This article offers a general overview of the treatment of the animal world in medieval Latin encyclopaedias. The sections devoted to animals in them are the most “zoological” texts of the period, and their authors offer descriptive catalogues, of varying length and different groupings, of a variety of animal species. One encounters classificatory schemes based on the four elements or the hierarchy of species according to the Biblical tale of God’s Creation, though none of these schemes is followed with absolute strictness. One can also see at the end of the period covered in this article the limited effect of the newly translated zoological texts of Aristotle: they account for the appearance of some new species, but they do not yet exert a profound influence on the encyclopaedic discourse about animals.
Middle Ages, encyclopaedias, zoological classification, Aristotle.