“Monkfish” and “Bishopfish” as depicted in the 1662 publication ‘Physica Curiosa.’
“Demons are the cause of many of the world’s ‘monsters.’”
Gaspar Schott, the author of the ‘Physica Curiosa,’ 1662.
Published in 1662 during a time in Europe when the lines between science and the supernatural were still a bit blurred, the Physica Curiosa was intended to be used as a reference for professors, scholars, and members the aristocracy. Authored by a German-born mathematician, philosopher, and theologist Gaspar Schott, the entire run of Physica Curiosa was done by hand. Illustrations of strange animal/human hybrids and other mythical beings were copper engravings which allowed them to be viewed in great detail as they were intended to be. Historians estimate that only 500-1,000 copies of the Physica Curiosa were ever made, making it an incredibly rare document full of what are best described as “monsters”
Schott was a prolific publisher of information and between 1658–1666 he put out eleven different publications including the Physica Curiosa—which was a part of his most influential body of work the Magia Universalis. The book, which got Schott in a bit of trouble with the Church at the time, includes fictitious depictions of sea devils, centaurs, demons and even humans with various deformities who were considered to be “monstrous” thus they were included in the Physica Curiosa by Schott. There were even real animals such as mammals indigenous to South America in the volumes. Twelve books in all makeup Schott’s curious publication which has been digitized by the Smithsonian Libraries with the final six books providing data on real animals such as elephants and rhinoceroses. I’ve included a large selection of images from the Physica Curiosa for you to ponder below. Some are slighty NSFW.
More after the jump…