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Ocean Currents

12 Weird and Wild Historical Illustrations of Fish

Many of these scientific illustrations of fish are hundreds of years old

historical illustration oarfish and moonfish
© Field book of giant fishes, 1949

Historical illustrations give us a glimpse into the scientific research of the past—and they can be very cool to look at!

We can view thousands of historical illustrations of marine life thanks to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). The BHL is the largest open-access digital library for biodiversity archives. They work with libraries around the world to offer millions of books dating back to the 15th century for free. The library is not only an incredible source of data for scientists—it brings scientific art into the homes of people around the world.

Previously, we dug through the BHL archives to bring you some of our favorite oceanshark, shell and cephalopod illustrations from the 18th and 19th centuries. Now, we’re bringing you our favorite cool and unusual illustrations of fish from the BHL!

You can explore the BHL too, by visiting their website and Flickr page.

opah historical illustration
© A history of the fishes of the British Islands, 1862-65
deep sea fish historical illustration
© Living lights, 1887.
eels historical illustration
© Unterhaltungen aus der Naturgeschichte, 1799-1800
deep sea batfish
© The deep-sea fishes [of the Hawaiian Islands],1905.
mahi flying fish historical illustration
© Field book of giant fishes, 1949
fish historical illustrations
© Our country's fishes and how to know them, 1902
nassau grouper historical illustration
© American food and game fishes, 1902
two fish historical illustration
© Unterhaltungen aus der Naturgeschichte, 1799-1800
monkfish historical illustration
© Abbildung und Beschreibung der Fische, 1787
two blennies historical illustrations
© A history of the fishes of the British Islands, 1862-65
assorted fishes historical illustrations
© Field book of giant fishes, 1949

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