The book is made of 91 sheets of stiff vellum, and contains 114 miniatures portraying real and fantastic animals.
The text is written in Gothic, and each page contains 24 lines.
The parchment binding has been well preserved, except for the fading of the colors and the gold in the miniatures.
It is possible that some figures have been outlined anew, at a later date (ex. 29, 36 v., 37 v., 40,40 v.).
The manuscript is in-quarto, and it’s stitched of 15 separate files.
This particular book is very peculiar, because its quaternions are different from the usual ones: instead of the classical 4 sheets, the first file is a quaternion with two sheets cut off, and the second is a binion.
There is another peculiarity: this Bestiary was completed by a chapter of the Genesis, written at the same date of the main part of the manuscript, as is shown by the hand-writing and the style.
The manuscript’s format is highly heterogeneous, showing the complexity of its creation: we can see additions and insertions, along with references to several different models. It is clear that between sheets 42 and 43 two sheets are missing: they supposedly contained texts about the dromedary, the donkey and the beginning of the chapter on horses, with important miniatures.
The presence of barely legible notes in French, made between the 15th and the 16th Century, is proof that the manuscript was in France during this period.
In the last page of the book can be found a Latin inscription made by the owner in the 18th Century, “Hie liber attinet ad Franciscum de la Morliere”, i.e. “This book belongs to Fran-cisc de la Morlier”
During the years of the French Revolution the manuscript was part of the collection of P. Dubrovsky, secretary of the Russian Embassy in Paris during the reign of Catherine II, as shown by his signature on the first and the last page of the book. Dubrovsky collected many West European manuscript, which he then gifted Alexander I: this explains how the Bestiary came to be in the collection of the Imperial Public Library.
The Bestiary is a mix of different sources, which were properly arranged only in the 13th Century.
It opens with the description of the beasts of prey, instead of the usual chapter on cattle as done in all the traditional Bestiaries of the 13th century.
Following there are chapters on exotic animals, probably derived from Solinus and the Hexameron by St. Ambrose.
After the long and heterogenous introduction there is the text of the bestiary.
This Bestiary also includes a chapter on fire stones, and the story of a diamond, the last one included into the chapter about the wolf.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "St. Petersburg Bestiary": Bestiario de San Petersburgo facsimile edition, published by AyN Ediciones, 2002