Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Before Computers! Deep-Sea Starfish Plates from circa 1919!

Something a little different today! There have been some plates from old 20th Century starfish & other echinoderm monographs in storage in and around our lab space and they are just gorgeous!  I've shared some of these before (several years ago here) But there are MANY of them....

Image from this MBL page
Fisher wasn't perfect, but he is considered one of the giants of starfish taxonomy and described about 312 species of starfishes that continue to remain in use. He also described sea cucumbers, peanut worms, stylasterine corals and probably more.

Much of his work was done as huge monographic tomes which included hundreds of pages of scientific descriptions including some of the finest photographic figures available. 
And he did this way before computers. No word processing. No internet. 
Before we had photoshop and imaging software, publishing was a very physical process. Photographs were mounted to cardboard as seen below. So, the "plates" were quite literally so. These got quite big and cumbersome.
No photoshop, so images were pasted together by hand as so..
Here is a plate from an ophiuroid or brittle star plate from a monograph by French researcher Rene Koehler. Also assembled from a photograph.
If you wanted to modify or target images for plates, there was no image modification software to do it for you, you literally had to take an exacto knife or razor blade to photographs, cut them out and affix them to the hardboard plates...
But the images were done in amazingly high quality and remain attractive to this day.. Here are scans of the ORIGINAL plates from Fisher's Philippine Starfish monograph. No Instagram. No other photo modification.  These are directly off the original plates..

some from before...


  1. Did you find anything about sea star diseases in any of W.K. Fisher's books?

  2. There are no accounts of wasting disease on the Pacific coast in the early 20th Century that I am aware of.