Re: NANFA-- Fishes of North and Middle America

Christopher Scharpf (
Mon, 23 Jul 2001 16:55:01 -0400

> As I was perusing some boxes of old books that I had not seen in a while,
> I came across my 4 volume set of "The Fishes of North & Middle America" by
> Jordan and Evermann published 1896 though 1900. I was wondering if anyone
> could shed some light as to the highlights of this reference. It is really
> kind of neat and the drawing are very good. Your comments are greatly
> appreciated. Thanks.

This is what I wrote in the Winter 96/97 American Currents:

One of the earliest continent-wide surveys is also the most staggering --
The Fishes of North and Middle America by David Starr Jordan and Barton
Warren Evermann (1896-1900, Bulletin of the United States National Museum
No. 47, 4 vols., ccv + 3,331 p. + 192 black-and-white plates; reprinted by
T.F.H. Publications in 1963, hardcover). The scope of this work is truly
epic: descriptions of 3,263 freshwater, estaurine and coastal marine fishes;
over 3,500 pages of densely-packed pre-computer 8-point type; and 958
marvelously detailed engravings. To read it is to enter a golden age of
purely descriptive biology, when 19th-century naturalists ventured forth,
Lewis-and-Clark-like, to collect, pickle, and describe every living organism
they saw. Who cares if they were naming the same fish twice, thrice, four
times over? It was Manifest Destiny, biology style. The classification and
nomenclature is now woefully out-of-date, but the descriptive material is
timeless. A veritable Gray's Anatomy of American ichthyology.

Chris Scharpf

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