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Opulent Oceans

This online exhibit is based on the book Natural Histories: Opulent Oceans: Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library by Melanie L.J. Stiassny,  the Axelrod Research Curator, Department of Ichthyology in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History. This third volume in the Natural Histories series highlights a selection of the magnificent oceanographic art works in the Museum Library’s renowned Rare Book Collection. 

Opulent Oceans offers a unique view into the significant collections held by the Museum Library, chronicling the myriad marine discoveries made in the seas of the world, as well as the discoverers who made the journeys, collected specimens, and produced beautiful illustrated records of their research.  Dr. Stiassny takes the reader through the printing processes through the centuries of publications she highlights and the history of the study of ocean life. She discusses in rich detail the monumental efforts of scientists and artists to produce illustrations for their peers and the public showing the variety, beauty, color, and wonder of the deep.

This online exhibit showcases some of the artwork and descriptions of specimens recorded through expeditions around the globe from the last five centuries.  Through informative and entertaining essays about these historic scientific adventures and discoveries, Opulent Oceans reveals to the reader the wealth of documentation chronicling the history of the exploration of marine life. Biographical notes on the scientists, artists, and naturalists further enrich the views of these rich holdings in the Museum Library collections.  We invite you to enjoy the extraordinary images from Opulent Oceans and to learn more about the Museum Library's Rare Book Collection through this Digital Special Collections exhibit.

To enlarge any image, and to see the accompanying descriptions, simply click on an image or its title. Information can be accessed about the rare book from the Library’s catalog records, and the exhibit can be further explored by selecting authors, artists, titles, and subjects.


Stacy J. Schiff, Visual Resources Librarian, Digital Special Collections