Kevin M. Isky '21, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Student Research Paper

Publication Date

Fall 2017

Department 1



Among the collections cabinets of the Renaissance, fish, in the forms of naturalia and artificialia, can be widely found. They were sought after for their beauty as well as their relation to the natural world. In the famous frontispiece to Ferrante Imperato’s Dell’historia naturale (1599), fish of varying kinds are hung against and atop the ceiling on either side of a large alligator. They are mixed between an assortment of crustaceans and shells, also sea creatures, including the prized nautilus shell found so abundantly in Renaissance culture. As seen in this frontispiece, fish could be found as decoration in collection cabinets, featured creatures of study in natural history books, and the subject of paintings. The cabinet here at Gettysburg features fish in those two forms of naturalia and artificilia to properly emulate the era. A skeleton of the Gar fish is displayed alongside the skeleton of a Perch. Each representing two sides of the commercial spectrum. Paired with the skeletons are prints of copper engravings done by Mark Catesby (1682-1749) from the second volume of his book The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands (1754).[excerpt]

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Produced as part of a collaboration between Kay Etheridge's course FYS-188: Exploration of the Marvelous: Art and Science in the Renaissance, and Felicia Else's course ARTH 284: Wonders of Nature and Artifice: The Renaissance Quest for Knowledge.

Original version online at

Audio guide on fish skeletons included.