Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Pierre Boaistuau - Histoires prodigieuses (1560)

"An embalmed serpent sent by the Venetians to King Francis."

"Portrait of two admirable monsters, one male, the other female, seen in different regions."

"The monster which appeared by chance to St. Anthony while he was doing penitance in the desert."

"Monstrous death of Popiel, King of Pouloigne and of Hato, thirty second Archbishop of Mayance."

"Effigy of the false Imposter (Satan) sitting on a brass throne wearing on his head a crown like the tiara of the Pope."

"Man monster who has been seen in France in our time."

"Story of a King who was so fat, that he had his fat sucked out by leeches."

"Monstrous creature born to honourable parents."

"In June 1560, Pierre Boaistau, a French Renaissance writer, published a long and richly illustrated manuscript written in a beautiful italic script. It was published in Paris, but in the previous winter Boaistau travelled to England to present a specially prepared dedication manuscript of his work to Queen Elizabeth I who was said to be delighted by the gift.

The title of this work, Histoires Prodigieuses, could be translated into colloquial English as ‘Amazing Stories’. And they certainly are amazing. There are many stories of monsters, including one with the nose of an ox, the trunk of an elephant, the eyes of a cat situated above his navel, and the heads of dogs at the joints of the elbows and knees. Another monster, caught in a forest, was covered in hair but had the human shape and was ‘amorous of women’. There are stories of spectres and ghosts, of a woman entirely covered in fur ‘like a bear’, of several types of conjoined twins including one where the head of one twin is missing and the neck is joined to the middle of the abdomen of the other (both are illustrated as fully grown men), and of a monstrous child with four arms and four legs, and there are stories of cruelties to Christians and so on. A few of these stories may have been true, and a few more may have had a distant origin in fact. But most resemble the stories Othello invented to woo Desdemona." - Quote taken from an article at the Journal Of The Royal Society Of Medicine website.

See more at the Wellcome Images Collection.

1 comment:

Hemaworstje said...

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