Okay, since a few people asked, more info on this image from this post by Jess Fink (I would have just re-reblogged it, but looks like I can’t do that unless I reblog someone else’s reblogging and ::vomits everywhere::):
This clipped image and the accompanying text comes from a work of a man named Conrad Gesner, who, despite the fact that he was writing about a goat man with fish legs like he was a real thing you could see at Sea World, is actually more or less considered the father of modern zoology.
This bit comes from a multi-book work called Historiae Animalium, or the Histories of the Animals. The first three books concern quadrupeds and birds, but this excerpt comes from book four, De Piscium et Aquatilium Animantium Natura, or On the Nature of Fish and Aquatic Animals.
Rather than being a liar or poor scientist, it seems Gesner was just a little too willing to believe anecdotes concerning animals reported to him by sailors or ancient sources (his book on quadrupeds includes a unicorn, for example), but he is considered a legit scientist, and a whole genus of plants is named for him due to his considerable work in the field of botany.
That said, here is the surrounding text from this image:
Neptuni tubicen, cuius pars ultima cetum,
Aequoreum facies indicat esse deum:
Serpentis medio Triton comprenditur orbe,
Qui caudam inserto mordicus ore tenet;
Fama viros animo insignes, praeclaraque gesta
Prosequitur, toto mandat & orbe legi.
Or, in English:
The trumpeteer of Neptune, whose bottom part says he’s a sea-monster, but whose face says he’s a god, Triton is surrounded in the middle of a circle of a snake, who holds his tail in his mouth by his teeth. Fame follows men of noteworthy spirit and their glorious deeds and commands that they be read about by the whole world.
Now, out of context, this makes NO SENSE, but this bit of poetry is a quote from a book called The Book of Emblems by a man named Andrea Alciato, which was a series of woodcut images accompanied by an epigram intended to illustrate a point. This is the image that accompanies the above epigram:
Hopefully with that context the poem makes a little more sense. The lesson to be learned by this image is “Ex litterarum studiis immortalitatem acquiri,” or that immortality is acquired through the study of literature. (Immortality, here I come!)
The whole point of this is to have a little literary bit about a fishman before he talks about a fishman.
Then he talks about the fishman. I hope you won’t mind if I don’t transcribe the Latin text and just translate it (though if you want to read it in Latin like I’m doing, it’s here. NB: this link is worth looking at because it has all the other illustrations). He says:
"I received this image of an ichthyocentaur, or Sea Devil, so to speak, from a certain artist some time ago; he says he had received a drawing of a skeleton of such an animal in Antwerp. Also, another man brought back this monster dried from Norway to lower Germany, male and female. Likenesses of similar monsters lend credibility to this one, such as the ones shown above in the entry on Mermen, but primarily of the one which was seen in Rome in 1523, which we propose is almost the same as this one, except without horns. Since this one has a human appearance in its upper parts and is horned, we shall call it a Sea Pan, or, since it is snub-nosed, a Sea Satyr."
It goes on, but you get the idea.
Check out a baller virtual copy of Gesner’s book (also featuring animals that actually exist) here.
P.S. The animal he actually saw was probably a monk seal.
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