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Imaginary Beings

March 11, 2007

Twenty years ago I was hanging around with some friends – gay, avant garde artist types – and I discovered a book. I don’t recall the title of the book, nor the author. But the experience of thumbing through it stays with me. The book itself was a fictitious volume of naturalism. That is to say, it had all manner of creatures in it, hand drawn in loving detail, just the way you would expect to see it in Darwin’s own Galapagos notebooks.

Except for two things. First, none of the creatures depicted actually existed. Second, none of the text was in any real language.

The result was mesmerizing. It was like finding Gray’s Anatomy from another galaxy; you understood nothing, but visually it was so moving as to be almost hypnotic.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find that strange art book again, but recently I have heard of Jorge Luis Borge’s classic The Book of Imaginary Beings. Maybe it contains a similar experience.

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  1. Could it have been the Field Guide to the children’s book series The Spiderwick Chronicles?
    http://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Spiderwicks-Fantastical-Spiderwick-Chronicles/dp/0689859414/ref=sr_1_2/002-9833311-1920009?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173703450&sr=1-2


  2. Very similar! Only this one was weirder, and of course none of the text was in English – or any other known language.



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