This looks really cool. Thanks to @Ray_Otus for the heads up.
The “Papal Ass” is just one of many strange, unsettling creatures to appear in the pages of centuries-old texts now on display at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. Just in time for Halloween, the library has launched De Monstris, an exhibition that explores the rich tradition of monstrous beings that have stoked fears and tickled imaginations throughout history.
De Monstris spans a vast period of time, linking lore from antiquity to the Middle Ages, and on through the 19th century. The show features writings by the likes of Marco Polo, Sir John Mandeville and Mary Shelley. Also on display are vivid illustrations of dragons and basilisks, unicorns and Cyclopes, mermaids and manticores, and more obscure hybrid creatures, such as a historic rendering of the Papal Ass, published in 1545.
“I realized that we have a lot of books that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with monsters, and authors that are part of the canon of Western culture and literature explored ideas of monstrosity and reported monsters in different traditions and genres.”
For instance, Aristotle’s expansive biological text, the Book of Animals, posits that a pregnant woman can impress monstrous features onto her unborn child just by looking at an image of a monster.