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The NWO-project ‘A New History of Fishes. A long-term approach to fishes in science and culture, 1550-1880 proposes a new history of European ichthyological knowledge over three centuries (1550-1880). We look at ‘science’ in context – and, therefore, for the early modern period at expert fish knowledge (manifested in collecting practices and information exchange via texts, objects and images) before it became a scientific discipline. We combine this contextual approach with analysis of the important fish books of the 16th-19th centuries, focusing on four aspects that continue to play a key part in ichthyology throughout the period: autopsy (dissection), classification, illustration/description, and rhetorics of description. Following this approach we hope to answer our central questions: How and where did ichthyology develop as a scientific discipline; how did it take shape as a field of expert knowledge in the cultural context of early-modern and modern Europe. 

My PhD sub-project ‘Tradition and Innovation: Conrad Gessner and Sixteenth-Century Ichthyology (1551-1602)’ concentrates on the development of ichthyology as a field of study in the sixteenth century. Conrad Gessner’s Historia Piscium (1558) is taken as a point of focus within a broad corpus of primary sources, including well-known authors such as Pierre Belon, Hippolito Salviani, and Guillaume Rondelet, as well as lesser-known authors such as Gregor Mangolt and Johann Kentmann. Up until the sixteenth century ichthyology as a field of study was still relatively unexplored, resulting in a surge in interest in and publications on the subject, which began roughly around 1550. This project considers the effect of a lack of existing knowledge and literature on  species description, depiction, and classification. In this context, the exchange of information within scholarly networks is examined, and the exchange between scholarly publications and other discussions of fish (in literature, mythology, religious texts, in medical context, and in culinary works), as well as the use of both empirically gathered information and information gathered in other ways, and scholarly attitudes towards the verification of information are taken into account.


2022: ‘Monsters en meerminnen – zeemonsters in de natuurhistorie‘. Summerschool History of the Book, Allard Pierson / UvA.

2019: ‘Things to do with Texts. Natural History from the Renaissance to Darwin’. Leiden University Humanities Lab.

2017: ‘Things to do with Texts. The Exploration of Nature through word and image’. Leiden University Humanities Lab.

2016: ‘Things to Do With Texts: Capturing Nature in Word and Image ’. Leiden University Humanities Lab.

2016: ‘Natural History in Word and Image (800-1600)’. Arts and Culture research master, Leiden University.

2012, 2013, 2014 ‘History of Biological Illustrations Workshop’ Amsterdam University College.


Conrad Gessner’s Historia piscium (1558), more information: Rare Fish Books

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