Free Standard Shipping on all Ready to Hang Art

Adriaen Coenen's Fish Book (1580)

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

Selected double-page spreads from Adriaen Coenen's Visboek (Fish Book), an epic 800+ page tome on all things fish and fish-related. Coenen began work on this unique book in 1577, at the age of 63, and in three years gathered an unprecedented amount of information on the sea and its coasts, coastal waters, fishing grounds and marine animals. The information was largely gathered in the course of Coenen's daily work in the Dutch sea-side village of Scheveningen as a fisherman and fish auctioneer and, later on, as wreck master of Holland (allowing him access to every strange creature that washed ashore). Coenen was also a well respected authority in academic circles and used this reputation to receive learned works on the sea from The Hague and Leiden, copied extracts from which find their way into his Fish Book. Indeed, much of the Fish Book borrows and quotes from other texts, including Olaus Magnus' Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus. Strange anecdotes and legends, often recounted in pamphlets, prove a fertile source too - one of the most notable being the case of the "tunnyfish" (f49v) caught in 1561 in the Mediterranean Sea near Ceuta that had tattoo or drawing-like marks on its skin that looked like images of ships. Large swathes of the book are dedicated to reports of strange mythical sightings of creatures such as the "zeebisschop", a creature described as possessing a hat, a wand, slippers, a chasuble, and gloves; or a 17 foot long sea monster (f52v) which appeared on the Brazilian coast in 1564 standing on its hind flippers. As well as the eclectic and detailed text, Coenen's book is, of course, notable for its exquisite manner of presentation. Every page becomes a work of art in its own right, decorated with painted borders and delightful watercolours. Two years after its completion, Coenen produced another book this time dedicated solely to whales, known as the Whale Book (now housed in Antwerp).


The digital copies of the Visboek presented here have been spliced together to create the double spread and are all sourced from The National Library of the Netherlands which has digitised the whole of the Visboek and includes a wonderful (flash-based) digital presentation with extensive notes and commentary on individual pages, if you are interested to learn more.

Read more of our blogs at Schmidt fine art gallery Conversations about art

Folio 18v and 19r

Folio 19v and 20r

Folio 38v and 39r

Folio 48v and 49r

Folio 49v and 50r

Folio 50v and 51r

Folio 51v and 52r

Folio 52v and 53r

Folio 52v and 53r

Folio 53v and 54r

Folio 59v and 60r

Folio 62v and 63r

Folio 69v and 70r

Folio 75v and 76r

Folio 77v and 78r

Folio 79v and 80r

Folio 87v and 88r

Folio 145v and 146r

Folio 157v and 158r

Folio 160v and 161r

Folio 201v and 202r

Folio 238v and 239r

Folio 243v and 244r

Folio 259v and 260r

Visit us today atSchmidt Fine Art Galleryto view our entire collection of works taken from around the world. All our prints are manufactured in the USA.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Related Posts

Aspens in Banff
Aspens in Banff
Banff National Park is Canada's oldest and best-known national park, established in 1885. Situated in Alberta's Rocky...
Read More
20 things to shoot inside
20 things to shoot inside
How to stay creative in self isolation. With all of us spending more time indoors due to the coronavirus outbreak, w...
Read More
3 Beginner-friendly shoot ideas
3 Beginner-friendly shoot ideas
Often, when contributors on Unsplash look at their stats page to get a better understanding of how their images are p...
Read More

Welcome Newcomer