A selection of woodcuts from a book entitled The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents, published in 1658. Most of this three-volume compilation is comprised of the zoological works of the English clergyman Edward Topsell who published several books on religion and other matters during his lifetime. A whole host of animals are represented in Topsell’s illustrations, all of which which came directly from earlier works by the Swiss physician, naturalist, and author Konrad Gesner. Amongst the usual suspects there are also more unusual mythical specimens, such as the “Hydra,” with two claws, a curled serpent’s tail, and seven small mammalian heads; the “Lamia,” with a cat-like body, hooves on the hind feet, claws on the front, and a human woman’s face and hair; and the “Mantichora,” with a lion’s body and mane, a man’s face and head of hair, and a grotesquely smiling mouth.
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