This is a stunning achievement in zoological illustration. Samuel Fallours began as a common soldier in the service of the Dutch East India Company, though later, between 1706 and 1712, held the title of Associate Curate, entrusted with consoling the sick of Ambon. By 1703, his artistic abilities had been discovered by several of the company's prominent officials, including Francois Valentijn, his immediate superior. With the rise in his work's popularity and heavy demand, Fallours made - or hired native artists to make - multiple copies of all his drawings. These he sold or presented as gifts to influential people back home. In addition, he copied drawings by other artists, particularly those of Isaac Johannes Lamotius. The result was a number of sets of approximately similar drawings, depicting hundreds of animals, mostly fishes but also crustaceans, insects, a dugong, and even a mermaid. Some of these became the basis for 18th-century publications, among them Louis Renard's "Poissons, Ecrevisses et Crabes" (1719) and Francois Valentijn's "Verhandeling der Ongemeene Visschen van Amboina", a chapter in his "Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien" (1724-1726).
These beautiful, elaborately detailed and brilliantly colored drawings provide an extraordinary description of marine fish fauna of the East Indies that can still be interpreted in light of present-day scientific knowledge. From an artistic and historical viewpoint, these drawings are among the finest natural history illustrations ever made.
Petra Lamers-Schutze studied art history, archaeology and Romance languages and literatures in Mainz and Rome, gaining her doctorate in 1991. She has worked for TASCHEN since 1998, writing and editing numerous art titles, and overseeing the "Art" and "Classic" series. About the author: Theodore W. Pietsch is Dorothy T. Gilbert Professor in the College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences, and Curator of Fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington in Seattle. While his primary interest is marine ichthyology, he has published extensively on the history of ichthyology and its seminal figures, including Louis Renard, Samuel Fallours, Charles Plumier, and Georges Cuvier. His is currently working on an illustrated English translation of Cuvier's five-volume Histoire des Sciences Naturelles (1841-1845).