Title page of 'Icthyographia'

Paul van Somer II (1644 - 1698)1686

The Royal Society

The Royal Society
London, United Kingdom

The title page to Icthyographia (1685), a component of the larger Historia Piscium, shows one of Neptune’s attendants blowing a large conch shell to trumpet the work’s importance, and a ship bringing in the day’s catch. Illustration from De historia piscium libri quatuor, by Francis Willughby and John Ray (Oxford, 1686).
Object history
The Historia Piscium, based on John Ray's editing of the posthumous work of naturalist Francis Willughby, was the first comprehensive book of ichthyology (the study of fishes). The Royal Society was responsible for the printing of the plates, many of which were sponsored by individual Fellows at a cost of one guinea each; the pages of text were printed separately in Oxford. The book did not sell well, and the resulting financial deficit made it impossible for the Society to pay for the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica.


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