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The Fine Print

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James Crowe

I have to say, that in my search for information on various mythical creatures for an article I’m writing, this work by Edward Topsell is most intriguing. Simply for the factual way in which they are presented. Unfortunately I have only seen the work in bits and pieces, as I have been unable to find it in e-text. Nor have I been able to find it in any local library.

Peter Danckwerts

I've just come across this discussion. I have a copy of The History of Four-Footed Beasts 1607 and The History of Serpents 1608 which I bought when I was feeling a lot richer than I am today and was looking for auction prices. They're very interesting works, and amusing because they mix real animals with ones that, even at the time, Topsell must has suspected were imaginary. Equally amusing is the way that small, familiar animals, such as domestic cats are given full pages, whereas, the hippopotamus (called a sea-horse in the book, and depicted with a crocodile in its jaws) takes a third of a page.

It is worth mentioning that the printer, William Jaggard, was the father of Isaac Jaggard, printer of the First Folio of Shakespeare's works. William died just before publication, which is probably why his name doesn't appear on the title page.

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