Book of Imaginary Beings

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Book of Imaginary Beings
First edition
AuthorJorge Luis Borges with Margarita Guerrero[1]
Original titleManual de zoología fantástica (later El libro de los seres imaginarios)
TranslatorNorman Thomas di Giovanni (1969)[1] and others
CountryArgentina[citation needed]
PublisherFondo de Cultura Económica (1957); Dutton (1969)[1]
Publication date
1957, 1967
Published in English
June 1969
Pages159 (1967); 256 (English)[1]
LC ClassGR825.B6; GR825.B613[1]

The Book of Imaginary Beings was written by Jorge Luis Borges with Margarita Guerrero and published in 1957 under the original Spanish title Manual de zoología fantástica.[1][2][3] The subsequent English version contains descriptions of 120 mythical beasts from folklore and literature, and was praised upon its release.


The book contains descriptions of 120 mythical beasts from folklore and literature. In the preface, Borges states that the book is to be read "as with all miscellanies... not... straight through... Rather we would like the reader to dip into the pages at random, just as one plays with the shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope"; and that "legends of men taking the shapes of animals" have been omitted. Although a work of fiction, it is situated in a tradition of Paper Museums, bestiaries, and natural history writing.[4]


It was expanded in 1967 and 1969 in Spain to the final El libro de los seres imaginarios.[5] The English edition, created in collaboration with translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni, contains descriptions of 120 mythical beasts from folklore and literature. A similar book, The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, was also later authored by Caspar Henderson.[6]


A review from Publishers Weekly praised the book, describing it as "perfect foils for classic Borgesian musings on everything from biblical etymology to the underworld, giving the creatures particularly vivid and perfectly scaled shape".[7] Reviewing the book for The Guardian, Caspar Henderson stated that the book was brief but also a "map of the endless labyrinth of human imagination and its contents" that was "dense and deep". The reviewer also commented that the entries on legends were "delightful".[8] Benjamin DeMott in The New York Times also complimented the book, stating that it was "an amusing tribute to the human gift for seeing the invisible and debating whether it whistles".[9] An article in Journal of Modern Literature, written by Melanie Nicholson, reported that some critics described the book as a "curious but unoriginal compilation of already-told tale". However, Nicholson stated that it was also "one worthy of serious consideration".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The book of imaginary beings" (first ed., 1969). LC Online Catalog. LCCN Permalink. Library of Congress ( Retrieved 2016-09-23.
      "El libro de los seres imaginarios" (1967). LC Online Catalog. See also OCLC 963993 (Buenos Aires: Editorial Kier, 1967).
      See also OCLC 581678 (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1957).
  2. ^ "Borges' THE BOOK OF IMAGINARY BEINGS - ProQuest". Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  3. ^ Escande, Jessy (2022-03-04). "Foreign Yet Familiar: J. L. Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings and Other Cultural Ferrymen in Japanese Fantasy Games". Games and Culture. 18: 3–26. doi:10.1177/15554120211060258. ISSN 1555-4120. S2CID 247280128.
  4. ^ Nappi, Carla (2009). The Monkey and the Inkpot: Natural History and Its Transformations in Early Modern China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780674054356.
  5. ^ Vallejo, Álvaro Arango (2019). "El libro de los seres imaginarios: bestiario postmoderno". Variaciones Borges (48): 189–210. ISSN 1396-0482. JSTOR 26864543.
  6. ^ "The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, by Caspar Henderson – review". the Guardian. 2013-11-23. Retrieved 2022-09-19.
  7. ^ "The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges". Retrieved 2022-09-19.
  8. ^ "Caspar Henderson: Rereading The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges". the Guardian. 2012-11-23. Retrieved 2022-09-19.
  9. ^ DeMOTT, BF BENJAMIN (1969-12-14). "The Book of Imaginary Beings; By Jorge Luis Borges with Margarita Guerrero. Revised, enlarged and translated from the Spanish by Norman Thomas di Giovanni in collaboration with the author. 256 pp. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co. $6.95". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-09-19.
  10. ^ Nicholson, Melanie (2020). "Necessary and Unnecessary Monsters: Jorge Luis Borges's Book of Imaginary Beings". Journal of Modern Literature. 43 (2): 134–151. doi:10.2979/jmodelite.43.2.08. ISSN 1529-1464. S2CID 216237560.