The Tower Menagerie: The Amazing 600-Year History of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts Kept at the Tower of London

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9781585423354: The Tower Menagerie: The Amazing 600-Year History of the Royal Collection of Wild and Ferocious Beasts Kept at the Tower of London

An entertaining and enlightening history of Britain's first zoo: the Tower of London menagerie. When King Henry III was given three leopards by his new brother-in-law, Frederick, the Holy Roman Emperor, he ordered -- in desperation -- that they be sent to the Tower of London, his great fortress by the bank of the Thames. After all, where does one keep such things? Soon after the leopards' arrival in 1235 they were joined by an even greater wonder, a huge Norwegian polar bear which was encouraged to catch its own food from the river to save on upkeep expenses. And over the next 600 years - until the menagerie was closed down by Wellington in 1835, a few years before it became clear he had an interest in the soon-to-open London Zoo - the Tower played host to thousands more exotic creatures, all brought from overseas by returning explorers or VIP guests. Daniel Hahn's charming history of the first zoo explores the uses and abuses of the menagerie and the legion of Great and Good who came to behold its wonders, from William Blake, who came to look at the 'tygers', to John Wesley, who played his flute to the Tower lions in an attempt to establish if they had souls. Fascinating and insightful in equal measure, The Tower Menagerie is both an intriguing survey of our changing attitudes to animals and a hugely entertaining canter through six centuries of British history.

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About the Author:

Daniel Hahn works as a writer, researcher, and translator, and is a contributor to the new edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature.

From Publishers Weekly:

The Tower of London's Menagerie got started in 1235 when the Holy Roman Emperor gave England's Henry III three leopards; over its history it housed an array of animals from polar bears and lions to exotic birds and snakes. Because the records from the early years are sparse, London writer Hahn had little to work with when it came to describing the daily operations of the menagerie. Some insights are astounding (the drink of choice for Tower elephants was wine), but Hahn's coverage of bureaucratic issues like the salaries of the animals' keepers does little to convey a true sense of the menagerie. Still, Hahn creates a feeling of its impact on society when he uses the Tower's animals as a starting point to discuss our understanding of the animal world, and he offers intriguing anecdotes about how animals and their characteristics have become engrained in our culture and vocabulary. For instance, Hahn points out that bear and bull stock markets get their names from the way each animal fights when baited by dogs. Widening the scope of the book with entertaining trivia, off-beat tales and cheeky asides, Hahn manages to create a credible, living history from a collection of long-departed beasts and birds. Illus.
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Book Description Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.: J P Tarcher, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., 2004. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Book Description: The strange six-hundred-year history of the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London. From a polar bear who fished the Thames nightly for his dinner to elephants who drank only wine, the inhabitants of the southwest corner of the Tower of London were a strange and rowdy bunch. No less strange was the cast of characters that visited them: William Blake, Chaucer, and Samuel Pepys, to name a few. Daniel Hahn's fascinating history of the Tower of London's Royal Menagerie tells the story of the thousands of exotic creatures who found a home in one of the world's most forbidding and infamous fortresses. The Royal Menagerie began with a wedding gift: three leopards from King Henry III's new brother-in-law, Frederick the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1235. Soon after, a huge Norwegian polar bear joined them. Over the next six hundred years, the Tower played host to lions, ostriches, elephants, and other unusual animals that astonished London. Brimming with unforgettable stories (the lion who kept a spaniel as a pet; ostriches who were fed a steady diet of rusty nails; lions who, their keepers claimed, could tell whether a woman was a virgin) and beautiful historical illustrations, The Tower Menagerie provides an intriguing, lively survey of our changing attitudes toward animals, as well as a hugely entertaining journey through six centuries of British history. About the Author Daniel Hahn works as a writer, researcher, and translator, and is a contributor to the new edition of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Bookseller Inventory # ABE-845382776

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