These 18th and 19th Century Vintage Shark Illustrations Are Stunning

by Owen James Burke


Species unspecified, but possibly a ghost shark or elephantfish (Callorhinchus callorynchus). Augsburg Engelbrecht, c. 1799.

Ghost sharks live in the deep sea, and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever chance upon one.


Black-mouthed dogfish from the book “A History of the Fishes of the British Islands.” Early 1860s.

Much less threatening than they look, dogfish have sandpaper-like teeth which they mostly use to break up crabs and shellfish from the bottom and pose absolutely no threat to humans (like nurse sharks and leopard sharks).


 Portrait of a thresher shark from the book “A History of the Fishes of the British islands.” Early 1860s.

Thresher sharks (Alopias pelagicus) use their gigantic tails — which are about the same size as their bodies — to stun prey, and maybe while they’re still young, ward off predators.

See more on the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s Flickr pageOB

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