John Ray's A Book of Fishes


John Ray (1628-1705) was a naturalist, philosopher and theologian. Ray’s main innovation in the field of taxonomy was the description and classification of plants according to their observed similarities and differences, as shown in his 1670 Catalogus Plantarum Anglias (Catalogue of English Plants), which included notes on medicine and pharmacy.

This interest in plants and their uses was tied to Ray’s belief in divine creation which could be revealed through the story of the natural world.

Ray also studied animals and human cultures (informed by travel through Europe with his patron and collaborator Francis Willughby), and published De Historia Piscium (A History of Fishes) in 1686.

This volume is from the collection of the physician, naturalist and collector Sir Hans Sloane, who corresponded with Ray and supplied him with plant specimens – and whose collection was part of the foundation collection of the British Museum.

The volume is inscribed ‘A book of fishes done at hamburgh, with Mr Ray’s notes’. The drawings are titled in German but with annotations in English probably in the hand of John Ray. An inscription next to a drawing titled ‘Einen elenbott’ reads ‘Hippoglossus. The halibut, in ye north of England called the Turbot’.

Full title:
Illustrations relating to De Historia Piscium
c 1686
Book / Manuscript / Drawing / Illustration
Unknown [Artist], John Ray
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Add MS 5308c

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