FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY

You are exploring:  Library  >
 
Exhibits Home  > 
  
Animals Through Human Eyes: Vintage Zoological Illustrations  > 
  
Foreigner  > 
  
Boundless Imagination

Boundless Imagination




 

Spotted Tiger

La Chine d’Athanase Kirchere de la Compagnie de Jesus: Illustre de Plusieurs Monuments tant Sacres que Profanes, selection from p. 111, 1670, Kircher, Athanasius, published by Ches Jean Jansson a Waesberge & les heritiers d'Elizee Weyerstrae: Amsterdam, Netherlands

The large cat here is labeled “Vera Tigridis Forma,” Latin for “True Form of the Tiger.”[1] Only by this title can we be sure that the feline depicted therein is, in fact, a tiger. The German author, Athanasius Kircher, often wrote about regions which he had never visited. Clearly, his version of a tiger, with its stripe-y spots and vague form of a female lion, does not derive from a personal sighting.

 

 

Unicorns

Historiae Naturalis de Quadrupedibus Libri. Cum Aeneis Figuris. Johannes Jonstonus, Medicinae Doctor, Concinnavit, Plate 12, 1657, Jonstonus, Johannes, published by Apud Ioannem Iacobi Fil. Schipper: Amstelodami, Netherlands

Natural history books such as this one occasionally include mythical beasts among the plethora of known or unknown animals. Here we see three types of unicorns: a rearing, well-endowed unicorn; a pawed, pig-snouted unicorn; and a goat bicorn. In the background, each animal quarrels with other beasts, in the illustrator’s interpretation of its behavioral patterns.

 

 

Hideous Crocodile

Satan; or, The Mystery of Ten Years,’ from The Boys of New York: A Paper for Young Americans, Vol. 11, No. 561, selection from front cover, 1886, De Vere, Howard, published by Frank Tousey: New York, USA

Divers in a “coral forest” 2.25 miles below sea level encounter a “hideous-looking animal shaped like a crocodile.”[2] Six feet larger than a normal crocodile and first seen eating huge oysters like a boy crushing peanut shells with his teeth, the underwater explorers decide to ignore it, assuming it would likewise leave them be. Instead, the “ocean reptile” stalks the men like a lion and takes one as prey to its labyrinth caves.[3] This unknown creature is described by comparison to known animals, and, like most awe-inspiring foreign animals, possesses great size.

 

References

[1] La Chine d’Athanase Kirchere de la Compagnie de Jesus: Illustre de Plusieurs Monuments tant Sacres que Profanes, p. 111, 1670, Kircher, Athanasius, published by Ches Jean Jansson a Waesberge & les heritiers d'Elizee Weyerstrae: Amsterdam, Netherlands

[2] ‘Satan; or, The Mystery of Ten Years,’ from The Boys of New York: A Paper for Young Americans, Vol. 11, No. 561, front cover, 1886, De Vere, Howard, published by Frank Tousey: New York, USA

[3] Ibid. p. 2