Christopher Plumb's extraordinary book The Georgian Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth Century London is out today from I.B. Tauris.
In the eighteenth century, it would not have been impossible to encounter an elephant or a kangaroo making its way down the Strand, heading towards the menagerie of Mr. Pidcock at the Exeter Change. Pidcock's was just one of a number of commercial menagerists who plied their trade in London in this period the predecessors to the zoological societies of the Victorian era. As the British Empire expanded and seaborne trade flooded into London's ports, the menagerists gained access to animals from the most far-flung corners of the globe, and these strange creatures became the objects of fascination and wonder. Many aristocratic families sought to create their own private menageries with which to entertain their guests, while for the less well-heeled, touring exhibitions of exotic creatures both alive and dead satisfied their curiosity for the animal world. While many exotic creatures were treasured as a form of spectacle, others fared less well turtles went into soups and civet cats were sought after for ingredients for perfume. In this entertaining and enlightening book, Plumb introduces the many tales of exotic animals in London.
'From magnificent menageries to an apothecary's pet rodent, Christopher Plumb's book is a fascinating look into the role animals played in eighteenth century British lives. Full of great primary research into a wealth of interesting records, this is a work to delight the heart of anyone with a love for how the real Georgians lived.'
Lucy Inglis, author of Georgian London
‘Christopher Plumb's entertaining book fills in the detail of a world only vaguely sensed. It appears that the streets of Georgian London were thronged with exotic animals and Plumb shows that these were more fully a part of the Georgian world than has previously been understood. Exotic animals were commodities to be entertained by and to consume. This book adds not only to our growing understanding of the surprisingly large scale presence of exotic animals in England since the Renaissance but also to our grasp on the textures of life in the always fascinating streets, inns and drawing rooms of Georgian London.’
John Simons, author of The Tiger That Swallowed the Boy: Exotic Animals in Victorian England
Happy Publication Day Christopher!