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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Frog Falls, Dragons and the Universe

On a trip to the local supermarket a couple of weeks ago I discovered an antiques shop I’d never noticed before (even though it’s been there for months, apparently). I bought a 580-page, half-leather-bound, gold-embossed book called The Universe for just a pound. It’s a very late (1909) edition of a book that was first published in French in 1865, but it’s still a pretty good bargain. The shop is called Loopy’s (“Antique – Modern – Retro”) and it’s right opposite the Crewkerne branch of Lidl... and equally good value.

The first English edition of The Universe, by Félix Archimède Pouchet, appeared in 1870. It’s divided into four main sections: “The Animal Kingdom”, “The Vegetable Kingdom”, “Geology” and “The Sidereal Universe” (i.e. astronomy). There’s also a short appendix at the end called “Popular Errors: Monsters and Superstitions” – which, as you might imagine, is one of the best bits. It deals mainly with mediaeval legends of sea serpents and dragons, including the one pictured above from a work by Athanasius Kircher (one of The First UFO Hoaxers I mentioned a few weeks ago).

The appendix isn’t the most Fortean part of the book, however. In the section on the animal kingdom there’s a short chapter dealing with “Showers of Frogs”... fifty years before Charles Fort made the subject his own in The Book of the Damned. Pouchet had no doubts about the reality of amphibian fafrotskies: “Mention is made of these in very remote times, but later writers generally believed that the assertions of the authors who related them were inventions. Modern observations have at last demonstrated the actual existence of this phenomenon, which is explained nowadays in a very rational manner.”

I was going to type out more, but then I decided it would be easier just to take a photograph:

2 comments:

José Carlos (Onix) said...

Could you please find time to scan it? Pretty please? I would really love to take a look at that book.

Andrew May said...

Thanks for your interest! Fortunately I don't have to scan the book, because other people already have. There are several different version online, e.g. on Google Books and archive.org. Here is one I picked at random: http://archive.org/details/universeorwonder00poucrich