The Ocean at Home
An Illustrated History of the Aquarium
Distributed for Reaktion Books
The mysterious world beneath the ocean’s surface and its inhabitants have captivated humanity for centuries—the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and ancient Chinese all kept fish in their homes to observe and admire. But it was not until the nineteenth-century invention of the aquarium that the deep was truly domesticated, offering the curious a chance to create an indoor exotic sea world, in miniature.
In The Ocean at Home, Bernd Brunner traces the development of the aquarium from the Victorian era to the present day. Along the way, in this fascinating history, Brunner provides insight into the cultural and social circumstances that accompanied the aquarium’s swift rise in popularity. Brunner tells a compelling story of obsession, discovery, and delight—from the aquarium’s origin as a tool for scientific observation to the Victorian era’s elaborately decorated containers of curiosity, to the great public aquariums that are popular in cities around the world today.
Featuring more than 100 illustrations, this updated edition of The Ocean at Home offers a colorful and captivating look at how a Victorian obsession still enchants many today. Both the owner of a humble goldfish bowl and the dazzled spectator at major public aquariums will find The Ocean at Home an appealing and knowledgable guide to the aquatic worlds we create.
“The Ocean at Home beautifully fills an important gap in social as well as in natural history.”
1. The First Seed: The Secret of the Ocean
2. The Second Seed: Chambers, Cabinets, Cases
3. The Third Seed: Pet Fish
4. ‘Passion and Diligence’: Pioneers
5. ‘A Strong, Intensive Desire’: The Propagandist
6. From Salt- to Freshwater Aquarium: The Lake in a Glass
7. Arriving in the United States: Aquarist Societies and Museums
8. Exotic Species and Transport: Diverging Beliefs
9. Fashion Show: The Typology of Parlour Aquariums
10. ‘A New Kind of Theatre’: The Large Aquariums
11. From Aquarium to Oceanarium and Beyond
12. The Dark Underside of the Aquarium
Epilogue: Are Fish Really Meant to Be in a Box?
Appendix: An Overview of Present-day Aquaria and Oceanaria