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The Mythical and the Supernatural: Beasts and Beings of St John’s College

Statue of a yale at St John's. Image credit: Paul Everest
Statue of a yale at St John's. Image credit: Paul Everest
Sat, 21/10/2017 - 11:00 - 17:00

The yale, a mythical beast found in European mythology, is an iconic symbol of St John’s College. These curious creatures, featuring elephants' tails, antelopes' bodies, goats' heads, and horns that can swivel from back to front, are from the coat of arms of Lady Margaret Beaufort, who founded St John’s College in 1511.

The treasures from the Library's Special Collections on display in this exhibition feature not only yales but a wealth of other mythical beasts and supernatural beings. Magnificent illustrations from manuscripts, rare books and magic scrolls depict wonders of the human imagination, including sea monsters, chimeras, angels and demons. Early illustrations will show how real animals were often depicted beside creatures with no basis in reality and myths were perpetuated by traveller’s tales. The exhibition questions why belief in the existence of mythical beasts and supernatural beings was so popular and enduring, and offers an insight into the role they have played in literature, art and nonfiction.

Entry to the Old Library is via E Staircase, Second Court.

This exhibition is part of the 2017 Cambridge Festival of Ideas. All are welcome; just drop in.