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Tradescant’s Fish

A curious specimen from Tradescant’s Ark
17th Century

This skin of the Bladder Fish, Chilomycterus reticulatis, from the Tropical Atlantic Ocean is thought to have been part of the 17th-century Tradescant Collection, which was displayed in this building from 1683 until 1860. The bladder fish was a common feature of collections from the period.

John Tradescant the elder was a gardener with a passion for natural history. He traveled widely and collected many interesting specimens from which he formed an impressive museum. His son John shared his passion for natural history and added to the collection, creating a catalogue of its contents. Their museum, Tradescant’s Ark in Lambeth, was open to the public on payment of a fee.

The collection was passed to Elias Ashmole who presented it to the University of Oxford where it was housed in a building known as the Ashmolean – now the Museum of the History of Science – designed specifically for the purpose, and completed in 1683.