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December 23 – Monk Fish and Bishop Fish

Two wonderfully weird illustrations from Conrad Gesner’s Historiae animalium (1551-1558), are the bishop fish and the monk fish. The bishop fish or sea bishop, with its mitred head (which is […]

23 December 2019Special Collections

December 22 – Zoomorphic initials

Today, rather than featuring a specific fantastic beast, we are highlighting the gradual. The gradual or graduale was a music book used in liturgy for the choral parts of the […]

22 December 2019Special Collections

December 21 – Werewolf

Werewolves are humans with the ability to change into wolves, voluntarily or not, most often on the night of a full moon. This illustration, by Henry J Ford, is from […]

21 December 2019Special Collections

December 20 – Drolleries

Last week we featured a small dragon which comes from our 15th century Rouen Book of Hours (ms38938). This devotional text includes 13 large full-page illuminated miniatures. The margins of […]

20 December 2019Special Collections

December 19 – Salamander

While salamanders are real creatures (lizards), within folklore they have been endowed with remarkable attributes, mainly their ability to withstand fire. The image of a salamander was often used within […]

19 December 2019Special Collections

December 18 – Kelpies

The kelpie, or water-horse, is a shape-shifting water spirit from Scottish legend. Included in the Robert Burns poem ‘Address to the Deil’ (1786), the kelpie is said to lure travellers […]

18 December 2019Special Collections

December 17 – Basilisk

Known as the king of the serpents, the basilisk (from ‘basiliskos’ meaning little king) is a legendary reptile known to be able to kill with just a glance. The basilisk […]

17 December 2019Special Collections

December 16 – Kraken

The kraken is a giant sea monster from Scandinavian folklore, said to plague sailors. Olaus Magnus, a Swedish author most well known for his Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (A Description […]

16 December 2019Special Collections

December 15 – Blemmye

Though perhaps not strictly a fantastic beast, we had to include the unusual blemmye in this calendar. The blemmye or mythical headless man has been known by various names and […]

15 December 2019Special Collections

December 14 – Cerberus

Cerberus, the ‘hound of Hades’, is a three headed dog with the tail of a serpent, which according to mythology, guards the gates of the underworld. Cerberus appears in many […]

14 December 2019Special Collections