Spent some time here; http://www.ingenious.org.uk/Read/ which has a catalogue of lots of beautiful, strange, curious images curated for future generations to stop and marvel at. This digital painting of a gorgeous bird was a result of that wander around a miscellany of old curiosities.The original oriole was beautifully illustrated in ”Cimelia physica: Figures of rare and curious quadrupeds, birds,’ in the way that botanical illustrators worked. Accurate depictions to further scientific knowledge, they are works of art in their own right. I wanted to give it a more fairytale finish,so I played around a little, and came up with the picture you see in front of you.One old portfolio that sparked my imagination was a book compiled and published in 1607, illustrating all the known zoological and mythical four legged beasts. I wanted to know who would have read this volume, and whether the illustrations of half beast, half man would have been seen as real, much in the same way we still think of the Yeti, possible manifestations of things never yet captured and catalogued. The book was by Edward Topsell, and he described it as ‘The historie of foure-footed beastes. Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day. By Edward Topsell.,
Some of the plates are shown below, illustrating the chasm between known knowledge of observed animals and mythological creatures. Of course it was soon outdated as new discoveries were made one on top of the other, but it doesn’t take away form the fact that Topsell’s work was the first major book on animals printed in Britain in English. That’s a major feat, and it continues to fascinate minds like mine, that enjoy the curious. I realise not many people would have been reading then, or have had access to books like this, but even so, some did, and I wonder what went through their minds as they came across one vision after another. We have had the benefit of media streaming documentaries about wildlife and natural history, and they continue to astound and astonish. Same thing really. Almost.