A Book of Monsters
February 11, 2019 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for an original taxonomy of monsters.

I seek a link to an illustrated compendium or taxonomy of monsters. I need it to originally have been created as a kind of encyclopedia or taxonomy any time before the 19th Century.
I do *not* need contemporary books listing medieval monsters or websites showing many kinds of ancient monsters, rather I need a taxonomy created as such from any time before the 19th Century.
I already know about Liber Monstrorum. and I do not need Asian monsters, only lists monsters that come from Europe.
posted by nantucket to Religion & Philosophy (5 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The workes of that famous chirurgion Ambrose Parey translated out of Latine and compared with the French, OF MONSTERS AND PRODIGIES. THE TWENTY FIFTH BOOK--CHAP. XII. Of monsters by the confusion of seed of divers kindes--may have some of what you're looking for. ("Monster" had a different meaning then: see
Teratology: “Monster” as a medical term, from the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelpia.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:38 PM on February 11, 2019

Dictionnaire Infernal has some good ones.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:38 PM on February 11, 2019

Conrad Gessner had a bunch of monsters infiltrate the pages of his History of the Animals. Given that early naturalists had to rely on word of mouth and historical texts, the veil between fantastic creature and poorly explained animal back then was pretty porous.

You might want to look into the Solomonic tradition for more Dictionnaire Infernal style grimoires of spirits, powers, and demons. You'll have to wade through a bunch of spells, but there's definitely a bunch of rankings, powers, and so on in them grimoires. Maybe also check out a bit of John Dee for the angelic ranks?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:45 PM on February 11, 2019

A lot of the medieval bestiaries may serve this purpose - they tended to mix real creatures with monsters. http://bestiary.ca/articles/family/mf_latin.htm is a decent resource.
posted by Hartster at 2:52 AM on February 12, 2019

Bear in mind that "monster" has shifted in its meaning over the course of centuries; in early modern Europe it meant both a creature that combined parts of humans and other animals (e.g., the mermaid) and a creature that was deformed compared to the norm for its type (e.g., conjoined twins).

That said, one late Renaissance compendium of both kinds is Ulisse Aldrovandi's 1642 Monstrorum historia ([Natural] History of Monsters. Aldrovandi died in 1605, with most of his compilations of natural history unpublished, but his disciples continued to edit and publish his material for decades.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:16 PM on February 12, 2019

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