1491 Cerastes lure snake Hortus Sanitatis

1491 Cerastes lure snake Hortus Sanitatis

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: 1491 Woodblock illustration of the Cerastes (snake) from Ortus (Hortus) sanitatis, with later colouring. (Hortus Sanitatis translates from the latin as "Garden of Health"). The Cerastes was supposed to hide in the sand and wriggle its horns. Any animals deceived into thinking the horns were prey would be devoured when they approached. The horned viper genus cerastes is named for them, and it is true some snakes may use their tail tip, or even horns, as lures. The Hortus was the first printed natural history encyclopaedia and was published by Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz, Germany in 1491. He describes plants and animals (both real and mythical) together with minerals and various trades, with their medicinal value and method of preparation.

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Keywords: 15th century, behaviour, caxton, cerastes, colour, encyclopedia, herbal, hortus, hunting, illustration, incunabla, lure, meydenbach, middle ages, monster, mythical, ortus, predator, predatory, print, printed, sanitas, sanitatis, snake, woodcut

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