An image of the “sea monk” or “monkish fish” in an announcement for this week’s Great Lakes Great Libraries conference in Madison caught our eye.
The image was often reproduced in early modern books of natural history, in which readers could experience at a safe remove monsters and sports of nature cohabiting the natural world. Along with the bishop fish, it appeared, for example, in book 4 of Conrad Gesner’s Historia animalium, 2nd edition (1604),
which advertised on its title page its debt to Rondelet and Belon.
Our copy of Gesner’s work on fish is bound with others of his works in a hefty oversize volume,
which includes other denizens of the deep both conventional
Belon’s work of 1553 (in a horizontal format better suited to fish) and Rondelet’s work of 1554-1555 likewise included illustrations of the “fish with the habit of a monk”:
For more on “sea monks and other page frights,” see a post on the Biodiversity Heritage Library blog from last Halloween.