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



Pagrus is a fisshe that hath so harde tethe that he byteth the oyster shelles in peces, & eteth out the fisshe of them.

The Pagrus is a fish that has teeth so hard that it bites oyster shells in pieces, and eats the fish out of them.

Pauus Maris

Pauus Maris is the Pecocke of the Se, & is lyke the peacocke of the londe, bothe his backe, necke, & hede / & the nether body is fisshe.

The Pauus Maris is the Peacock of the Sea, & is like the peacock of the land in the back, neck, and head, while the rest of the body is like a fish.

"Pauus Maris is the Pecocke of the Se"


Percus is of diuers colours, & swift in ronnynge in the water, & hathe sharpe finnes, & is a holsome mete for seke people.

The Perch is of many colors, & moves very swiftly in the water, and has sharp fins, and is a wholesome food for sick people.

"Percus is... swift in ronnynge in the water"


Pecten is a fisshe that is in sandy grounde, & whan he is meued or stered, he wynketh.

The Pecten is a fish that is found in sandy ground, & when he is moved or stirred, he winks.


Pinna is a fisshe that layeth alwaye in the mudde, and hathe alway a lodisman, & some name it a lytel hoge, & it hathe a rounde body, & it is in a shell lyke a muscle; it layth in the mone as it were dede, gapyng open / and than the smale fisshes come into his shel, wening of him to take their repaste / but whan he feleth that his shell is almoste ful / than he closeth his mouthe, & taketh them & eteth them / & parteth them amonge his felowes.

The Pinna is a fish that always lays in the mud, and always has a lodisman, and some name it a little hog, & it has a round body and is in a shell like a mussel. It lays in the moonlight as if it were dead, gaping open, and then small fish come into the shell, desiring to make a repast of him. But when he feels that his shell is almost full, then he closes his mouth, & takes them & eats them, & shares them among his fellows.


The Playce is well knowen fisshe, for he is brode & blake on the one syde, and whyte on the other.

The Playce is a well known fish, for it is large, and black on one side and white on the other.


"Polippus hath gret strength in his fete... "

Polippus hath gret strength in his fete / what he therin cacheth, he holdeth it fast / he springeth sometyme vp to the shippes syde, & snacheth a man with him to the grounde of the see, & there eteth him / & that that he leueth, he casteth it out of his denne agayn / they be moche in the se about Venis / & he is taken in barellis where hartys hornes be layd in / for he is gladly be those hornes.

The Polippus has great strength in his feet. Whatever he catches in them he holds onto. Sometimes he springs up to the sides of ships, & snatches a man and takes him to the bottom of the sea, & eats him. And that which he doesn't eat he throws away. They are plentiful in the sea around Venice. They are caught in barrels which have had hart's horns placed in them, for they are very attracted to those horns.

Polippus in barrels

"...he is taken in barellis..."

These small fish are clearly not the dreaded Polippus, but are being stored in fishing barrels similar to those used in its capture.

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© James L. Matterer

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