Dome levels 4 and 5 will be closed to the public from Monday 13 May to Friday 24 May. Visit our refreshed World of the Book exhibition from Saturday 25 May.

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Fantastic beasts: unicorns, manticores and mermaids

15 December 2020

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.

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