The Eternal Fishmonger

I’ve been told that there is a drop of old Dutch blood in my ancestry—that way back in the 17th century, an intrepid few Dutch immigrants mingled their seed with the mongrel mess of my father’s line. I think now I sense a kindred spirit. Adriaen Coenensz, a fisherman and fish seller from Scheveningen in Holland wrote and illustrated a book between 1577 and 1580 titled Het Visboek (“The Fishbook“). It’s an amazing browse. Apparently, Coenensz was interested in adventure and exotic dining experiences…


…he was an early devotee of science fiction…


…and most of all, he was obsessed with squid and fish. There’s page after page of aquatic organisms.


It suits my fancy to imagine that Old Adriaen had a few grandchildren who emigrated to the New World, intermarried with English and Scots and German settlers, had families that drifted west with the frontier, ended up on the Pacific coast where they blended with Swedes and Norwegians, and the end result is me, here to carry on the long-hallowed family tradition. Frater, ave atque vale!


  1. says

    There were a lot of “travellers’ tales” that sound like science fiction. My favourite collection is the one by a pseudo-Aristotle – On Marvellous Things Heard which includes things like: “And in Thessaly, the mice eat iron.” (that might not have the place right but the gist is there.)

  2. i dunno says

    It appears that this may be one of the long lost texts of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  3. Dave Puskala says

    Headless man on a spit is a timeless summertime favorite. PZ Pils will go with anything you choose to bbq.

  4. Lydia says

    That spit ala human has hooves on his feet and hands. Perhaps he didn’t know how to draw a pig, or was trying for a new recipe on human-animal hybrids.

  5. Willow says

    I got all excited thinking it might be ME, because all the details fit (including the embarassing Firefox 1.0.7). However, I’m not in Littleton; my location usually shows up as Salisbury, Maryland. And in checking my history, I visited the Visboek entry only.

    Darn. Fame eludes me again.

  6. says

    This was in the discount bin of my local independent bookseller:

    The Whale Book : Whales and Other Marine Animals as Described by Adriaen Coenen in 1585 (Hardcover)
    ISBN: 1861891741

    Reaktion Books reprinted a collection of some of Adriaen Coenen’s work with English annotations and translations.

    You can also pick it up from Amazon too:

    Note, part of the proceeds go to Greenpeace, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the World Wide Fund for Nature.