Leeds ,

Object of the week- Monster manuals

Today, mythical beasts like unicorns and mermaids are firmly in the realm of fantasy.

But as these antique monster manuals show, in years gone by, those legendary creatures were considered as real and any other animal.

The colourful historic texts are on display at Temple Newsam House as part of the Fantastical Beasts exhibition, which explores the stories behind fabled fauna that can be found around the mansion.

Two replicas of late medieval bestiaries are on loan from the University of Leeds’s Brotherton Library which catalogue an array of mysterious creatures as well as a book of historical maps from 1584 which charts oceans teeming with terrifying monsters.

An 18th century medicine book entitled A History of Drugs depicts no less than five different types of unicorn while a collection of Australian folk tales explains how the duck-billed platypus came to be.

The books are displayed alongside a fossilised icthyosaurus, a dolphin-like Jurassic marine reptile which once ruled the seas, and pelvis of a dodo, the ill-fated birds which were hunted out of existence in the 1660s.

Leila Prescott, who has curated the exhibition, said: “Throughout human history there has been an enduring fascination with monsters and mythical creatures which is reflected in so many aspects of our culture.

“Today, we know those creatures exist only in our imaginations, but as we can see on the pages of these fascinating books, when science wasn’t quite so advanced and we knew less about the world around us, beasts like the dragon, unicorn and cockatrice were once considered as real as the crocodile or tiger.”

Fantastical beasts runs until November 3, 2019. For more details including opening ours and admission, please visit: https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/templenewsamhouse/exhibitions/fantastical-beasts