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Konrad Lykosthenes, Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon (Basel: Heinrich Petri, 1557).

Reports of strange phenomena and creatures from foreign lands had long filtered back to Europeans who then proceeded to populate the blank spaces on maps with them. They also flourished as woodcuts and engravings in many books from the time, some of which were re-used in several different volumes owing to the cost of production. So for instance both the illustrations here, one of assorted sea-monsters, and the other showing Albrecht Durer’s well-known woodcut of a rhinoceros, appear in Lykosthenes’ book on signs and marvels, but also in numerous other volumes from the time, for example the 1559 edition of Sebastian Munster’s early geography Cosmographia of which the Library also has a copy. Durer had never actually seen a rhino, but based his depiction on accounts of a rhinoceros sent as a gift to King Emmanuel of Portugal by King Muzafar of Cambodia, who then forwarded it as gift to the Medici Pope, Leo X. Unfortunately on the journey to Rome the ship carrying it was wrecked and the animal lost. It did, however, achieve an immortality of sorts through Durer’s work, and was to influence depictions of all species of rhinoceros for at least two centuries.

Gift of Thomas Morton.