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A Venetian Bestiary


Jan Morris’ The World of Venice was one of the first books I read about Venice, and it remains one of my all-time favorites. Beautifully written and packed with detail, it captures the spirit of the city in all its magical and glorious strangeness. Plus, Morris did quirky things like go through the modern phone book to see how many of the Doges’ names are still in use; I love trivia like that!

(Answer: There were 120 doges between the years 697 and 1797 with 67 different last names (the job tended to run in families). In 1960 when her book was published, Morris found 39 of the names in the phone book. She did add the caveat that some might be descendents of servants rather than of the doges themselves).

Morris wrote another book, A Venetian Bestiary, in 1982. It’s a charming book about the animals of Venice, both real and imaginary. So there are the actual animals (pigeons, cats and dogs, sea birds, and strange sea creatures for sale in the Rialto Market), and also animals depicted in art like all the many lions, the four horses of San Marco, San Teodoro’s crocodile, Carpaccio’s little dog, the horse on the porch of Peggy Guggenheim’s house, and all the various dragons and monsters scattered all over the city.

VenetianBestiaryThe book was out of print for some time (I found a used copy on Amazon). Then in December, I saw a new edition in several bookshops in Venice. But buyer beware – this new edition doesn’t have any pictures! My copy has lots of color photos and reproductions of paintings, so I recommend looking for a used copy if you’re interested. Here’s what the cover of my copy looks like. It’s a wonderful book.

A note about the photo at the top: I took a picture of every cat I saw in Venice because they are so rare. The city is so filled with cute dogs that I just couldn’t give the dogs equal time, and instead I took only one dog's photo (it’s very representative of the level of canine cuteness you see all over town).

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Comments (6)

Yay another Venice entry! World of Venice sounds really good. I like trivia like that!


I will have to see if I can find a copy, I think my younger daughter would love it. She's quite the animal lover.

One evening, near our rental in San Polo last summer, we saw adorable little puppy in a store window. He saw us and started barking and wriggling around for attention. My daughter could hardly bear to think of this cute little guy having to spend the night alone. Just then the store owner returned with supper and a little toy, gathered the pup in his arms for sloppy kisses, then got out a cosy basket anhd a blankie...so we were glad to see that the pup had a loving "papa" after all!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Now I want to read that book. I have several book stores near me. Hopefully one of them will have that edition. Thanks for the tip.

You're so right about cats being rare in Venice.

Hi Kathy, you can buy a used copy on amazon for only a few dollars, in case you can't find it locally. I think you'll love it! Annie

Buona Pasqua! Waving at you from Australia!

gregorio bacci:

Hi, thankyou for posting this photo.I' m the dog's owner, her namer is nina. I have the gallery next door the guggenheim museum and nina is my faithfull coworker.
Bye greg

Hi Greg, thanks so much for your comment. That is so cool that you found Nina's photo on my blog! She is adorable, and I'm glad to know her name. Best to you and to Nina!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 10, 2008 4:01 PM.

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