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Fallen Angels: Birds of Paradise in Early Modern Europe

- April 4, 2018 in Art & Illustrations, birds, birds of paradise, conrad gesner, conrad gessner, Religion, Myth & Legend, Ulisse Aldrovandi

When birds of paradise first arrived to Europe, as dried specimens with legs removed, they were seen in almost mythical terms — as angelic beings forever airborne, nourished by dew and the "nectar" of sunlight. Natalie Lawrence looks at how European naturalists of the 16th and 17th centuries attempted to make sense of these entirely novel and exotic creatures from the East.

Decoding the Morse: The History of 16th-Century Narcoleptic Walruses

- June 14, 2017 in carta marina, conrad gessner, Culture & History, Featured Articles, morse, olaus magnus, Religion, Myth & Legend, walrus

Amongst the assorted curiosities described in Olaus Magnus' 1555 tome on Nordic life was the morse — a hirsuite, fearsome, walrus-like beast, that was said to snooze upon cliffs while hanging by its teeth. Natalie Lawrence explores the career of this chimerical wonder, shaped both by scholarly images of a fabulous north and the grisly corporeality of the trade in walrus skins, teeth, and bone.