Fantastic beasts: unicorns, manticores and mermaids
Books have always been used as a way to share ideas and information across time, with details sometimes only known from word-of-mouth, illustrations or historical descriptions.
As a result, some natural history books from the 17th and 18th centuries present curious animals, which we now know to be mythical, as real. Think unicorns, mermaids, and the grinning Spanish manticore; a half-man, half-lion beast sporting a spiky tail, three rows of teeth - and a well-groomed coiffure and beard.
In this video Senior Librarian Dr Anna Welch shares her infectious fascination for these books, which are an entertaining mixture of theology, mythology and science.
All of these items are on display in our one-of-a-kind World of the book exhibition, celebrating the unique place that books hold in our minds and hearts.
More to explore
- Fish, lobsters and crabs of diverse colours and and extraordinary shapes by Louis Renard, 1754
- The history of four-footed beasts and serpents by Edward Topsell, 1658
- A description of the nature of four-footed beasts by John Jonston, 1657