Saturday, March 2, 2024

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 18(1)

Bettelheim, M. P. 2024. Het Schildpadboeck: The Origins and Inspiration Behind the Turtle Watercolors of Adriaen Coenen’s Visboeck and Walvisboeck. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 18(1):1-29. Published March 2, 2024.

During the late European Renaissance period, the son of a Dutch fisherman in the Netherlands began a curious undertaking: a stunning series of detailed watercolor illustrations of fish, sea mammals, and other marine creatures of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In the years that followed, he would eventually incorporate these folios into at least three illustrated manuscripts, of which only two have survived to this day.

Although these watercolor folios were well received at the time, even if only by the limited audience they reached, they were otherwise left to gather dust until contemporary academics once again revisited these neglected works with new eyes.

Among the treasures waiting to be rediscovered in these watercolor illustrations were a handful of turtles. Some of these are bona fide turtles; others merely fanciful. What makes Coenen’s work so special is that he was a “fisherman” first and foremost whose academic prowess was accidental, if not incidental, to the works he produced.

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