British Library, Sloane 4016, detail of f. 28 (a beaver sacrifices its testicles to escape the hunter). Tractatus de Herbis. Lombardy, c. 1440.
Yes, a beaver.
Lugosi and Karloff, The Black Cat.
In the mid-1950s, Vonnegut worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence,” and left. [#]
The Codex Gigas was once considered the eighth wonder of the world; the book is three feet long and weighs a hundred and sixty-five pounds. It has 600 pages which, contrary to legend, are made from calf skins, not donkey skins.
The Codex Gigas includes a combination of texts found nowhere else. In addition to the full text of the Latin bible, the book contains herbals, history books, cures for dangerous illnesses, texts caring for the soul, medical formulas for treating illnesses and diseases, conjurations, and even solutions to problems such as finding a thief.
The book got the nickname of The Devil’s Bible because it is the only bible to include such a large portrait of the devil. Half-clothed in royal ermine; half man, half beast; with claws, cloven hooves, and a huge serpentine red tongue, the drawing shows Satan walled up in a cell alone rather than loosed in Hell. Immediately across from the devil is a portrait of the Kingdom of Heaven, creating an interesting contrast [see here].
According to the Kungl Biblioteket, legend had it that the book was written by a monk condemned to be walled up alive. To spare his life, he promised his bishop that he would create the most wonderful book the world had ever seen, including the text of the Bible and the sum of all human knowledge up to that point in time – and he would do it in one night.
In order to accomplish this impossible task, he sold his soul to the devil. The legend is actually based on a misinterpretation of the word “inclusus” as the punishment of being walled up alive, but which actually refers to a monk choosing to live in a solitary cell away from the others.
Despite the legend involving the devil, in the time of the inquisition, this codex was kept by the monastery and studied by many scholars to this day.
Kaitai Shinsho is a medical text translated into Japanese during the Edo period. it is based on the Dutch-language translation of the original German Anatomische Tabellen. This is an illustrated copy.
Digital copy available at the Digital Gallery of Keio University Library.