The Book of Beasts by T.H. White


Jonathan Cape, London. First published in 1954 – our copy is a reprint of 1955

Good condition but without dust jacket.

9 x 6 inches. Hardback.

We just love this book – so much that we have accidentally ended up with 2 copies.  One for each eye you might think – but no we have decided to sell one of them – (books - not eyes)

This is a translation of a Latin Bestiary* of the 12th century.

Delightfully illustrated throughout it contains vivid (although to the modern mind possibly a tad misleading) descriptions of animals both real and mythical

Here is just a whiff of one of them:

Cocodryllus ……  ‘so called from its crocus or saffron colour.  It breeds in the River Nile; an animal with four feet, amphibious, generally about thirty feet long, armed with horrible teeth and claws.  …. Its dung provides an ointment with which old and wrinkled whores anoint their figures and are made beautiful, until the flowing sweat of their efforts washes it away…….’

Is there no end to the useful information you find on

The footnotes tell us (among other things) that crocodile dung was thought good for freckles,  that it could be lighted and the smoke puffed into snake holes (we are not quite sure why one would want to do this – but – there we go).  The teeth were an aphrodisiac provided they were removed while the crocodile was alive (we think we will pass on that one).

Just think – 270 pages of pure joy like the above….

And for a less beastly price ... visit the price negotiator's den.

T.H. White (Terence Hanbury White – nicknamed ‘Timothy’ as a joke - after a famous chain of shops selling house-wares in the UK in the middle of the 20th century) was a scholar who is perhaps most famous for his novels The Sword in the Stone and The Once and Future King.

*Bestiary: a book consisting of images, descriptions, and stories of animals, both real and fantastic, frequently used as a vehicle for teaching Christian morality; these books were extremely popular during the Medieval period, especially in the British Isles


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