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December 3, 1982

On Monsters and Marvels

JAMA. 1982;248(21):2912. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330210084057

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Paré's book on monsters, which stems from the late 16th century, is now available to English readers. The 19th-century editor of Paré's works, Malgaigne (from whose text of 1840 the present work is translated), called it "one of the most curious books of the French Renaissance." At first glance the most striking feature is the abundant woodcuts, which illustrate various "monsters"—with two heads, or four limbs, or an additional trunk; hermaphrodites, Siamese twins, amelias, skeletal deformities in great variety; together with some pathological curiosities other than obstetric prodigies. There are also many strange animals once deemed quite marvellous—rhinoceros, whale, giraffe, and toucan, among others—as well as some mythological creatures. Some of these monsters Paré himself had seen. Others were vouched for by friends or had appeared in printed sources, which go back to Pliny.

The different entities are the subjects of some 39 short chapters that provide some exposition. Some