Manchester Digital Collections

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Magic, Monsters and Macabre

Magic, Monsters and Macabre

The John Rylands Library holds some 250,000 printed volumes, and well over a million manuscripts and archival items that covers the breadth of human culture and language. Scattered throughout these collections are items that stand out as being curious, unexpected and mysterious.

From papyrus fragments of magical spells and incantations to alchemical texts and manuscripts of the monstrous. Including early experimental photography and effigies made of horse vertebrate, the Magic, Monsters and Macabre Collection gathers together some of the weird and wonderful items from across the library’s vast collections.

Significant items in this collection include Italian MS 63, a small eighteenth-century manuscript that contains fifty-four images of what may be termed marvels or monsters. From people who have fantastic bodies that merge human and animal characteristics, to monstrous animal births. German MS 3, ‘Sammlung Alchymistischer Schriften’ a wonderfully illustrated 18th Century collection of philosophical and alchemical writings, and the magnificent Armenian MS 3, a lavishly illustrated 16th-century Romance of Alexander which includes incredible illustrations of the exploits of Alexander the Great.

The digital collection will grow as more fantastical items are uncovered.

Content Warning
As historical resources, the nature of the items and the catalogue descriptions in this collection reflect the language and thinking of the era in which it was created, and some items include language and imagery which is offensive, oppressive and may cause upset. These ideas are not condoned by The University of Manchester, but we are committed to providing access to this material as evidence of the inequalities and attitudes of the time period.