Sunday, May 04, 2008

fantastic beast

“It’s a quokka, Jim, but not as we know it.”

This ‘original antique handcolored copperplate engraving’ has popped up on eBay. The seller says it’s “extremely rare”. He says it’s “over 233 years old”.

The queer quokka is “…taken from a volume of the rare first edition of Schreber's famous work "Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen" (The mammals in accordance with illustrations of nature with descriptions), published and printed in Erlangen, Germany, 1775”.

Schreber was a naturalist and started on his books in 1774. They were packed with 800 pics, and a lot of animals were given Linnaeus-inspired names for the first time. But his artists were somewhat handicapped:

“The artists responsible had, however, never seen the animals they drew, relying on descriptions from explorers and travellers. Many of the pictures, therefore, are somewhat unrealistic. Collectively, they are known as ‘Schreber's Fantastic Beasts’.”

The name supposedly given to Rotto rat was Dydelphis brachyuros. Now of course it’s Setonix brachyurus. From this eBay listing it seems the Germans also call quokkas Kurzschwanzkänguru, or short-tailed kangaroo.

Wikipedia has some more of Schreber’s images here.

Pic from

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