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Anonymous: Bestiary (Harley 4751) f.8r.; drawing of an elephant (13th century)

(British Library, London, UK)
An illuminated page made by an unknown English artist. this page comes from the manuscript Harley MS 4751. This manuscript contains a bestiary from various sources, a topography of Ireland on Irish birds and a description of various plants. This page shows an elephant which has a howdah in the shape of a castle on its back. Medieval bestiaries usually contained various anecdotes: A female elephant could breed only once in her life when she led her mate far to the east, where mandrake grew (an effective elephant aphrodisiac). A female elephant gave birth in water to protect herself and her calf from dragons. The elephant had no knees but walked on legs whose bones were a single fused column. Elephants were also recommended ingredients in medicines. The ivory of their tusks, when ground down, was thought to clear up blemishes. And, for a patient passing blood in his urine, drinking the blood of an elephant could act as a sovereign cure. Elephant dung was al…

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