Cover image for The Tower menagerie : the amazing 600 - year history of the Royal Collection of wild and ferocious beasts kept at the Tower of London
The Tower menagerie : the amazing 600 - year history of the Royal Collection of wild and ferocious beasts kept at the Tower of London
Hahn, Daniel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2004.
Physical Description:
xxiii, 260 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL73.G72 L665 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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An entertaining and enlightening history of Britain's first zoo: the Tower of London menagerie. When King Henry III was given three leopards by his new brother-in-law, Frederick, the Holy Roman Emperor, he ordered -- in desperation -- that they be sent to the Tower of London, his great fortress by the bank of the Thames. After all, where does one keep such things? Soon after the leopards' arrival in 1235 they were joined by an even greater wonder, a huge Norwegian polar bear which was encouraged to catch its own food from the river to save on upkeep expenses. And over the next 600 years - until the menagerie was closed down by Wellington in 1835, a few years before it became clear he had an interest in the soon-to-open London Zoo - the Tower played host to thousands more exotic creatures, all brought from overseas by returning explorers or VIP guests. Daniel Hahn's charming history of the first zoo explores the uses and abuses of the menagerie and the legion of Great and Good who came to behold its wonders, from William Blake, who came to look at the 'tygers', to John Wesley, who played his flute to the Tower lions in an attempt to establish if they had souls. Fascinating and insightful in equal measure, The Tower Menagerie is both an intriguing survey of our changing attitudes to animals and a hugely entertaining canter through six centuries of British history.

Author Notes

Daniel Hahn is a writer, researcher, translator and editor who lives in London

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The Tower of London's Menagerie got started in 1235 when the Holy Roman Emperor gave England's Henry III three leopards; over its history it housed an array of animals from polar bears and lions to exotic birds and snakes. Because the records from the early years are sparse, London writer Hahn had little to work with when it came to describing the daily operations of the menagerie. Some insights are astounding (the drink of choice for Tower elephants was wine), but Hahn's coverage of bureaucratic issues like the salaries of the animals' keepers does little to convey a true sense of the menagerie. Still, Hahn creates a feeling of its impact on society when he uses the Tower's animals as a starting point to discuss our understanding of the animal world, and he offers intriguing anecdotes about how animals and their characteristics have become engrained in our culture and vocabulary. For instance, Hahn points out that bear and bull stock markets get their names from the way each animal fights when baited by dogs. Widening the scope of the book with entertaining trivia, off-beat tales and cheeky asides, Hahn manages to create a credible, living history from a collection of long-departed beasts and birds. Illus. Agent, Araminta Whitley. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Animal menageries have existed since ancient times, but the collection begun in the Tower of London in the 13th century was probably the first to evolve into a public amusement. Despite the lack of historical records prior to 1700, Hahn, a British literary researcher and historian, tries hard to paint a picture of the Tower Menagerie's early years (it grew out of European royalty's habit of giving each other exotic animals from the Middle East and Africa). Unfortunately, Part 1 dwells on the cultural perception of animals and relates incidental facts of English nobility in choppy, parentheses-laden asides. Only in later portions, which cover years for which the historical material is much richer, does the story become interesting. Anecdotes about the various animals abound, from a polar bear that fished in the Thames to a lion that kept a spaniel as a pet. Although the author omits full source citations, the story will appeal to casual zoo and London history buffs. Recommended for large academic libraries and specialized collections.-Alvin Hutchinson, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Chronology of Reignsp. xiii
Prefacep. xv
Prologuep. 1
1 Royal Giftsp. 7
2 Fearful Symmetryp. 37
3 Travelers' Talesp. 63
4 Fun and Gamesp. 85
5 Going to See the Lionsp. 117
6 Visitors, Novelists, Preachers, Journalists, Fools and Spiesp. 143
7 Science and Sensibilityp. 165
8 Compassion and Competition, and the Last Days of the Menageriep. 199
Epiloguep. 245
A Note on Sourcesp. 247
Indexp. 249