Before Linnaeus

Old books on marine species
Species are given Latin names and are classified by taxonomists. They use Linnaeus 'Systema Naturae 10' as starting point of their works. As a result there is little attention for older books in biology. To bad, these works fom the foundation of our knowledge. And most of them are too beautifully illustrated to forget.

Books and science
Through the ages biology books were written by either researchers or encyclopaedists. The first ones study species themselves, the latter collected knowledge from different sources. Some of the old encycopledists like Gessner in the 16-th century were quite accurate. Others included to many unchecked "hear-say" stories to be valuable. Pliny is an example, his natural history stories are nice to read but full of fantasies.

Our knowledge of marine biology builds on scientists who studied species themselves. Who where they? It all started with the study of marine fishes in the Mediterrenan. First of all Aristotle described as many as 117 fishes, his work being the main source till renaissance. Around 1550 two Frenchmen, Pierre Belon and Guillaume Rondelet travelled in Europe, mostly to Mediterrenean countries, studying marine animals. In their books they described fishes, soft fishes (squids and octopus) and some marine invertebrates. Also the Italian Hippolyto Salviani added new fish species collected at fish markets.
In the 17-th century the focus became broader. Georgius Rumphius was the first to describe life on marine reefs and Martin Lister described shells from all over the world. In the 18-th century Linnaeus build his work on the growing attention to all forms of life and stimulated further research.

What will you find here?
These pages give an introduction to old marine biology works and provide links to most of them. In this historical timeline some Dutch authors as Rumphius and Gronovius definitely fit in, but I also added some less important Dutch authors. The reason for this is the special interest this site shows for their works. You'll find short descriptions of the author and his work(s) and, if available, a link to their content. If you are more interested in a chronological overview of books about curious sea monsters here is a nice link.

In the left frame:
* Books indicated with an asterix may be considerd milestones in the history of marine biology.
Lightyellow indicates it's a work (partly) in Dutch.