Fantastical Fish, circa 1719

BY ABBY OLENA

In 1685, when Louis Renard was seven or eight years old, he
and his family left their native France to settle in the Netherlands,
where Huguenots—French Protestants—could
worship without fear of persecution. In Amsterdam, Renard
led a colorful life as a spy, a seller of patent medicines, and a
book publisher until his death in 1746. His only known likeness
shows him smoking a pipe in a brothel as scantily clad
women parade by.

SOMETHING’S FISHY: Though many aspects of the drawings in Fishes,
Crayfishes and Crabs do not represent reality, more than half of the
engravings can be identified to species.

WARNOCK LIBRARY AND OCTAVO CORP

As the Age of Enlightenment dawned across Europe,
Renard published Fishes, Crayfishes and Crabs, of Diverse
Colors and Extraordinary Form, That Are Found around
the Islands of the Moluccas and on the Coasts of the Southern
Lands, his only scientific book. He called it “one of the
most precious works to enrich natural history since the birth
of literature,” according to a 1984 article published in Natural
History magazine by University of Washington professor
Theodore Pietsch. Renard’s two-volume tome comprises 100
color plates with 460 individual engravings of fish, crustaceans,
stick insects, a dugong, and a mermaid, and includes
annotations in French, Dutch, and Malay.
The book also asserts that the engravings are authentic,
but Pietsch, whose careful annotation and translation gives
vast detail about Renard’s life and work, initially disagreed.
“Despite these repeated promises that nothing is embellished
beyond the truth, the colors used in the paintings are,
more often than not, applied in a totally arbitrary fashion and
have no similarity whatsoever to those of the living animal,”
Pietsch wrote in Natural History. “Even more unfortunate is
the gross inaccuracy of many of the renderings themselves,
some being impossible to identify with actual species.” Readers
in the eighteenth century had reacted similarly. “Of course,
my first impression, like everyone else, was that these are just
totally mythological, fantastic things,” Pietsch recently told
The Scientist.
No existing historical records show that Renard ever went
to the Moluccas—now known as the Maluku Islands, which
are part of modern-day Indonesia—so someone else had to
have created the images. Though multiple artists probably
participated, one known contributor was Samuel Fallours,
who worked for the Dutch East India Company, first as a soldier,
then as an assistant to religious leaders on the islands.
“In what’s now Indonesia . . . artists were making these drawings
because they were getting paid,” says Pietsch, which supported
his suspicion that the engravings were inauthentic.
But as Pietsch examined the engravings more closely, he
realized that more than half of them could be identified to
species, and still more to genus or family, leaving fewer than
10 percent of the engravings based on no known animal.

“Thus, to cast the work off as being without scientific merit
is to greatly underestimate its value,” Pietsch wrote in the
commentary accompanying his 1995 English translation of
Fishes, Crayfishes and Crabs. With this collection of images
and descriptions, Renard “has given us an intriguing glimpse
of what science was like in the late seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries.”

7 THINGS EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FEMALE VIAGRA
EARLY TRAUMA'S LASTING DAMAGE
LOW-CARB VS. LOW-FAT
LONELY PEOPLE WIRED DIFFERENTLY
OLD MINES LEAKING TOXIC SLUDGE
CONTROVERSIAL FEMALE VIAGRA APPROVES
HOW TO RESPOND TO TERROR ON A TRAIN?
WILL AD BLOCKERS KILL ONLINE MEDIA?
YOUR BODY ON A DETOX
DISASTERS ACROSS HISTORY
FIVE TACTICS TRAINERS SWEAR BY
A-Z URBAN LEGENDS
13 CLEVER WAYS TO CLEAN
17 SECRETS OF HAPPY FAMILIES
19 WAYS TO COOK EVERYTHING FASTER
18 THINGS WE'VE LEARNED SO FAR
13 THINGS THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY WON'T TELL YOU
MIX YOUR OWN CLEANERS
YOUR FOOD FEARS GET A REALITY CHECK
30 MOST SHOCKING MOMENTS IN GAME OF THRONES
7 SECRETS OF SEAFOOD
CHAMPION OF BREAKFAST CEREALS
BOUNTY OF BANANAS
UNDERSTANDING YOUR BABY'S SKIN
50 SECRETS YOUR GROCER WON'T TELL YOU


KNOWLEDGE HISTORY HOW TO ANIMAL LIFE CRIME CELEB GAMES MYSTERY FOOD SPACE TRAVEL FINANCE HEALTH BEAUTY TECH VEHICLE ENTERTAINMENT GARDEN PRODUCT JOKES

No comments:

Post a Comment