Bloch's Fische


Marcus Eliser Bloch's Allgemine Naturgeschichte der Fische(1782-1795) is one of the most impressive early attempts to represent fish from all over the world accurately and handsomely. This encyclopedic effort was highly esteemed by contemporaries and remained a classic in ichthyology well into the nineteenth century. The work consists of two parts: the Oekonomische naturgeschichte der Fische, which attempted to unite descriptions of local (chiefly German) fish which had been published in separate and smaller volumes, and the Naturgeschichte der auslaendischen Fische, a repertoire of foreign and exotic fish. The second volume, which classified and described species of fish which Bloch had never seen, relied on information provided by others. The descriptions of American species were reproduced from the work of Father Plumier, a French missionary. Although partly derivative, Bloch's work became the most comprehensive book on ichthyology then in existence. This exhibit is drawn from the Library's collection of plates from Bloch's work, which numbers 219 plates. Drawn by Johann Friedrich August Krueger and engraved by Ludwig Schmidt, two Berlin artists, the plates are unmatched in the delicate beauty and fine quality of their drawings, their copper etchings, and their hand-coloring. Those in the exhibition were chosen ans arranged on the basis of their visual charm and beauty rather than for their zoological content. The Library's copy is part of the Berlin Collection, purchased by William Rainey Harper from a Berlin book dealer in 1891.