Sea-serpent attacking a ship, 1608.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Woodcut of a sea-serpent believed to be 120 feet long 'appearing now and then upon the coasts of Norway, very dangerous and hurtful to the Sea-men in calm and still weather, for they lift themselves above the hatches and suddenly catch a man in their mouths, and so draw him into the sea out of the ship, and many times they overthrow in the waters a laden vesel of great quantity, with all the wares therein contained…'. From 'The historie of serpents' by Edward Topsell (1572-1625?) published in London in 1687. Topsell's main source was 'Historiae animalium' by Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) published in 1551. Topsell's book summarized all real and mythical zoological knowledge collected since antiquity, but it was soon rendered obsolete by new discoveries.