1660 Merian bird of paradise manucodiata

1660 Merian bird of paradise manucodiata

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Bird of Paradise. (Paradisaea spp). Woodcut from Merian and Jonston's 'Historia Naturalis' 1660 (which continued to be printed up to 1767). Shows a range of species including the blue and king bird of paradise. When Magellan's ship returned 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 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'. So it became the manucodiata 'the bird of god'. Gesner states' this very beautiful bird, which never sits upon the earth or any other thing, is born in Paradise'. The myth perpetuated several centuries.

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Keywords: 17th century, apoda, bird of paradise, colour, early, fantasy, folklore, heaven, illustration, jonston, king of saxony, lesser, magellan, manucodiata, merian, minor, mistake, myth, natural history, paradisaea, woodcut, wrong

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