The Cole Library, which is held at the University of Reading Special Collections, is a treasure trove of books with fine zoological illustrations. Ichthyologie ; ou, Histoire Naturelle des Poissons by the German ichthyologist Marcus Elieser Bloch (1723-99) has been described as one of the finest illustrated works on fish ever to be published, and is one of the highlights of the Cole collection.
This month’s Featured Item on the Special Collections website takes a close look at at this extraordinary publication
This work is the French octavo edition of Bloch’s Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Fische which was originally published in twelve folio volumes, illustrated with 432 coloured copperplate engravings, and providing detailed descriptions of about 500 fish species. Bloch gave full descriptions of every species known to him, some of which were introduced to a wider audience in colour for the first time. Each species is illustrated with a high quality engraving which has been meticulously hand-coloured, with silver paint used to give an exquisite realistic sheen to the fish scales.
For more information on the Cole Library and how to view the collections for yourself, see the Cole Library webpage.