In the eighteenth century, it would t have been impossible to encounter an elephant or a kangaroo making its way down the Strand, heading towards the menagerie of Mr. Pidcock at the Exeter Change. Pidcock's was just one of a number of commercial menagerists who plied their trade in London in this period the predecessors to the zoological societies of the Victorian era. As the British Empire expanded and seaborne trade flooded into London's ports, the menagerists gained access to animals from the most far-flung corners of the globe, and these strange creatures became the objects of fascination and wonder. Many aristocratic families sought to create their own private menageries with which to entertain their guests, while for the less well-heeled, touring exhibitions of exotic creatures both alive and dead satisfied their curiosity for the animal world. While many exotic creatures were treasured as a form of spectacle, others fared less well turtles went into soups and civet cats were sought after for ingredients for perfume. In this entertaining and enlightening book, Plumb introduces the many tales of exotic animals in London.
Christopher Plumb is an independent historian. He has worked as a television and museum consultant and holds a PhD from Manchester University.