Olsen’s Piscatorial Atlas


This atlas was published under a joint London and Grimsby imprint, in the year of the International Fisheries Exhibition

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Olsen’s Piscatorial Atlas


OLSEN, Ole Theodor


Taylor & Francis

Place of publication

Grimsby, London

Date of publication



publisher's cloth

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Olsen, Ole Theodor: Piscatorial Atlas of the North Sea, English and George’s Channels […] Illustrating the fishing ports, boats, gear, species of fish (how, where and when caught) and other information concerning fish and fisheries. Grimsby & London: Taylor & Francis 1883
Folio, pp. + 50 chromolithographed plates, blue publisher’s cloth, title blocked in gilt on upper cover, a liitle faded and worn, rebacked. Contemporary book label of Walter Heape, probably the pioneering specialist in reproductive biology.

Heape was appointed assistant Secretary to the Marine Biological Association in 1885, and shortly afterwards became Resident Superintendent of a laboratory in Plymouth, then under construction with the aim of providing ‘a scientific basis for improving the efficiency of the British fishing industry’ (J.D. Biggers, 1991). This particular experiment was not a happy one for Heape, but within the decade he had successfully carried out the first transfer of rabbit embryos from one mother to another. In our atlas a series of 50 lavishly chromolithographed charts record the distribution – spawning grounds and abundance – of the major edible species of fish, shellfish and crustacea caught in the North Sea and off the coasts of the British Isles. There are insets showing the fish themselves, and the vessels and gear used to catch them, with a table of detailed information covering time of spawning, number of eggs, when and how caught, bait and food, size and weight, ‘quality’, when in season and other remarks, the product of a decade or more of reports and correspondence with British fishermen. The atlas was published under a joint London and Grimsby imprint, in the year of the International Fisheries Exhibition. By the 1850s the railway carried fresh Grimsby fish to Billingsgate and beyond, and in the second half of the nineteenth century Grimsby became one of the greatest fishing ports in the country – at the forefront of technological developments in the fishing industry. It was here that Ole Theodor Olsen (1838-1925) made his home. Olsen was a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. His obituary in the society’s transactions reveals that he was born in Christansand, Norway, went to sea at an early age and learned navigation on an English ship trading with India: “Although he never lost touch with Scandinavia, he became completely English in his sympathies. He had an extensive knowledge, gained from his own investigations, of the movements of fish in the North Sea, and he collected and collated deep sea soundings, so that he was often able to settle disputes as to the depth of ocean beds. After his life at sea he settled down in Grimsby as a maker of nautical instruments and a publisher of books for fishermen. He received honours in several countries, including Norway, Sweden and Japan.”