THE PORCUPINE FISH print
These strikingly beautiful and rare copper engravings are from the plate volume of the first edition of Francis Willughby’s De Historia Piscium libri quatuar published in 1686. It was the first large work on fishes in England, marking a new era in ichthyology that clearly described and classified fishes according to nature and based on their characteristics drawn only from their structure.
Although naturalist Francis Willoughby (1635 -1672) is the only one named on the title page, Historia Piscium was very much a partnership with English theologian and eminent scientist, John Ray (1627 – 1705) who he met in Cambridge in 1652. Their love and study of nature led them to gather the principle material for the text volume from a journey they made to France, Germany and Italy between 1663 and 1666. Willughby described and dissected all the fishes they obtained and Ray classified them. Other species were assembled from earlier descriptions.
For the plate volume, Ichthyographia, the majority of the wonderful illustrations were taken from such illustrious authors as Salviani, Rondelet and Aldrovandi. All the engravings were paid for by several members of the Royal Society of London, including the Society's president Samuel Pepys to whom the work is dedicated. Originally printed in b/w these wonderful plates have been masterfully hand painted by one of the few remaining professional colourists in the United Kingdom specialising in fish. (Ref: Allen 1951, p. 416/420; Pietsch, Cuvier - Historical Portrait of the Progress of Ichthyology 1995, p. 71/79; Dean, Bibl.of Fishes 1972, vol.3 p. 331)