Cover image for The book of fabulous beasts : a treasury of writings from ancient times to the present
The book of fabulous beasts : a treasury of writings from ancient times to the present
Nigg, Joe.
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xx, 408 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
A collection of writings about fabulous creatures, arranged chronologically by writer, with section introductions by the editor and accompanying illustrations.
Subject Term:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GR820 .B66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GR820 .B66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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What do green lions, nine-headed winged snakes, giant gold-digging ants and fish in the shape of bishops have in common? They all inhabit this new, comprehensive collection of strange and fantastic beasts. In excerpts spanning millennia and reflecting the development of the Westernimagination itself, we encounter old favorites like the dragon, unicorn, phoenix, griffin, and mermaid, as well as a host of other bizarre creatures. Comprising hundreds of well-known and obscure primary sources arranged chronologically by writer, The Book of Fabulous Beasts traces the development of imaginary animals as they appear and reappear in literary accounts from the Babylonian epic of creation to modern fantasy. From Herodotusto medieval bestiaries and travelers's tales, and from Renaissance heraldry, alchemy, and natural histories to the fantasy fiction of Tolkien, the author shows how these resilient beasts--once believed to be real--have transformed and regenereated through time, surviving even the Age of Reason thatbanished them to the realm of the "fabulous." With an extensive general introduction, glossary of animals, bibliography, index, and more than a hundred illustrations from a Babylonian cylinder seal of a god battling a dragon to James Thurber's drawing of a unicorn in a modern garden, this volumewill be the standard reference for years to come. The Book of Fabulous Beasts is the rare combination of an exhaustive source book and a delightful read. Readers can browse excerpts, trace one particular creature as it develops through time and translation, or read this epic story straight through, discovering along the way as much about thehistory and dreams of the human creature as about the fanciful animals on every page.

Author Notes

Joseph Nigg is the author of the award-winning Book of Gryphons, A Guide to the Imaginary Birds of the World, and Wonder Beasts: Tales and Lore of the Phoenix, the Griffin, the Unicorn and the Dragon.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Basilisks, griffins, and mermaids inhabit this ambitious collection of representative writings about mythical creatures that, according to the original context, may or may not exist. Nigg, the author of several books on imaginary animals, has arranged this source book chronologically and divided it into four parts roughly corresponding to the classical, medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods of Western history, each prefaced by a brief introduction. From Homer's sirens to James Thurber's unicorn, over 100 writers, both familiar and obscure, contribute to the literary histories of beasts. Although similar to Malcolm South's Mythical and Fabulous Creatures (LJ 6/15/87), Nigg's book is more comprehensive, focusing on primary sources‘poems, travelers' tales, the Bible, and fiction‘rather than on scholarly essays. The glossary, index, and cross references to particular beasts add to the accessibility of this recommended work.‘Cathy Sabol, Northern Virginia Community Coll., Manassas (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.