What a surprise—we were looking at Decius’ comment in Julius Caesar (II, i, 202–211) that Caesar loved to hear that “unicorns may be betrayed with trees, and bears with glasses, elephants with holes, lions with toils, and men with flatterers…” I pulled out a copy of T.H. White’s The Book of Beasts, and we quickly blipped through a bit of this crazy zoological lore that circulated through the Western hemisphere since the time of the ancient Greeks…
I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to find online for you; I haven’t surfed much in this vein for several years—but lo, and behold!—a couple of amazing resources jumped right out at me. I’ll list them here for the time being, and someday add them to the Mythology portion of the Reference section, once that gets put back together… If you search around yourselves, you might find even more!
T.H. White’s book is still available from Dover Publications for about $12, and you can order from them online now, it seems, which is a good thing!
The University of Wisconsin, Madison has an entire facsimile edition of T.H. White’s book available through their library’s web site to browse or search, and you can order a reprint from them, if it interests you, for $20 + $3 shipping.
And finally, David Badke has put together a terrific web site with the ambitious goal of gathering “all (!) available information about the Medieval Bestiary and its antecendants, as well as related information on the Medieval view of animals in general, both fabulous and real.” I haven’t had a chance to give it a good going-over yet, but it is well-designed, well-documented, and should be a terrific resource if you’re interested in learning more.