In the December posting of the Leiden Arts in Society Blog; “Monstrous rays and fraudulent apothecaries”, Sophia Hendrikx looked in three of the major early modern works about fish. Referring to Pierre Belonùs “De Aquatilibus” (Paris 1553), Conrad Gessner’s “Historiae Animalium” (Zürich 1558) and Ulysse Aldrovani’s “De Piscibus” (Bologna 1613), Hendrikx examined the presentation of the European eagle ray in these books. She explained that the monster illustrations often showed a ray which had been “cut and twisted before being dried, in order to make it look like a monster.” In the sixteenth century monsters were ‘popular’ and a “widespread interest made it a lucrative business to create objects that could reasonably pass as monstrous creatures.” Gessner and Aldrovandi realized that these so called jenny hanivers were dissected fish and therefore man-made-monsters and advised their readers accordingly.
(ill. Jenny hanivers, Aldrovandi , De Piscibus, Bologna 1613)
More information and illustrations about this and other fishy topics can be found on Sophia Hendrikx’ Fishtories blog.