Andrés Ferrer de Valdecebro - Andrés Ferrer de Valdecebro

Andrés Ferrer de Valdecebro
Personal information
Birth 1620 View and modify data on Wikidata
Death 1680 View and modify data on Wikidata
nationality Spanish
Religious order Order of Preachers View and modify data on Wikidata
Professional information
Occupation Writer View and modify data on Wikidata

Andrés Ferrer de Valdecebro , also known by his anagram Sanedrio Rifer de Brocaldino ( Albarracín , 1620 - Alcalá de Henares , 1680 ), Dominican writer and Spanish Baroque ornithologist .


Image of the bear, extracted from the general and political government found in wild beasts and animals.

From a noble family, he professed as a Dominican in the Convent of Santo Tomás in Madrid . He traveled to New Spain and taught Theology at the Royal College of San Luis de Francia in Puebla de los Angeles . As rector of this school, he defended his privileges and reformed it to improve his results and income. He stood out as a preacher and catechist of the Indians neighboring Puebla. Returned to Madrid in 1675, he was appointed professor of Moral Theology at the Dominican College of Santo Tomás, where he had entered years before as a novice. He was a royal preacher, confessor of infants and qualifier of the Holy Office . His work General, Moral, and Political Government (1696), more than an ornithological treatise, is a kind ofmoral bestiary that includes not only birds, but mythological creatures, even the unicorn ; it is inspired by emblematic literature , but, being just as erudite, it excludes the enigma because it was directed primarily at preachers who wanted to raise the moral condition of the people; however, it is accompanied by eighteen woodcuts representing the animals described and moralized, made by Diego de Obregón . The following structure follows: image of the animal engraved in woodcut, description, habitat and characteristics of each animal, followed by a succession of symbolisms and morals drawn from all of the above. He also composed a biography of San Vicente Ferrer andThe why of all things , an attempt to allegorically explain the world and extract its moral sense within the most closed baroque pessimism , drawing inspiration from the Aristotelian questions that Marco Antonio Zimara , its main source, tried to answer . The book is conceived as a catechism, in the form of questions and answers regarding men and women, the different parts of the body, monsters or dreams, among other matters.

Animals in the work of Ferrer de Valdecebro

Ferrer de Valdecebro was the author of two treatises dedicated to terrestrial and volatile animals respectively. In the first of them, a general moral and political government found in wild beasts and animals taken from their natural properties and virtues.(1658), expands on the symbolic meaning of the lion (which, again, leads the work, given his status as king of animals), the elephant, the rhinoceros, the unicorn, the tiger, the ounce, the leopard, the hyena, wolf, lynx, bear, wild boar, deer, bull, camel, horse, hound and cynocephalus. With regard to birds, we can find references to the eagle (for a change, the queen of birds), the vulture, the stork, the heron, the swan, the phoenix, the pelican, the hawk, the owl, the parrot, goshawk, ostrich, peacock, raven, dove, rooster, and a series of birds considered monstrous by the author and come from different parts of the Orb, namely, as the harpy and the pegasus. His bestiary, for both terrestrial and volatile animals, is linked to the Old World,

As pointed out by its main scholar, Roig Condomina, [ 1 ]The greatest interest of the work is going to be located in the author's great capacity to draw a series of moralizing didactic conclusions from the behavior and morphology of animals that, although unknown to him in some cases, he considers real by its verisimilitude. Belonging to the order of Preachers, he dedicated his entire life to the art of sermons, also publishing a large number of works full of practical advice and indexes that would facilitate the ministry of preaching. He is fully immersed in the counter-reformist idea, of medieval origin, which considers nature as a divine means to show us all its truths, so its contemplation must transcend the sensitive in order to access the knowledge of God. Valdecebro uses a tradition of classical animalistic culture (historians and philosophers of antiquity), biblical, symbolic (pagan myths and hieroglyphics) and moralizing (medieval and contemporary texts) to fuse them in an orientation towards what the morality of a good Christian, showing, starting from the customs of the animals, what virtues are to be cultivated and what vices are to be prevented. In fact, in the prologue of the volume dedicated to the quadrupeds, the author mentions how

" Many have written about animals, making known what the great author of nature God deposited in his irrational instincts, to the admiration of his works, was nevertheless making foot in only the property or special virtue of the beast, or brute, without advancing the step, to make a path to higher knowledge ... Heaven did not destine the animals for the material service of man alone, that the bull's temperance does not serve for the culture of the fields. Nor the continence of the camel to carry more weight on their backs. From where it is necessary, that their perfections to a higher ministry serve ”.

Regarding the sources consulted, it would be worth highlighting a good representation of the classical world, of medieval authors, and of the symbolic and emblematic production of the moment, and a practically total neglect of the natural history of the 16th and 17th centuries, if we except the reference to Scalígero . The author attributes to each animal a series of specific virtues and vices, such as the lion's spirit, the elephant's temperance and greatness, the speed of the unicorn, the voracity of the tiger, the liberality of the ounce, the greed of the leopard, the discord of the hyena, the sight of the lynx, the anger of the bear, the ignorance and gluttony of the wild boar, the fidelity of the dog or the wisdom of the cynocephalus. The lion, for example, is presented to us as the king of beasts, "generous in spirit, noble in heart, bizarre in breath. The performance of his nature works was faithful, uniting in conformity with clemency and ferocity, revenge and piety, strength and humanity, irrationally so fierce and raw so voracious ”. He tells us that he lives in Africa and Asia, gives us a physical description, and sprinkles his story with legendary and moralizing elements, concluding with the statement that he is the prince of other creatures, which serves as a pretext to moralize about the virtues that the ruler must fulfill. [ 2 ]


  • The temple of fame, with political and moral instructions Madrid: Imprenta Imperial, by the widow of Ioseph Fernandez de Buendia, 1680.
  • History of the wonderful and admirable life of the second Paul Apostle of Valencia S. Vicente Ferrer Madrid: Mateo de Llanos, 1682. Reprinted in Madrid: Francisco Martinez Abad, 1725 and Manuel de Sancha, at the expense of the Royal Company of Printers and Booksellers of the Reyno, 1781.
  • The General, Moral and Political Government, found in wild beasts and animals (1658); had a continuation: General, moral, and political government: found in the most generous and noble birds: taken from their natural virtues and properties (1668), to which he added an appendix on monstrous birds in General, moral and political government, found in the birds ... added with the monstrous birds (Madrid 1683); Everything was reprinted together and posthumously with the general title of General, moral, and political Government: found in wild beasts, and sylvestre animals: taken from their natural virtues, and properties, with a particular table for various sermons of time, and of Saints ( Barcelona: 1696).
  • The why of all things .


  1. ROIG CONDOMINA, Vicente (1985). «" The animalistic emblems of Fray Andrés Ferrer de Valdecebro "." Goya: magazine of Art, 187-188 .
  2. ^ MORGADO GARCIA, Arturo (2016). The image of the animal world in modern Spain . Editorial UCA. p. 47-48. ISBN 978-84-9828-508-6 .