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Advent Calendar 2019

We hope you have enjoyed our 2019 advent calendar! Here are all of the fantastic beasts for you to enjoy.  

26 December 2019Advent Calendar Manuscript Collection Photographic Collection Rare Book Collection

December 25 – Fairies

The myth of fairies has no single origin, but stories of fairy-like creatures are common throughout folklore. These magical creatures usually have a human appearance plus their most distinctive feature – wings. Andrew Lang, poet, novelist and collector of folklore edited The Red Romance Book (1905) with illustrations provided by Henry J. Ford. This illustration…

25 December 2019Advent Calendar Rare Book Collection

December 24 – Chimera

The composite Persian volume known as the Book of Wonders, deals with natural history and geography. It is made up of the ‘Seven Seas’ section of ‘Aja’ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara’ib al-mawjudat (Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing) by Zakariya’ ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini, a 13th century Persian physician, and a 14th century text…

24 December 2019Advent Calendar Manuscript Collection

December 23 – Monk Fish and Bishop Fish

Two wonderfully weird illustrations from Conrad Gesner’s Historiae animalium (1551-1558), are the bishop fish and the monk fish. The bishop fish or sea bishop, with its mitred head (which is slightly obscured by his seasonal party hat!), was recorded by Rondelet in his Libri de piscibus marinus (1554) as a monster in bishop’s garb caught…

23 December 2019Advent Calendar Rare Book Collection

December 22 – Zoomorphic initials

Today, rather than featuring a specific fantastic beast, we are highlighting the gradual. The gradual or graduale was a music book used in liturgy for the choral parts of the mass. Its huge size was to allow up to 4 choristers to use it at one time. This gradual was written for use by the…

22 December 2019Advent Calendar Manuscript Collection

December 21 – Werewolf

Werewolves are humans with the ability to change into wolves, voluntarily or not, most often on the night of a full moon. This illustration, by Henry J Ford, is from the The Red Romance Book (1905) edited by Andrew Lang, poet, novelist, collector of folklore and St Andrews alumnus. The image is from the story,…

21 December 2019Advent Calendar Rare Book Collection

December 20 – Drolleries

Last week we featured a small dragon which comes from our 15th century Rouen Book of Hours (ms38938). This devotional text includes 13 large full-page illuminated miniatures. The margins of these miniatures include imaginative drolleries (or grotesques) which, in addition to the dragon, include these fantastic creatures.

20 December 2019Advent Calendar Manuscript Collection

December 19 – Salamander

While salamanders are real creatures (lizards), within folklore they have been endowed with remarkable attributes, mainly their ability to withstand fire. The image of a salamander was often used within alchemy as a symbol of the soul and for its connection to the element of fire. This engraving is taken from German alchemist Michael Maier’s…

19 December 2019Advent Calendar Rare Book Collection

December 18 – Kelpies

The kelpie, or water-horse, is a shape-shifting water spirit from Scottish legend. Included in the Robert Burns poem ‘Address to the Deil’ (1786), the kelpie is said to lure travellers into the water. The kelpies shown here are 30-metre-high sculptures designed by Andy Scott. Completed in 2013, the sculptures are located at the extension to…

18 December 2019Advent Calendar Photographic Collection

December 17 – Basilisk

Known as the king of the serpents, the basilisk (from ‘basiliskos’ meaning little king) is a legendary reptile known to be able to kill with just a glance. The basilisk is referred to as the ‘king’ because of the crown shaped crest on its head– though it has swapped it out for a party hat…

17 December 2019Advent Calendar Rare Book Collection