The Book of Mir­a­cles

Does this 500-year-old book that’s full of far-fetched tales have any rel­e­vance to to­day’s fan­tasy art?

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First pub­lished in the Ger­man city of Aus­burg in around 1550, The Book of Mir­a­cles was com­mis­sioned by Protes­tants to col­late Bi­b­li­cal tales and more re­cent mirac­u­lous and apoc­a­lyp­tic events. The orig­i­nal man­u­script lay hid­den for years, but it was dis­cov­ered in re­mark­ably good con­di­tion in a pri­vate collection and reprinted by art specialist Taschen.

There’s a kind of per­ver­sity in look­ing back at the im­ages from the present day. Af­ter all, many of the people who saw the im­ages would have be­lieved them to be true. The Tiber monster – a crea­ture with the head of an ass and body of a woman – that washed up on the banks of the River Tiber, could have been con­sid­ered a real en­tity walk­ing among the god-fear­ing folk, rather than the bloated goat corpse it prob­a­bly was.

We may laugh at such tales, but in the same sec­tion there’s a gi­ant lizard and an om­nipo­tent com­puter net­work – ei­ther sound fa­mil­iar?

The Book of Mir­a­cles shows mankind has been telling far-fetched sto­ries for cen­turies and could be con­sid­ered a pro­gen­i­tor of fan­tasy il­lus­tra­tion.

As the ti­tle hints, The Book of Mir­a­cles is full of mirac­u­lous and apoc­a­lyp­tic tales.

Not ev­ery fan­tasy is so far-fetched. There’s an om­nipo­tent com­puter net­work for starters…

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