[UCP Books]: The Phoenix

The Phoenix is as singular as its subject. With intelligence, grace, and sound scholarship, Nigg has restored this extraordinary beast to its rightful place in the universal library.”
Alberto Manguel, author of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

The Phoenix

An Unnatural Biography of a Mythical Beast
Joseph Nigg


US Publication date: 15 November 2016 Cloth ISBN-13: 978-0-226-19549-0
UK Publication date: 12 December 2016 $35.00/ £24.50

Never beset by hardship or defeated by death, the phoenix is the ultimate icon of hope and rebirth. And in The Phoenix: An Unnatural Biography of a Mythical Beast, it finally has its due—a complete chronicle worthy of such a fantastic and phantasmal creature. Joseph Nigg, esteemed expert on otherworldly creatures—from dragons to gryphons to sea monsters—offers here a comprehensive biography and engaging (un)natural history of the triumphant fire bird.

Beginning in ancient Egypt and traveling around the globe and through the centuries, Nigg’s vast and sweeping narrative takes readers on a brilliant tour of the cross-cultural lore of this famous, yet mysterious, immortal bird. Seeking both the similarities and the differences in the phoenix’s many myths and representations, Nigg describes its countless permutations over millennia, including legends of the Chinese “phoenix,” which was considered one of the sacred creatures that presided over China’s destiny; classical Greece and Rome, where it can be found in the writings of Herodotus and Ovid; nascent and medieval Christianity, in which it came to embody the resurrection; and in Europe during the Renaissance, when it was a popular emblem of royals. Nigg examines the various phoenix traditions, the beliefs and tales associated with them, their symbolic and metaphoric use, the skepticism and speculation they’ve raised, and their appearance in religion, bestiaries, and even contemporary popular culture.

Since publication of The Book of Gryphons in 1982, Joseph Nigg has explored the rich cultural lives of mythical creatures in a variety of styles and formats for readers of all ages. His books have garnered multiple awards and have been translated into more than twenty languages. His most recent book, Sea Monsters: A Voyage around the World’s Most Beguiling Map, was also published by the University of Chicago Press. He lives in Denver.


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