“Book” Review: The Flying Serpent, or Strange News out of Essex

OK, so this is a bit of an odd product. It’s a PDF, not a book per se, and although I bought it from a site that sells products for role-playing games, it is not particularly an RPG product. It is The Flying Serpent, or Strange News out of Essex, and you can find it here. It’s published by Magnum Opus Press, who also do various other products, none of them (sadly) obviously related to this one. It costs $1.95 in American money, or £1.17. 

This is a PDF facsimile of an 1885 “fac-simile” of a 1669 pamphlet about dragons and other lizards in Essex, including the infamous Henham Serpent. The site I’ve just linked to suggests that the author might be William Winstanley, but I think the pamphlet suggests otherwise. It tells the tale of a large serpent with small wings seen in or near Henham, and of the various attempts to pursue it with clubs and muskets, all ending in failure. 

I love this kind of thing, as I think I’ve mentioned before — facsimiles of old documents are one of the things I can’t get enough of, and the fact this is a facsimile of a facsimile is better yet. And the fact that it’s about a baby dragon just makes it even more great, especially because the story boils down to “saw a snake; ran away. Saw it again; it ran away.” Like many documents of its age, it crams in references to everything from Ragnar Lothbrok to medieval legends to the ancient Greeks, including bizarre and unsettling visions of other serpents. Apparently, Saffron Walden once had its own cockatrice, which I believe the author contends was some kind of an analogy. 

I think the weirdest one was this, though: 

chippingfreak

So yeah, well worth checking out if you’re interested in the ephemeral literature of other ages. And if you’re reading my blog and you’re not interested in that, I’d like to thank you for charity-reading my blog. 

 

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“Book” Review: The Flying Serpent, or Strange News out of Essex

2 thoughts on ““Book” Review: The Flying Serpent, or Strange News out of Essex

  1. James says:

    The perspectives of people in the past about the past (and especially their versions of this stuff / attempts at “Historicity”) really interest me. Iamblichus wrote a ‘Life of Pythagoras’ which has been filling my mind quite a bit, as an example of a Late Antique person writing about ‘the ancients’ (both Greeks and Egyptian).

    1. On that subject, have you read a lot of Thomas Browne? I think you might really enjoy it. Hydriotaphia, or Urne-Buriall is a good start. I am sure it is online. I call him a Pee Weirdo on my blog, but that is just me being me.

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