From the earliest marks made by humans in caves to the modern-day internet full of cute cats, animals have been enduring media stars. This website displays richly illustrated editions of traditional tales, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.

Gain insights into the stories we tell about animals, which are often stories about us, through carefully selected collection items and articles by British Library curators. Discover why animals have come to play such an important role in literature for adults and children alike.

Articles

Illustration of mythical elephants playing in the heavenly Himavanta forest.

Animals in Thai manuscript art

Jana Igunma, Henry Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian, looks at the role of animals in Thai manuscript art.

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An illustration from Anna Sewell's Black Beauty.

Children's animal tales

Dr Matthew Shaw looks at the prevalence of animals in children's literature.

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Creature and place in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Curator Philip Hatfield explores the close connection between place and creature in an examination of the setting of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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The world’s first artificially cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, is reproduced repeatedly in this edition of seventeen artist’s books, Dolly: edition unlimited.

Thinking with animals

Animals have always been central to human culture, as cave paintings around the world attest. In more recent times, they have also been used to reflect on what it is that defines us as human. Here, one of the curators of the 2015 British Library Animal Tales exhibition, Matthew Shaw, explores some examples of how this has changed over time.

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A range of animal themed collection items from manuscripts to novels


Just some of the animal themed books for sale in our shop

Dogs in Books book

Dogs in Books

Catherine Britton's book celebrates 30 famous dogs and their role in literature.

£7.95

The Cat Who Walked by Himself book image

The Cat that Walked by Himself

This hardback edition features delightfully evocative original illustrations by author Rudyard Kipling.

£7.99

The Owl and the Pussy Cat book

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

This new compilation features fifteen of the best-loved Edward Lear nonsense tales, presented alongside the author's original artworks.

£7.95