It’s likely that most of our forebears often lived in much closer contact with animals, keeping them in close proximity for the many resources they could provide. Some creatures, due to their behaviours, their importance or perhaps even their very scarcity, came to assume great cultural and spiritual value, shaping long-held myths and beliefs. And some were simply pets. We’ve a surprising number of books that look at different aspects of this special relationship but here are our top five.
A delightful read and a perennial seller – perfect! And I can never see its attractive cover without thinking of the sales rep who earnestly enquired, in his best 1930s gangster slang, “Why is the cat packing heat?” It’s OK, the cat’s not holding a gun, it’s a rat and yes, probably a dirty one.
Being an English Version of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 764
As well as being one of our bestselling books, Bestiary is an absolute gem packed with 136 stunning colour illustrations of all manner of creatures, some common, some exotic, and some stranger creatures that were perhaps the product of exaggeration, fear or just poor note-taking in the field. Each serves to demonstrate a moral example and a mystical meaning.
Dragons: The Modern Infestation
Like dragons, this is a very rare creature, for this detailed, authoritative guide to living with our winged, fire-breathing friends might fairly be called Boydell’s only spoof. And it’s an absolute hoot!
Representing Beasts in Early Medieval England and Scandinavia
Back on serious ground again, this investigation of the depiction of animals, birds and insects in early medieval material culture, from texts to carvings to the landscape itself, has won great acclaim. Fittingly, considering the raven on its striking cover, it flew off the shelves at its maiden Leeds IMC.
Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master
This large-format volume on the life and work of the great American wildlife artist sports over 200 illustrations that burst with colour. It’s glorious. And the perfect coffee table book for birders. In the Second World War, Arthur Singer served in the Ghost Army, a special unit in the US Army’s 603rd Camouflage Engineers, dedicated to creating new forms of battlefield deception.
(Sold by RIT Press in North America)