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Louis Renard

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Louis Renard (c.1678-1746) was born in France around 1678. To escape religious persecution, he immigrated to the Netherlands with his family around the turn of the century and eventually became a citizen of Amsterdam. Encouraged by his father-in-law, Renard became a publisher and book dealer. Between 1718 and 1719, Renard illustrated and published the first edition of his most famous multivolume work Poissons, écrevisses et crabes… que l’on trouve autour des Isles Moluques, et sur les côtes des Terres Australes, (“Fishes, crayfishes and crabs, of diverse colors and extraordinary forms, which are found around the islands of the Moluccan and on the coasts of southern lands.”) Tthis book was the world’s first encyclopedia of fishes illustrated in color. Even though Renard depicts over 450 different fish and crustacean species from the East Indies, he never actually left the Netherlands. Many of the 460 individual hand-colored copper engravings were based on drawings by the artistically-gifted soldier Samuel Fallour of the Dutch East India Company and indigenous artists. Renard’s creatures are so fanciful one might be tempted to take them for fictitious. However, while their beauty is embellished, only about 10 percent of the species are drawn from imagination. One of these, of no surprise, is the portrait of a mermaid. Incorporating these fantastical elements was likely to attract European collectors to purchase the work. Renard also embellished his own life, identifying himself as a secret British spy. In actuality, he was employed by George I and George II with the rather non-secret work to search ships leaving Amsterdam to prevent arms from reaching the British throne.

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