The Lamia, 1607.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Woodcut of the mythical Lamia which had the head and breasts of a woman and the body of a serpent, although Edward Topsell (1572-1625?) states 'the hinderparts of the beast are like unto a Goate, his fore legs like a Beares, his upper parts to a woman, the body scaled all over like a Dragon.' It was reputed to prey upon humans and suck the blood of children. From Topsell's 'The Historie of foure-footed beastes', published in London in 1607. Topsell's main source was 'Historiae animalium' by Conrad Gesner (1516-1565) published in 1551. Topsell's work was the first major book on animals printed in Britain in English. It summarized all real and mythical zoological knowledge collected since antiquity, but it was soon rendered obsolete by new discoveries.