Michel de Montaigne’s hugely influential Essays is a monument to the brilliance of the human mind. First published in 1580, it formed a keystone of what became known as the French Renaissance, and contained a series of witty explorations into the human condition.
Here, Montaigne observes his cat, with whom he shared his library – and wonders who is really playing with whom. His writings raise questions about the intelligence and consciousness of animals as well as humans. The charming drawings are by Pieter van Veen, who owned the 1602 edition shown here.
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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.