Louis XIII’s favourite childhood book was Icones Animalium by Conrad Gesner (1516-1565)
He called it his ‘Lion Book.’
Gesner was a Swiss natural historian, the first to try to record the zoological world comprehensively with his book Historia Animalium.
Icones Animalium was an abbreviated version of his masterpiece, first published in 1560 and it contains many woodcuts of animals – real and imaginary.
Farmyard animals, beasts of the chase, dogs, hawks, unicorns, dragons and sea monsters.
His first attempts to draw a giraffe/giraffo/cameleopardis was a bit hit and miss. A deer with a very long neck. But in 1559, Gesner received a drawing made from life by a friend in Constantinople who had witnessed the presentation of a giraffe to the Emperor of the Turks.
The pictures, however accurate or inaccurate, have a real charm that delight today as much as they did in the 17th century in the palace of St Germain- en- Laye.