A very peculiar book has recently caught hold of my magpie mind. I discovered it thought the Public Domain Review's Instagram account. It’s a book from Renaissance France, right around the time Montaigne was kinda-sorta inventing blogging (well, okay, inventing the rambling personal essay). The book is called The Drolatic Dreams of Pantagruel and it’s so wonderfully weird and I love it.
Published in 1565, Drolatic Dreams is just a big parade of goofy-ass monsters that look like they crawled out of Hieronymus Bosch’s ears after a hard night’s drinking with H. P. Lovecraft and Alexander Dumas (there's a swashbuckling, cavalier look to many of them). There’s no text beyond the introduction, just creatures galore.
It all just goes to show that weird books and zine culture were right there with everything else in the wild early days of publishing.
I’ve already copied out a couple of the creatures in my notebooks (sort of a #drawthisinyourstyle). Here's one:
One of the best things about finding this book is that it felt like a missing piece for one of the weird side projects I’ve been slowly (slooowly) fiddling with over the last year. Everything suddenly snapped into focus and the story felt more alive. That’s a good feeling.
But more on that later…
*For some reason I think leafing through the Drolatic Dreams pairs well with this playlist based on the travels of Ibn Battuta.