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Captured on paper: fish books, natural history and questions of demarcation in eighteenth-century Europe (ca. 1680–1820)

On the28th of September Didi van Trijp successfully defended a doctoral thesis and graduated.

D.R. van Trijp
28 September 2021
Leiden Repository

This dissertation examines how in eighteenth-century Europe, naturalists sought to study, grasp and capture the world of fish. Working on the intersection of the history of science and book history, this research aims to shed light on how naturalists came to present themselves as authorities in an emerging field. It does so by focussing on a set of ‘fish books’, i.e., natural historical works that describe and depict fish. The first is Francis Willughby and John Ray’s "Historia piscium" (Oxford, 1686); the second Peter Artedi’s "Ichthyologia sive opera omnia de piscibus" (Leiden, 1738), and the third Marcus Élieser Bloch’s twelve volume series "Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische" (Berlin, 1782–1795). These works are analysed alongside correspondences, manuscripts and natural historical collections. Together, these sources show that the development of the study of fish in this period can be best be understood as a process of continuous demarcation. This dissertation argues that the study of fish was subject to recurrent debates on subject, method and practitioner, and that such discussions were of both epistemological and social nature. In presenting their fish books, naturalists leveraged such discussions as to secure a place for themselves in the capricious environment of early modern natural history.


Prof. dr. P.J. Smith (LUCAS)
prof. dr. H.G.M. Jorink (LIAS)

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