A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Fantastic Beasts!

In honor of the release of  the much anticipated movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in theatres tomorrow, we wanted to share some beasts featured in a rare children’s book from the R.I.H.S. collections. It is one of only two known copies–the other being at the University of Florida.

A Description of the Most Remarkable Beasts, for the Entertainment of Children. First Newport Edition. Newport, [R.I.]. Oliver Farnsworth, 1800.

A Description of the Most Remarkable Beasts, for the Entertainment of Children. First Newport Edition. (Newport, [R.I.]: Oliver Farnsworth, 1800.) Alden 1667A

The beasts in this children’s book range from ordinary farm animals to mythical creatures. The description of each animal follows a simple structure and often puts the animal’s characteristics in context of their usefulness to humans, such as the ox and the bison seen here:

Remarkable Beasts, 26-27

At times there are puns and more adult humor entwined with the children’s prose – but that practice still holds with children’s books and movies of today. For instance, the writer takes aim at lawyers, comparing their nature to that of the sly fox toward its prey.

A Description of the Most Remarkable Beasts for the Entertainment of Children

Perhaps the most magical creatures included in this book are the seahorse, illustrated with a human rider wielding a trident, and the porcupine that can shoot its quills!

Remarkable Beasts, 18-19

This rare imprint is not listed in John Alden’s Rhode Island Imprints, 1727-1800 published in 1949, but is listed in D.A. Welch’s Bibliography of American Children’s Books Printed Prior to 1821, published by the American Antiquarian Society in 1972.  The printer, Oliver Farnsworth (1775-1859) moved to Newport in early 1798 from Suffield, Connecticut where he had published the Impartial Herald.

Want more beasts? View the newly digitized medieval Aberdeen Beastiary from the collection of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Have fun at the movies!


~Michelle Chiles, MLIS, Research Center Coordinator


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