How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

People have been drawn to stories about exotic animals throughout our history. The further you go back in that history, the less likely those stories were accurate. Here is a gorgeous compendium of illustrations showing how people imagined real animals they had only heard about.

Crocodiles from Liber Floridus (Book of Flowers), an encyclopedia by Lambert, Canon of Saint-Omer between 1090 and 1120.

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

(via Erik Kwakkel)

Animals from the Rochester Bestiary, c. 1225-1250

A crocodile:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

Elephants:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

Lions and other animals:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A lion:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A colorful panther:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A crocodile from the Northumberland Bestiary, fol. 49v, mid-1250s

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

An elephant from the 13th century, by Guillaume le Clerc

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

An elephant from Italy, c. 1440

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

(via British Library)

Lions from the Ashmole Bestiary (f.10v), 1511

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A whale from Adriaen Coenen's Visboek (Fish Book), 1560s

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

(via Koninklijke Bibliotheek)

An elephant and a giraffe by Noè Bianco, 1568

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

(via NYPL Digital Library)

The History of Four-Booted Beasts and Serpents, by Edward Topsell, 1658

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A beaver:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A dromedary:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

(via University of Houston Digital Library)

A history of the Earth and animated nature, by Oliver Goldsmith, 1825

A hippo:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

Seals:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

Lions:

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

(via Biodiversity Heritage Library)

A striped hyena, by Aloys Zötl, 1831

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

Gibbons, by Aloys Zötl, 1833

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

The Hoolock Gibbons, by Aloys Zötl, 1835

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

The Cheetah, by Aloys Zötl, 1837

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A rhinoceros, by Aloys Zötl, 1861

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A sea turtle, by Aloys Zötl, 1867

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

A walrus, by Aloys Zötl, 1879

How Europeans Imagined Exotic Animals Centuries Ago, Based on Hearsay

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(via Wikimedia Commons 12 and British Library)