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234 × 140 × 10 mm
160 pages
110 illustrations, 30 in colour
01 Mar 2011
  • £17.95

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The Ocean at Home An Illustrated History of the Aquarium Bernd Brunner

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.

This compelling story of obsession, discovery and delight shows how aquariums have gone from being tools 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. Along the way, Bernd Brunner provides insight into the cultural and social circumstances that accompanied the aquarium’s swift rise in popularity.

The Ocean at Home offers a colourful look at how a Victorian obsession still enchants many worldwide. Both the owner of a humble goldfish bowl and the dazzled spectator at a major public aquarium will find this an appealing and knowledgeable guide to the aquatic worlds we create.

‘The aquarium is a microcosm of the sea, a bit of the ocean scooped up into our living rooms. Bernd Brunners slim but fascinating and beautifully illustrated book sets out to explore the history of this phenomenon, which he memorably describes as Noahs ark in reverse. In the process, Brunner, a German writer of measured, slyly humorous tones, reveals much about how we relate to our greater environment.’ — Daily Telegraph

‘[an] intriguing history of this peculiarly English subject’ — Guardian

‘Brunner traces our fascination with domesticating the deep, from the goldfish barrels of ancient China to todays giant oceanaria owned by multinationals. During the 1850,aquatic vivaria became a craze, and this well-illustrated book is full of wonderful engravings of ingenious Victorian tanks . . . an absorbing read.’ — BBC Wildlife magazine

‘insightful and entertaining, it looks at why we have felt the urge to bring the creatures of the sea into our houses, and what our fascination for marine life says about us. Nicely executed and full of great pictures.’ — The Big Issue

‘[Brunners] cultured but unpretentious style carries with it a real sense of the Victorian drawing room, an impression reinforced by the wealth of contemporary engravings he has chosen to illustrate his text.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘[Brunner] brings this book, which offers readers another display of his trademark thoughtfulness, to a close by suggesting that we need to pay better attention to what aquariums imitate’ — Los Angeles Times

‘In this richly illustrated book, [Bernd Brunner] gives us a history of the aquarium, from ancient times to the great public aquariums of today.’ — Canberra Times

‘A fascinating book.’ — San Francisco Chronicle

‘This is a truly fascinating and most charmingly illustrated history of the aquarium’ — Juliet Clutton-Brock, Anthrozoös

The Ocean at Home beautifully fills an important gap in social as well as in natural history.’ — James Hamilton-Paterson

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Bernd Brunner is a Berlin-based writer. He is also the author of Bears: A Brief History (2007) and Moon: A Brief History (2010).

Prologue: Dive In

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
Select Bibliography