Fantastic Fish of the Middle Ages
Here after followeth of the natures of the fisshes of the See whiche be right profitable to be vnderstande. Wherof I wyll wryte be the helpe and grace of almighty god, to whose laude & prayse this mater ensueth.
- Lawrens Andrewe



Abremon is a fruteful fisshe that hathe moche sede but it is nat through mouynge of the he but only of the owne proper nature / and than she rubbeth her belly upon the grounde or sande and is sharpe in handelinge / & salt of sauour / and this fisshe saueth her yonges in her bely whan it is tempestius weder & when the weder is ouerpast, than she vomyteth them out agayne.

The Abremon is a fruitful fish that is very fertile, not through the action of the male but by the fish's own proper nature. The female rubs her belly on the ground or sand and is difficult to handle and salty in nature. This fish saves her young in her belly when the weather is temptuous, and when the bad weather is over, she vomits them out again.

The Abremon

"...then she vomyteth them out agayne."


Anguilla the Ele is lyke a serpent of fascyon, & may leue eight yere, & without water vi. dayes whan the wind is in the northe / in the winter they wyll haue moche water, & that clere / amonge them is nouther male nor female / for they become fisshes of the slyme of other fisshes / they must be flayne / they suffer a longe dethe / they be best rosted, but it is longe or they be ynouge / the droppinge of it is gode for paines in the eares.

Anguilla the eel is fashioned like a serpent, and may live eight years, and when the wind is in the north they may live without water 6 days. In the winter they need much clear water. Among them is neither male nor female, for they are born out of the slime of other fish. Their skin must be taken off and they take a long time to die. They are best roasted, but for a long time or they won't be done. Eel grease is good for pains in the ears.

The Anguilla

"... the Ele is lyke a serpent of fascyon"


Alee, the heringe, is a Fisshe of the see / & very many be taken betweene bretayn & germaia / & also in denmarke aboute a place named schonen / And he is best from the beginnynge of August to december / and when he is fresshe taken / he is very delicious to be eten. And also whan he hath ben salted he is a specyall fode vnto man / He can nat leue without water, for as sone as he feleth the ayre he is dede / & they be taken in gret hepis togeder / & specially where they se light, there wyll they be, than so they be taken with nettis / which commeth be the diuyne Prouydens of almighty God.

Alee the herring is a fish of the sea, and very many are taken between Britain & Germany, and also in Denmark near a place called Schonen. Herring is best from the beginning of August to December, and when it is fresh is very delicious to eat. It is a very special food to man when it has been salted. Herring cannot live without water, for as soon as they feel the air they die. They are taken together in great heaps, for wherever they can see light they will be, and so are taken with nets, which come from the divine Providence of almighty God.

than so they be taken with nettis

"... than so they be taken with nettis... "


The Aspidochelon

"Aspidochelon... a monstrous thinge in the see"

Aspidochelon / as Phisiologus saith, it is a monstrous thinge in the see, it is a great whale fisshe, & hath an ouer-growen rowgh skinue / & he is moste parte with his bake on hye aboue the water in such maner that some shypmen that see him, wene that it is a lytell ylande / & whan they come be it, they cast their ankers upon him / & go out of theyr shippes & make a fyre upon hym to dresse theyr metys / and as sone as he feleth the hete of the fyre / thanne he swymmeth fro the place, & drowneth them, & draweth the shippe to the grounde / And his proper nature is, whan he hath yonges, that he openeth his mouthe wyde open / & out of it fleeth a swete ayre / to the which the fisshes resorte, and than he eteth them.

The Aspidochelon, as Phisiologus says, is a monstrous thing in the sea; it is a great whale-fish, & has an overgrown rough skin. For the most part he has his back high above the water in such a manner that some shipmen that see him think that it is a little island, & when they come to it they cast their anchors upon him, & go out of their ships & make a fire upon him to cook their food. And as soon as he feels the heat of the fire then he swims from that place, & drowns them, & draws the ship to the ground. And his normal behavior is when, when he has hunger, to open his mouth wide open, & out of it flows a sweet air which attracts fish, and then he eats them.

"they... make a fyre upon hym to dresse theyr metys... "
Sailors on the back of the Aspidochelon - a detail of the preceding illustration


Aaurata is a fysshe in the see that hathe a hede shinynge lyke golde.

The Aaurata is a fish in the sea that has a head shining like gold.


Ahuna is a monster of the see very glorisshe, as Albertus saith / what it eteth it tourneth to greas in his body / it hathe no mawe but a bely / & that he filleth so full that he hath no necke / whan he is in peryl of dethe be other fisshes / than he onfacynoth himselfe as rounde as a bowle, withdrawynge his hede into his bely / whan he hathe then hounger / He dothe ete a parte of himselfe rather than the other fisshes shoulde ete him hole and all.

The Ahuna is a very glorious monster of the sea, as Albertus says. What it eats turns to grease in his body. It has no gullet but a belly, and that he fills so full that he has no neck. When he is in peril of death by other fish, then he fashions himself as round as a bowl, withdrawing his head into his belly. When he then becomes hungry, he eats a part of himself rather than have the other fish eat all of him him whole.

The Ahuna

"it hathe no mawe but a bely & that he filleth so full that he hath no necke"

RETURN TO: Table of Contents


© James L. Matterer

Please visit The Gode Cookery Bookshop