Créatures Fantastiques Deyrolle
Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu, Camille Renversade
Everyone knows Deyrolle charts. Well, a lot of people do. And even if you’ve never heard of them, the educational-chart-poster style will look familiar, as will the instructive anatomical layouts. And if you’ve been to Paris, you may have seen or walked by their place/museum. So what happens when you mix fantastic creatures with Deyrolle’s style (with their blessing, of course)? You get something like Créatures Fantastiques Deyrolle (CFD from now on).
Global. While not as comprehensive as, say, ABC (yay self-promotion), it covers a wide range of creatures, from bestiary mainstays to literary jokes to cryptozoological darlings.
Broken up by general groups – reptiles, land mammals, creatures of the air, creatures of the sea, humanoids, and hybrids. Each entry of this large-sized coffee-table book is split in two halves – the left side is the text, the right side is the illustration. More below.
A lot of research has gone into the writing, which is fluid and fun to read, with wry interpretations and commentary throughout. There are citations from the sources, which is always nice. It’s informative and low on embellishment, knocking spots off Dubois’ florid style.
It’s also in French, make of that what you will.
Most importantly, the text has the actual research and what is known about those creatures. Then when you’re done with that, you check out the art…
Lush. There is plenty of artistic interpretation, but not more than I’d deem acceptable. The dragons entry, for instance, has lovely butterfly-esque versions of the Graoully, Grand’Goule, Gargouille, Grand Bailla, Drac… which are entirely the illustrator’s designs, but considering the lack of established iconography (unlike, say, the Tarasque) you can’t blame them. The basilisk is in its eight-legged form, but unlike the detestable lizardlike version common today, it does look like eight plucked mutant roosters mushed together.
Everything gets mock-scientific names, and anatomical cutaways are everywhere. Want to see a sea-serpent’s skeleton? An x-ray of the Loch Ness Monster (represented by a Heuvelmansesque long-necked seal)? What about a comparison of Cetus species (as gigantic anglerfishes) or unicorn species? There’s even fossils of the orabou and the Sarmatian snail discussed at length!
All of the “artistic license” is in the art, so if it bothers you, you can focus on the text and leave out the illustrations (but why would you?)
My only regret is that their version of the coquecigrue is so perfect, I won’t be able to come up with something better.
References are not listed for each entry separately (as in ABC) but are all available at the end in a bibliography. Citations from original texts are cited appropriately. A variety of sources are consulted for a broad view of differing viewpoints. As mentioned, the text is straight-up research, while the art takes more liberties.
The authors have shown their work in spades. There are loads of obscure animals discussed, including a couple even I haven’t heard of!
My only real qualm is that the seps is described as rotting and melting its victims, but the art says it “preserves” its victims…
Another five-star review? Already? It was bound to happen though. CFD is ridiculously good – well-researched, well-illustrated, with a bibliography and clear separation of fact and artistic license, all wrapped up in a fun faux-scientific retro look. The only thing keeping all teratologists from owning a copy is price and availability. No, it being in French is not a problem. Learn it. Buy this book (when prices are reasonable). Feel good.