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Comment: All profits go to Housing Works -- NYC's largest HIV/AIDS organization. Minimal wear to cover. Pages clean and binding tight. Paperback.
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The Natural History of Unicorns Paperback – July 20, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060874155
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060874155
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #818,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In an inspired iteration of a cluttered genre-world-history-through-innocuous-topic-U.K. natural historian Lavers (Why Elephants Have Big Ears) rattles off a history of the mythical unicorn that "binds... the earth's natural history to our own." An object of fascination for at least the last 2,000 years, the unicorn was described in 398 B.C. by the Greek Ctesias as "wild asses as large as horses... white bodies, their heads dark red" with a horn that, when used as a drinking glass, protected men from epilepsy and poison. Ctesias became a source for Aristotle and Pliny, who shaped European beliefs for 1500 years. Wending its way into (and possibly out of) the Old Testament (Ctesias's ass was, "like the Hebrews' totemic reem, real strong, horned, indomitable and, crucially, not a cow."), unicorns are incorporated into Bible translations and the Physiologus bestiary (in its time, almost as big as the Bible), and one-horned creatures have even been found drawn on the walls of African caves. Laver's tongue-in-cheek delivery maintains its charm throughout while turning up a good bit of knowledge about natural history and how it's been artfully embellished by those recording it. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“In this lively survey, Lavers explores the roots and the evolution of Ctesias’ elusive beast... Lavers capably balances tales of individual enthusiasts with broader cultural considerations to show how the unicorn’s ‘connections with our myth-making reveal much about our engagement with the natural world.’” (The New Yorker)

“Lively, compelling, full of anecdote, wry scepticism and an honest humility about the things it is simply impossible for us to know for certain. . . . The book, like its subject, is not quite one thing nor another, but a fascinating hybrid.” (The Guardian)

“A vivid and highly readable trek following the trail of this elusive beast.” (Booklist)

“Lavers ingeniously tracks the myth-making of the unicorn. . . . Lavers’s enthusiasm is infectious . . . an elegant, colorful guide to the unicorn’s myth, marvel, and the ties that have bound it to human progress.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred))

“Intriguing. …The history of a non-existent animal is, by definition, a series of diversions from actuality, and, by reversing that trajectory, Lavers’ book takes us to some fascinating places.” (Financial Times)

“The origin of the species and its later fame told in lore and legend is cleverly told.” (The Times (London))

“Whimsical, scholarly and continually absorbing.” (The Spectator)

“Chris Lavers has done it again. A fascinating, intelligent and unusual book. From the first page I was completely hooked.” (Pat Shipman, author of Femme Fatale)

“Chris Lavers traces our fascination with the idea of a one-horned horse back 2,000 years in this scholarly history of unicorns … The history of the unicorn shows human beings at our imaginative best and our manipulative worst.” (Daily Telegraph (London))

“A mind opening work of intricate scholarship. If unicorns do exist I hope they never catch one. A great read that will grace my library.” (Professor David Bellamy)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By NY Book Cafe on October 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The unicorn is generally accepted as a mythological creature. In "The Natural History of Unicorns", Chris Lavers ingeniously tracks the history of unicorns throughout time and across the globe, spanning a 2500 year time line, giving the reader an understanding of the unicorn's unique history.

Interestingly, the unicorn can be found all over the world. In fact, Lavers does a remarkable job indicating how prevalent the this animal is in history. He does an outstanding work by detailing the specific connection to Christendom. The symbolic nature of this creature and its allegorical significance in relation to Christ is also discussed. For instance, the unicorn is usually perceived to be a creature connected with purity and love. Furthermore, Lavers intricately conveys the miscellaneous animals that have contributed to the creation of the unicorn as we know it today. From a goat, to a rhinoceros, to a cow, to the one-horned white horse that we portray as a unicorn today is tracked and traced throughout history in a scholarly fashion.

A truly amazing work of research is presented by Lavers. The phenomenon of the appearance of the unicorn throughout history, from ancient writings in ancient civilizations and artwork through our present day culture and society is brilliantly offered by Lavers. "The Natural History of Unicorns" is a delightful, enjoyable and easily readable book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Victoria on February 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are the kind of person who likes a good guided tour of history, with several good digressions and a witty rather than stuffy tone, this is a great book for you. The author has a good sense of proportion, and he never demeans anyone for believing (or not believing) in unicorns, but instead gives us the reasons why people thought about things the way they did, and he has a fun time doing it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on August 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an intriguing nonfiction work searching beyond the varied mythical legends to the aptly titled THE NATURAL HISTORY OF UNICORNS. Chris Lavers escorts his audience to a world five hundred years before Jesus in which Greek physician Ctesias living in Persia describes the unicorn that has become the basis of mythos. Lavers follows up on the Ctesias' account with a deep look at similar horned species especially the Tibetan chiru. He takes the legend to Christ as the first Christians connected the "animal's" purity to Jesus but cites a biblical reference of a Jewish cow becoming a unicorn. .The author goes in great depth into medieval times and their tapestries and the nineteenth century romanticists who relished the purity of the unicorn. Even though the enlightenment scientists claimed there were never such a beast, the unicorn lives today in books and movies as a fantasy creature but Mr. Levers makes a strong case with a few sidebar cul de sac trips that the fabled beast has its roots in real animals. The author's energy will hook readers from the onset as fans will follow the discourse of Chris Laver's deep look into THE NATURAL HISTORY OF UNICORNS.

Harriet Klausner
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on October 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The history of unicorn spottings spans some 2,500 years - and The Natural History of Unicorns shows how various real animals have all contributed to the myth and creation of this beast. Author Chris Lavers covers how unicorns became a part of myth and world culture, exploring the history and facts behind the legend in a powerful presentation perfect for any general lending library.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Red Hawk on August 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book, while containing great information, is nothing more than a plagarized copy of a book originally published by Odell Shepherd entitled "The Lore of the Unicorn." Rather than download the Kindle version for 9.99 and give my money to someone breaking the law, I downloaded the original version for only a dollar.
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