Papegaaivis – Markus Elieser Bloch, 1782-1795

PARROTFISH “Coryphaena Coerulea / Der blaue Stutzkopf / Le Rasoir bleu / The blue Fish” (plate 174), copper engraving made…

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Coryphaena Coerulea / Der blaue Stutzkopf / Le Rasoir bleu / The blue Fish” (plate 174), copper engraving made by Ludwig Schmidt after the drawing by Krüger jr., from Markus Elieser Bloch’sAllgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische” published in Berlin between 1782 and 1795. With original hand colouring. Size: 19 x 38 cm.

According to Marcus Elieser Bloch (1723-1799) in his Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische (General natural history of fish), a 12-volume, beautifully illustrated comprehensive work on fishes: the blue fish „is a resident of the American waters. It is found in the Bahamian Islands, in the seas between the tropics and in the Antillean Islands. I do not know how big it will grow, whether it has edible meat, whether it reproduces strongly, when it lays eggs and what it is living on, or in what way it is easiest to catch. From the heavily armed mouth, however, it can be said with certainty that he belongs to the predatory fish.“

Bloch’s labour on the “Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische” occupied a considerable portion of his life, and is considered to have laid the foundations of the science of ichthyology. The publication was encouraged by a large subscription, and it passed rapidly through five editions in German and in French. Bloch made little or no alteration in the systematic arrangement of Peter Artedi and Carl Linnaeus, although he was disposed to introduce into the classification some modifications depending on the structure of the gills. To the number of genera before established, he found it necessary to add nineteen new ones, and he described 276 species new to science, many of them inhabitants of the remotest parts of the ocean, and by the brilliancy of their colours, or the singularity of their forms, as much objects of popular admiration as of scientific curiosity.

Bloch is considered the most important ichthyologist of the 18th century.