the 1957 edition by Segre. I made my notes on Segre’s introduction when I was researching Sung Birds in the early 2000s, so they’re not complete. LINKS ADDED AND UPDATED NOV 2020.

A. F-Pn fr.25566 (i.e. TrouvW; RenartV); MS late 13thC; detailed listing for MS on Arlima. This is the base MS for Bianciotto’s edition. This large source contains Richard’s other French prose works: the Consaus d’amours and the Poissance d’amours; it also contains his songs. In addition, the manuscript transmits the notated songs of Adam de la Halle and the poems Renart le Nouvel and Tourneiment Antecrit. Illustrated. The Bestiary starts on f.83r and is followed by the Response.

B. F-Pn fr.412; MS dated 1285. On Gallica it is identified only as ‘vie de saints’. It opens with a rhymed Computus known from other MSS (see here). The Bestiary starts on f.228r and is followed by the Response. This is one of two versions to cite a motet incipit (refrain) at the end of the former work.

C. F-Pn fr. 12786 (=Trouvk); early 14thC. Designed for illuminations that were never entered, although they are rubricated, and, elsewhere, for polyphonic rondeaux, including some by Adam de la Halle, the staves and notes of which were never entered into the space provided. Its other contents include the Roman de la Poire, the first part of the Roman de la Rose and an anonymous continuation. The Bestiary starts on f.31r.

D. F-Pn fr.12469; first half of 14thC. The Bestiary opens the manuscript on f.1r. Its two other contents are Goussin de Metz, Image du Monde and Huon de Méry, Tourneiment Antecrit.

E. F-Pn fr. 1444; late 13thC. Black-and-white microfilm images online at Gallica. The Bestiary starts at f.257r with a later folio in a cursive hand before continuing in the original gothic script on f.258r. Arlima has a complete listing for this manuscript, which contains eschatological, bestiary, Marian, and historical materials.

F. F-Pn fr. 24406 (= TrouvV); 13thC for main corpus but 14thC for Bestiary. This is one of the principal notated trouvère sources. The Bestiary is among less formally copied items at the end of the manuscript, added later, and starts on f.141r and is followed by notated Marian songs (plus some with staves but not notes), also part of the latterly added contents. Space was left for small illustrations in the Bestiary but these were never entered, even though the earlier part of the manuscript is illuminated.

G. F-Pn fr. 15213; 14thC; detailed listing for MS on Arlima. The Bestiary begins on f.57ra after a moralized Aesop. Large-format illuminations.

H. F-Dm 526; 13thC. Treatises on love (anonymous, but  Segre notes attribution to Richard by Langlois), plus Richard’s Puissance d’amours precede the Bestiary, which starts on f.20 and is followed by the Response, the Roman de la Rose, and works by Baudouin de Condé, among others. The manuscript ends with a prayer to Mary, ascribed to Richard, but by Thibaut d’Amiens. MS was once owned by Claude Fauchet who annotated it.

I. F-Psg 2200; dated 1277. The Bestiary forms part of diverse contents, preceded by Guillaume de Conches’s Philosophiae Compendium, the Image du monde, a Lapidary, a short poem based on Isidore, a computus, and mathematical materials, and followed by texts relating to love. This is the base MS for Segre’s edition. The online interface is not ideal but there is metadata here. The Bestiary starts on f.173r.

J. F-AS 657 (139), 13thC. The incomplete Bestiary occupies ff.101-114v; this is MS TrouvA. Stones 2013, III-5 dates it to c.1278. This manuscript’s chansonnier section contains many songs with musical notation attributed to Richard de Fournival and a miniature depicting him seated at a desk, wearing an academic hat and gesturing with both hands. Other contents include saints’ lives, prose dedicated to Mary, and an explanation of the Mass.

K. B-Br 10349-414; 15thC. Many and varied spiritual, devotional, and school texts bound together. The incomplete Bestiary is on f.227, preceded by an unedited prayer and followed by a chronicle on the city of Tournai.

L. GB-Lbl Harley 273; 14thC. Insular manuscript with large mixture of contents in French and Latin, including a Psalter from Ludlow, and Matins of our Lady, and the Office for the dead in French. The Bestiary starts on f.70r and has black ink drawings. Later, the MS has rules for love, charms, medical recipes, extracts from the Pseudo-Turpin chronicle, Gautier de Coinci’s Cinq joies nostre Dame, and Nicholas Bozon‘s Pleyne d’amour’.

M. US-NYpm 459; beginning of 14thC.  Contains an expanded form of the work, with a short prologue and 20 additional animals added at the end (as also in Q). The work, which starts on f.2r, is followed by book 4 of Aldobrandino of Siena’s Régime du corps, which is on physiognomy and gives details of how to spot character from appearance.

O. GB-Ob Douce 308 (=TrouvI; MotD); early 14thC. The images are online: see my blogpost here! The Bestiary starts on f.86r. There is a rather patchy listing for the MS on Arlima, which contains Jacques de Longuyon’s Vows of the Peacock before the Bestiary, which is followed by Jacques Bretel’s Chauvency, 516 lyrics without musical notation and Huon de Méry’s Tourneiment Antecrist.

P. I-Fl Plut LXXVI, 79; 14thC. Directions to the illuminator are in Lombard dialect. Contains Guillaume de Conches’s Livre de moralités, a Lapidary, and the only known copy of Agnes et Melibeus (which cites refrain ‘Dame mal mariee / Dieu vous donne bon ami’). The Bestiary is copied on folios 25-32, 17-24, and 37.

Q. I-Fl Cod. Ashburnhamiani, Fondo Libri 50.  14thC codex also containing other French works. The Bestiary is the first item. See the catalogue listing here. Contents include a franco-italian version of Jugement d’Amours, the Distichs of Cato, a prose Old French Apollonius of Tyre, Bret, and various parts of Guiron le Courtois.

R. MS containing only the Bestiaire d’amours, now in a private collection (see Fifty Magnificent Illuminated Manuscripts: London, 3 December 2002. London: Sotheby’s, 2002). Some images and a description are available here.

S. CH-Gu. Arlima (see no.6 of the prose versions listed here) notes this a late 13th or early 14thC manuscript containing only a fragment of the Bestiary.

T.  I-Tn L. III. 22; 13thC. Not online presumably because the MS badly burnt during the library fire of 1904 and the part containing the Bestiary is no longer legible. Segre reports the contents from Langlois, writing before the fire, as being a fragment of an unidentified dialogue, the Roman de la Rose, and the Bestiary (from f.146).

V. A-Wn 2609; second quarter of 14thC. Starts with Bernier de Chartres’s Vraie medicine d’amours (an imitation of Bestiary, which it cites); the Bestiary itself starts on f.11, and is followed by the Response, a reply to the response by the lover, and a reply to that by the lady (!). See the listing on Arlima. A French Ovid is announced after that, but is not present.

W. I-Ma  I. 78 sup.; 14thC. And library catalogue details here. Copied after the Roman de la Rose, starting acephalously at f.133r.

Y. I-Mb AC.X.10; 14thC. Not online. According to Zingesser 2020 this is only partially legible on account of damage to the manuscript.

Z. Siglum ascribed by Zingesser 2020 to a fragment preserved in St Petersburg, described in Lozinski, ‘Un fragment du Bestiaire d’amour de Richard de Fournival’, Romania 51 (1925): 561–68. Not online.

Lost manuscripts

1. noted in the 1373 catalogue for the Louvre: Le bestiaire Maistre Richart de Fournival damours; le compost; limage du monde; le tournoiement antechrist, que fit un moine de Saint Germain des Pres, avecques pluseurs chansons notees. This is also in the 1411 inventory.

2. also noted in the 1373 Louvre catalogue, Segre adduces a ‘bestiare’ following a Livre du Tresor and followed by L’image du Monde in prose, well-copied, and in Picard. This seems unproven to me.

3. noted in the Visconteo-sforzesca library in Pavia, 1426, identified definitively by incipit and explicit, which Segre speculates possibly corresponds to the ‘De natura animalium’ in the 1459 inventory. The latter connection seems unproven to me.


Bianciotto, Gabriel. Le Bestiaire d’amour et La Response du Bestiaire: Édition bilingue. Champion Classiques: Moyen Âge. Paris: Honoré Champion, 2009.

Segre, Cesare, ed. Li Bestiaires d’amours di maistre Richart de Fournival e li response du bestiaire. Vol. 2, Documenti di filologia. Milan and Naples: Riccardo Ricciardi, 1957.

Stones, Alison. Gothic Manuscripts, 1260-1320. A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in France. 4 vols. London: Harvey Miller, 2013-14.

Zingesser, Eliza. Stolen Song: How the Troubadours Became French.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020.


  1. This will be a fantastic follow up to the Rose reading group! I look forward to it immensely.

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