A bestiary is a collection of short descriptions about all sorts of birds, beasts and animals, both real and imaginary. Often bestiary is too narrow a description, and the medieval term "natural history" is more apt as, especially in later periods, stones, minerals, herbs and trees might also be studied. The bestiary became a popular form in England in the 12th Century. One example of the late medieval version of a bestiary is John_Maplet's A_Greene_Forest.
Two schools medieval bestiary are known, each decended from early greek authours. The first type is very factual, transmitting myths only through ignorance. Best known are the works of Pliny the Elder, but a plethora of translations and works based on extended or condensed versions of this existed.
The other kind of bestiary is not concerned with accurate descriptions of the animals, but with using the animals to explain or portray a message. Early medieval bestiaries use the animals to give a moralising explanation of the animals traits and how that reflects upon christianity. From the 13th century onwards, "bestiaries of love" used the stories of the animals as a vehicle for the male to woo a lady. It tells fine messages about the desirable attributes of an animal and is meant to be a message about the man.
- The medeival bestiary: a collection of links and descriptions of bestiaries -http://bestiary.ca/index.html
- The Aberdeen Bestiary - http://www.clues.abdn.ac.uk:8080/besttest/firstpag.html