Has been | 18 June 2022 - 18 September 2022

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Summer exhibition ‘BookZOO’

From 21 June until 18 September House of the book will present the family exhibition ‘BookZOO’. Representations of animals in old and new books reflect the attitude of humans towards animals. For this exhibition, the museum will be transformed into a zoo where visitors walk past mythical creatures from the Middle Ages, scientific drawings of animals from the 17th century, animals in old children’s books and abstract animals in modern artists’ books. Along the way, visitors will also come across many interesting facts and amusing anecdotes. They will go on safari and when they’re finished they can give their self-made animal a spot in the last room. The museum’s rich collection of illustrated books, from medieval bestiaries to modern artists’ books, is the basis for the exhibition.

Strange, fantastic, symbolic, edifying and useful animals

Representations of animals in books have different functions. They taught people about animals in distant lands that they had never seen. In the Middle Ages there were bestiaries, a sort of medieval encyclopedia about nature. In these, animals were described in great detail and depicted. It didn’t matter whether or not the animal actually existed. Sometimes there were fanciful tales about mermaids and dragons. Animals occur frequently in children’s books and also in the Bible. Their adventures are metaphors for how one should live. Animals serve as symbols of human traits, good or bad. What an animal symbolizes can vary according to culture or time period. And then there are accounts of how animals can be used for medicine. For example, in the Hortus Sanitatus by Jacobus Meydenbach of 1491, it states that oil from the body of a crocodile works well against wrinkles.

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De unicornu observatoines novae Th Bartholines 16 78 108 C5


Luigi Serafini, Codex Seraphinianus, 1981. A sort of encyclopedia written in an incomprehensible script with drawings of bizarre creatures and objects.

Thomae Bartholini, De Unicornu Observationes Novae, 1678