Strange Beasts in Mexico,
From America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World

Title

Strange Beasts in Mexico,
From America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World

Creator

Jacob van Meurs
Dutch, c. 1619–before 1680
Published in 1671 by John Ogilby
English, b. Scotland, 1600–1676

Date

1671

Description

The two curious animals depicted in the center here, identified by their genus in the plate (Papio Parion and Papio), are baboons, which, we are informed on the following page in America, “are big and heavy, with ugly heads, short legs like a man, and tails standing upward.” Baboons, though, are Old World Monkeys; they are not indigenous to Mexico or any other region of the Americas. This serves as a splendid example of how authors and illustrators of natural histories, as late as the waning years of the seventeenth century, continued the time-honored practice of relying more heavily on earlier published reports than on direct observation. Jacob van Meurs’ imagery ultimately derives, through numerous intervening manifestations—including Edward Topsell’s History of Four-footed Beasts, published in 1607—from the first volume of Konrad Gessner’s Historiae animalium, which appeared in 1551. The woodcut Gessner employed to illustrate the baboon, clearly the model for van Meurs, is shown to the right.

Contributor

Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, Gift of Jim Goodfriend

Identifier

2010.5

Rights

This image is posted publicly for non-profit educational uses, excluding printed publication. Other uses are not permitted.

Format

Etching and engraving with typographic text; image: 5 x 6-1/2 in. (12.6 x 16.5 cm), sheet: 15 x 9-1/2 in. (38.1 x 24.3 cm)