The Ribbon Fish


Over 200 hundred years ago in 1794 one year after it was founded as a ‘conversation club’, Ralph Beilby, engraver and business partner of Thomas Bewick presented to the Lit & Phil Society a letter describing a creature never seen before by science washed ashore off the North East coast at Newbiggen. The original letter including a colourful description and an extraordinary watercolour of the fish resides in the Lit & Phil archives to this day. This letter was transferred into print nearly 40 years later in the Lit & Phil archives and it was thought remarkable enough that an engraving was commissioned to accompany the description.

The Ribbon Fish lives in the deep, mesopelagic zone of the ocean or so called twilight zone and as such the only time we usually see these fish is when they are washed ashore after some great catastrophe. In Japan, for example, that are often given the moniker Tsunami fish. Much is still unknown about the fish. Click the image above to see video of the fish in its natural habitat.

Benjamin Lawson has drawn a life-sized version of the Ribbon Fish on the underside of the 24ft “Long Table” in the Literary and Philosophical Society Library.


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