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.


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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Illustration of an albatross flying near a ship, and an arrow moving through the air towards the bird, from an illustrated copy of The Ancient Mariner

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