De monstris: An Exhibition of Monsters and the Wonders of Human Imagination

Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, Christopher Columbus, Ulisse Aldrovandi, and Mary Shelley are united by their writings on the subjects of monsters. Each of these authors crafted distinct visions of monstrosity in their own fields, inspiring the imagination of readers over the course of centuries. Together, the corpus of their texts also holds the answers to which other writers have turned in their quests to the lands of monsters.

This exhibition explores the textual and visual sources at the centre of the stories of monsters recounted in the pages of medieval encyclopedias, wonder books, cosmographies, compilations of travels, natural history volumes, medical texts, and other popular books unfettered by the wonders of the human imagination. Beyond showcasing the Fisher Library’s remarkable collections in the areas of history, medicine, science, and literature, one of the chief concerns of this exhibition is to follow the main themes in the history of monsters in the West. Among the highlights of these themes will be the monstrous peoples of the medieval tradition, the messages of prodigies of the Renaissance period, the invention of monsters in the Age of Exploration, the nature of monsters in light of Humanism, the complexity of human monstrosity in the scientific thought, and the conception of monsters as creative bodies.

This exhibition is curated by Fisher Librarian David Fernandez.

There is a free audio guide for the exhibition, available on SoundCloud.

Catalogue information
978-0-7727-6125-5, 144 pages, $20