- Museum number
Verso: Flounder, leaf from a volume (now consisting of 113 leaves of drawings), associated with John White
- Production date
Height: 365 millimetres
Width: 220 millimetres (irregular)
- Curator's comments
- See curatorial comment for BM SL-5270.1 for a discussion of the album which contains this series of drawings and below for a discussion of the series of drawings of fish and reptiles (SL,5270.97 to 113).
There is an 18th century copy of this drawing in watercolour, commissioned by Hans Sloane before 1707 in British Library Add MS5267.9
This specimen is either the Southern Flounder (Paralichthys lethostigmus Jordan & Gilbert) or the Summer Flounder (Paralichthys dentatus Linn).
The following summary of SL,5260.97 to 113 is taken from Kim Sloan, 'A New World: England's first view of America', BM, London, 2007, pp. 232-3:
WATERCOLOURS OF NORTH CAROLINA FISH AND REPTILES
Previous writers have been very dismissive of these watercolours inscribed with Algonquian names which have always been described as copies after lost John White originals. They are not by the same hand that made the more accomplished copies already discussed in connection with register numbers 1906,0509.1.40 to 73 (John White's watercolours of birds, fish, reptiles and plants). They appear to be by the same hand who drew the birds (SL,5260.75 to 96) with their Algonquian names and which have also been dismissed as flat, stylized, badly drawn and inaccurate. However, these watercolours of fish are very accomplished for their time and compare very well with contemporary woodcuts. The features are clearly delineated and easily recognizable. In fact Mark Catesby used Sloane’s watercolour copies of two of them, the catfish and the gar, as the source for his own illustrations of these fish in his 'Natural History of Carolina' and they in turn were used by Linnaeus as the type specimens for the Linnaean binomials for these fish.
As discussed in SL,5270.75 concerning the birds, there may not have been originals by John White of these. In fact his watercolours were mainly of fish found in the West Indies inscribed with their Spanish names, whereas these are probably what Harriot was referring to in his 'Briefe and true report' when he stated there were ‘very many other sortes of excellent good fish, which we haue taken & eaten, whose names I know not but in the countrey language; wee haue of twelue sorts more the pictures as they were drawn in the countrey with their names.’ There are seventeen images in this group: excluding the reptiles or the herring or sturgeon, there are twelve. Their use as a guide to the fish available as a source of food in the fresh and sea waters around ‘Virginia’ was perfectly adequate and the Algonquian inscriptions meant they would also be useful for future negotiations with the Indians when the English plantation began in earnest.
The sheets on which they, like the birds, are drawn are badly stained. They are all pen and ink with watercolour and some use of lead white and probably other lead pigments which have discoloured.
Lit.: Only a selection is reproduced and discussed here but they have all been catalogued in LB 3 (114–26), ECM 78 (97v–113), PH&DBQ 85–107, and are reproduced in full in black and white in Paul Hulton, 'America', 1987, figs 88–105; for a basic guide see Henry B. Bigelow and William C. Schroeder, Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, Washington, 1953, revised 2002, available at http://www.gma.org/fogm; we are grateful to Oliver Crimmen and to Colin McCarthy of the Zoology Department of the Natural History Museum for their assistance.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- See Acq.Hist in BM SL-5270.1. Transferred from the Department of Manuscripts.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number