1560 Gesner Bird of Paradise myth

1560 Gesner Bird of Paradise myth

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Woodcut from Gesner "Icones Animalium", publ. Christof Froschover, Zurich (1560). When Magellan's ship returned as the first to sail around the world in 1522, it brought back skins of the lesser bird of Paradise, Paradisaea minor. They were a gift from the Sultan of Batjan of the Moluccas, and had been traded to the Sultan from an unknown terra australis (Papua New Guinea). The birds caused a European sensation, not least because they had no bones and no legs. We now know this is the common local way of preserving these birds for trade. But naturalists of the time claimed 'they do all their business in flight'. Named manucodiata 'the bird of the gods, reportedly derived from the Malay 'manute-dewata'. Gesner states' the people of the Mollucca islands bear witness that this very beautiful bird, which never sits upon the earth or any other thing, is born in Paradise'.

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Keywords: 16th century, animalium, animals, artwork, bestiary, bird of paradise, colour, conrad, early, fantasy, folklore, gesner, gessner, heaven, historiae, icones, illustration, lesser, magellan, manucodiata, minor, mistake, myth, natural history, paradisaea, woodcut, wrong

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