The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet

The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet is finally ready for purchase in printed or e-book format. All information in The Memory Whisperer Shop. It includes 73 original art works in high resolution and instructions of how to use for memorising names, lists, speeches and anything which uses words.

The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet

This book offers two totally new memory devices based on medieval memory techniques. The Visual Alphabet is the starting point, a sequence of animals and human characters. It is used to make information memorable by adding vivid images to whatever you are trying to remember. The sequence is perfect for memorising speeches, lists or anything where the order is important.

A double page from The Bestiary
A double page from the Visual Alphabet
The printed version is a little A6 book, just right to carry around.

The much more extensive Bestiary is used for memorising anything which uses words, especially people’s names. The Visual Alphabet gives a starting point for the first letter of a name, but the Bestiary offers the first two letters, so is a much more effective memory prompt. By imagining the beast interacting with the person as you chat, you will create an image which will point you to the name whenever you need it.

Presented with dubious quality poetry to look medieval, The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet is a practical memory tool for every day use.

Instructions from the book:

This memory aid starts with a medieval idea, the Visual Alphabet. This sequence of creatures gives a sequence of pegs with which to associate your information. You will always get them in order.

The spider goddess Arachne throws her web over the Bird who is being attacked by the Cat being burnt by the Dragon who is also burning the Eagle who is just about to eat the Frog resting on the horn of a Goat being attacked by a Hydra. The Hydra is attacking an Imp who is attempting to kick the hat off a Jester who is attacking a Kitten just about to be eaten by a Lion. On the tail of the Lion hangs a little Marmoset who is secretly being watched by a Neanderthal linked by vine to an Owl who is being stalked by a Panther. The tail of said Panther and Quetzalcoatl are tangled as the feathered serpent attacks a Rat sitting on a Skull being bitten by a Toucan sitting on the tail of a Unicorn. Escaping all this mayhem, the Unicorn has a Vulture resting on its horn. He is eyeing off the Wombat who is being attacked by Xena the warrior woman standing on the horns of a Yak just about to be zapped by Zeus.

This list can be used to memorise anything with a sequence such as a speech, list of winners or even your shopping. It can also be used to memorise people’s names. Just note the letter that starts their name and associate that creature with the person in front of you. You may need to make further links to get the rest of the name if you don’t think the single letter will be enough.

As lots of names start with Ma or Ja or St, for example, you will do far better to associate the beast with the first two letters of the name using The Bestiary, based on the mediaeval books designed to memorise virtues and vices. You don’t need to remember the whole 264 at a single go. Just add in those you need gradually. Meanwhile, if you don’t know the relevant beast, use the Visual Alphabet.

As my artwork may well be insufficient for you to identify the beast I have added poetry, of sorts, to include its name. There were many letter combinations for which I could not find any beast and so became creative (or desperate).

The purpose of my Bestiary, fortunately, is not to be a great work of art nor of poetry. It is merely to be memorable and fun.

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Author: lynne

I am an Honorary Researcher at LaTrobe University. I am the author of 19 books, the most recent being 'Spiders: learning to love them' (Allen & Unwin), 'Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies' (Cambridge University Press, 'The Memory Code' (Allen & Unwin, AUS; Pegasus Books, US and Atlantic Books, UK), 'Memory Craft' (Allen & Unwin, AUS; Pegasus Books, US) [and foreign translations, audio versions and so on]. My latest book is co-authored by Margo Neale. 'Songlines: the power and promise' and published by Thames & Hudson with the National Museum of Australia.

11 thoughts on “The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet”

  1. I am in the U.S. and have just downloaded The Bestiary and Visual Alphabet from Amazon via Kindle Unlimited! While I am looking forward to reading & cherishing this book, just want to say, Prof. Kelly, that I hope you are reaping some royalties as well as accolades for your work. I’ll be certain to “review” and promote this and all of your other great works.
    With appreciation,
    Tina Weymann in Rochester, New York

    1. Thank you so much for such lovely comments, Tina. I do like being called Prof Kelly. Unlike in the US where I would be entitled to that tile, in Australia, Professors are the very top of the academic tree. So thank you!

      Please call me Lynne! [Offically Dr Kelly, but I’d rather Lynne.]

      I do get some royalties, but not huge – but I am really keen to get these ideas out into the world which is more important to me. So thank you for anything you might do to spread the word. It is much appreciated.


  2. Lynne
    This looks absolutely fascinating. I didn’t know it was in production. See you in August at the Lyceum

    1. Thank you, Kathy. I’ll bring some Bestiaries along to the Lyceum as well as Memory Craft. Looking forward to seeing you again.


  3. Yes I agree that would be a terrific activity. I had real success with a lukasa last year that students created solely for the “use of the cases” in Latin. It worked well with the Year 11 students. There was some initial resistance as I think they’re used to things being “hard”. One particularly confident girl memorised the whole list within three lessons, which I could never have expected normally. We tried at Year 8 using their journeys to school as a memory trail for vocabulary, but I think your bestiary idea is much more suited to vocabulary. I’m really looking forward to your Memory Craft evening in Vermont in August.

    1. I am so keen to talk about your experiences with students. I didn’t know you were coming to the Vermont event. Maybe we could talk before or after the event? I am staying in Melbourne that night.

    1. Thank you, Felicity! I wonder if you could create a Latin Bestiary with your class that they could then use to remember words which start with the same first letters, or use a Latin version for remembering names. It would be an interesting exercise to see what they can come up with for the Beasts, or alternatives when there aren’t beasts. Just thinking aloud at the moment because it is you who wrote! I do use the bestiary a bit for vocabulary for French and Mandarin – and intend to do that more. For example, for le pays (country) in French, I imagine a Panda (my Pa beast) being sent to lots of different countries. It just prompts the word. But it would be so much better if I used a French bestiary. I must create one when I get a chance. So much fun to be had!

      Thank you for commenting!


      1. ” But it would be so much better if I used a French bestiary. ”

        Lynne, did you ever do that (and the same question to Felicity for the Latin)? I am considering doing one for Old English so any account yours’ experiences would be very interesting.
        Slightly off-topic: Your advice in Memory Craft p.51 “that absolutely everywhere needs a name” is proving to be of great help! Also I don’t recall any other Memory Expert I have read/listened to saying similar or at east not so clearly and memorably (“Dead Dino Drive” *snork*)!

        1. I have started the French Bestiary, but got sidetracked into Mandarin. I am using a different format of the Bestiary for Mandarin, given that there are a limited number of syllables which form all words in pinyin.

          But I really want to do a bestiary for French. And so many other things. Why are there so few hours in a day?

          My method for choosing creatures was to do the obvious ones, but be careful off too many cats or birds because they become confused when you are making images.

          Then I went online looking for animals with search such as “animal starting with …”. When that didn’t work I went to mythological creatures, plants, characters and then, when desperate – any word!

          I’d love to hear how you go. And you have now inspired me to get back to the French one. We can compare notes!


          1. OK. You’ve got me back on it. I am starting with this list of possibilities:


            And a blank spreadsheet with the double letters I used for the Bestiary and singles for the Visual Alphabet. I may have to add some or delete some because I was only working on names when I developed it. I have had to add some for the way I am doing Mandarin, but that’s a very different story.

            I can send you that blank spreadsheet (Excel) if you want it. It is formatted to print on a single page because I like to scribble on paper when I am messing about with something.

            I’ll now select the best animals for memory and words and put them in the spreadsheet. So for C, for the Visual Alphabet, I’ll use Chat, because I have Cat and am used to it. For Ch I’ll use dog, Chien. So now all other Ch animals can be eliminated from the possibles-list. I’ll keep filling in the spreadsheet that way. Then I’ll know which combinations I have to get more creative about.

            Does that make sense?

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