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Parrot fish as a symbol of friendship: Joachim Camerarius the Younger’s Symbolorum et Emblematum (1604)




The above image is taken from the fourth volume of Joachim Camerarius the Younger’s emblem book Symbolorum et Emblematum, published in 1604. The story behind the depicted scene goes back to Pliny’s Natural History, which states that parrot fishes help their friends escape from wicker-basket traps by pulling them out by their tails. As a result, parrot fish came to be known as a symbol of friendship. In fact, this is a gross misinterpretation. In regions where wicker-basket traps are still used to catch these fish, the species is known for violently attacking specimens of their kind who have gotten stuck between the twigs of the traps.

Digital version available at: Bayerische StaatsBibliothek
This post is based on a conference paper I presented at the Emblems and the Natural World conference, Münster (Germany), December 17-18, 2015.


Sophia Hendrikx and Fishtories, 2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and Fishtories with appropriate and specific direction to the original content