This specimen drawing, No.12 in the ongoing series, was inspired by an 18th century etching of a fish described as unidentified… I’ll say!

I love old (19th and pre-19th century) drawings and etchings of specimens from the natural world, although they do also invoke a kind of sadness, knowing of all the poking and prodding (and far, far worse) that animals have endured through the centuries at the hands of humankind.  But these early drawings and etchings are also filled with a wonder and sense of discovery and I love how the scientist-artists, even in their serious and relentless pursuit of knowledge, often allowed a bit of whimsy to creep in to their scientific study. Many of these early drawings were based on hearsay or written descriptions and so much (possibly unintentional) fanciful tweaking occurred.

Durer’s magnificently armoured rhinoceros is a fine example of this (the rhino’s story at the hands of humans is, incidentally, a very sad one).