The Hamburg Hydra Linnaeus' revealed fake

The Hamburg Hydra Linnaeus' revealed fake

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Caption: Copperplate engraving with hand colouring by J. Chapman 1806 after engraving by Seba in his "Treasury of Natural History" (1734). In 1735 a young Linnaeus visited Hamburg. While there he inspected the famous stuffed 'seven headed hydra' held by the Burgomeister. It had originally been looted from a Church by Count Konigsmark in 1648. Seba believed it was a real animal (as did most) and made this illustration. But Linnaeus saw it was a fake. The jaws and claws were of weasels, the body covered in glued snake skins. He assumed the hydra was made by the monks of the original church as a representation of the apocalyptic beast rather than the Greek mythological animal. When Linnaeus tactlessly made the fraud public, the value of the animal (which the Burgomeister had tried to sell to various 'Cabinet of Wonders' collectors) collapsed. Linnaeus feared an angry response and left Hamburg.

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Keywords: 18th century science, albert seba, albertus seba, animal, artwork, beast, chimaera, composite, fake, fantastic, fantasy, fraud, hydra, illustration, linnaeus, monster, monstrosity, myth, mythology, seba, taxidermy

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