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Munster’s Delightful Menagerie of Monsters

Monsters/ Scandinavia. MUNSTER, S. [Basel, c. 1550]
Meerwunder und seltzame Their/ wie die in den Mitnachigen Landern im Meer. 11 x 13 ½ inches.
Fine hand color; slight centerfold wear, mounted on thin rice paper for support, very good.


A beautiful example of this fascinating and desirable 16th century woodcut--Munster’s visual compendium of sea and land monsters. Many of the former were inspired by whale sightings, as is suggested by the several creatures in the image spouting water. Other beasts seem quite familiar, though outsized; e.g. the two lobsters, one of which grips a hapless sailor in its massive claw. In the center is a swimmer being attacked by a shark, which in turn is being bitten by something yet larger and more exotic. Other monsters are entirely fantastic, such as the double-spouted, somewhat leonine beast in the upper center of the woodcut, and the bird-devouring tree in the lower left. A major source for these images was the famous Carta Marina map of Scandinavia of Olaus Magnus, which also inspired Ortelius’ Iceland map.

Cumming et al, Discovery of North America, p.44.

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