There's not many books that can make Alice in Wonderland seem almost staid but Curiosities of Natural History
, by Francis T Buckland,
first published 1857, does the trick. Hovering somewhere between the macabre and the hilarious, it's Victorian 'scientific knowledge' at its finest.
Or how about topics such as "A queer mode of dislodging a Newt from a Man's Stomach" or "Horace's description of a Rat's Feast"? He covers
everything from fleas to monster pigs and mermaids. Three-legged horses and earless cats also abound, depending on what edition is consulted.
The books start like this:
The Preface is generally the last portion of a book which is written and on this account it ought to be read first.
I would beg of those into whose hands this book should come to reverse the usual order of things and to read the Preface
before they dip into the contents. They will then know why it was written.
One of the illustrations:
Many editions were printed so we don't quite know which one John owned.There has been some modern
reprints but not certain whether they contain any of the drawings, which are a must.
This book got to be seen to be believed! Here's the 1865
editions as etexts. This is education as its funniest!
* Sorry for the size of the image.