Monday, January 27, 2014

A polar bear in the Thames

Parker Library, Corpus Christ College, Cambridge
     "Quotations range from accounts to zoology, though rarely do the two coincide as vividly as in a quotation from the 1252 Liberate roll from the National Archives, in which we see a record of an instruction to the keeper of the 'white [i.e. polar] bear' in the menagerie at the Tower of London, which had recently been sent to the King from Norway, to have a muzzle made together with 'a long and strong rope to hold the bear while it fished in the Thames'."

     Richard Ashdowne, "Ab to zythum:  heroes of medieval Latin," on the compilation of the Dictionary of medieval Latin from British sources, of which he was the closing (and remains the current) editor, Times literary supplement, January 3, 2014, 13 (12-13).  The fish were in addition to the "4d a day for food" imposed by Henry III on the sheriffs of London.  Three leopards anchored the little zoo, and an elephant was added in 1255 (The London encyclopædia, ed. Weinreb & Hibbert (Bethesda, MD:  Adler & Adler, 1986 [1983]), s.v. Tower of London, p. 872a).  Cf. also
     The image of the elephant is one of the two contemporary renditions by Matthew Paris.

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