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"Hidden Beauties of the Sea": the Victorian aquarium

Plate I from 'A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals' by Philip Henry Gosse, 1860


If you've read my blog about the Belgian botanical journal, Flore des Serres et des Jardins de l'Europe, you may remember that when reviewing the volume for 1858 I was rather surprised to come across several beautiful illustrations of sea creatures under an article titled Les Aquariums Marins-Anemones de Mer or, in English, 'Marine Aquariums-Sea Anemones', which described many varieties of sea creatures as "Beautes caches de la Mer" – the "Hidden Beauties of the Sea". Not quite what I was expecting from a botanical journal I must say. But then one of the things I love so much about 'garden history' is that it throws up all sorts of odd things, as well as some rather wild connections. So, something a little different this month!

Photograph of Philip Henry Gosse from 1855 by Maull & Polybank. Courtesy Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The wonderful plates in the Flore des Serres article were taken from a book, A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals, by English naturalist, Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888) published in 1860. Reviewers of the book praised the coloured plates particularly, with the Literary Gazette commenting that Gosse now stood “alone and unrivalled in the extremely difficult art of drawing objects of zoology so as to satisfy the requirements of science”, as well as providing vivid impressions of the variety of life living in the sea. Although not a topic I'd usually write about, I was intrigued and decided some further research was required – after all, it was generally believed that corals were plants rather than animals [see Notes] until the 18th century. And, as garden writer Shirley Hibberd [author of books on such things as ferns and foliage plants, as well as editor of Amateur Gardening] wrote a book about them [more on which later], and aquariums pop up in the horticultural press of the time, I've decided this just about scrapes into the 'garden history' category!

Plate X from 'A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals' by Philip Henry Gosse, 1860

The Victorian craze for the natural world

But first, to put the Victorians' love of the natural world into context. In a Canadian magazine article about Gosse titled An Ocean in the Parlor, the author Adrienne Mason nicely sums up the fascination with the natural world that was on show in both the grand and middle-class homes of “the gentlefolk of the Victorian era”. There was, she writes candidly “a lot of dead stuff". The Victorians were indeed great collectors, and often filled their homes with such things as "butterflies in frames, pictures composed of tiny shells, plants pressed in tissue, cabinets of insects and fossils and birds’ eggs, even fantastical taxidermy tableaux” [these being often quite creepy in my view]. She also points out that advances in glass technology played a big part in this “nature history craze” – including such things as magnifying glasses and conservatories, to picture frames and glass cloches. And glass also enabled the Victorians to have ‘live’ displays in their homes. Terrariums or cloches displaying plants [often ferns – see my blog The Victorian Fern Craze: "tasseled, feathered, fringed, frilled, crimped, and curled"] and then, of course, aquariums.

Philip Henry Gosse and 'the Aquarium'

Today, Gosse is described as having been a populariser of natural science, an early improver of the seawater aquarium, and a painstaking innovator in the study of marine biology. Credited with having created and stocked the first public aquarium at The Zoological Society of London (i.e. 'London Zoo'), in 1853 he also used the word 'aquarium' in his first book on the subject published in 1854. His work was also the catalyst for an aquarium craze in early Victorian England. After all, the Victorians never did anything by halves...

Plate IV from 'A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals' by Philip Henry Gosse, 1860

As a child, Gosse was encouraged by his aunt, Susan Bell, to explore his interest in sea life [he lived with her in Poole in Dorset during his childhood, where she introduced him to zoology and taught him to draw]. As he later explained: “When I found any specimen that appeared to me curious, or beautiful, or strange, I would take it to Aunt Bell, with confidence that I should learn something of its history from her”. And it was his aunt who suggested he try to keep a marine animal, specifically a sea anemone, alive in a vessel of seawater. These early experiments were at least partially successful and, later, Gosse's first serious attempt to make what was known at the time as a ‘marine vivarium’, consisted of putting 3 pints of seawater, together with some marine plants and animals, into a confectioner’s show-glass window measuring 10 inches by 5½ inches wide. And by refreshing the water periodically, Gosse managed to keep the tank’s inhabitants alive for about 2 months.

Blue plaque commemorating Gosse's childhood home

What's in a Name?

Gosse thought the first term for the tanks, Aqua-vivarium, somewhat unwieldy and therefore suggested Aquarium, a term already used by botanists for tanks in which aquatic plants were raised. He thought this was somewhat fitting as his new ‘aquariums’ usually contained aquatic plants – writing that they were “a most important and pleasing feature of our pursuit”. Today, the actual definition of the word ‘aquarium’ is 1. a transparent tank of water in which live fish and other water creatures and plants are kept, and 2. a building containing tanks of live fish and other water creatures of different species, especially one that is open to the public – as already mentioned, the world's first public aquarium was at London Zoo.

London Zoo's first Aquarium

Together with chemist and founder of the Chemical Society of London, Robert Warington (1807-1867) [sometimes spelt Warrington], Gosse eventually perfected the technique in which, simply put, plants in an aquarium produce enough oxygen to keep the animals in it alive. By 1853, Gosse was also working with David William Mitchell, the Secretary of London Zoo, applying these principles to create its first aquarium. Gosse stocked the Zoo's glass tanks with around 200 specimens of marine animals and plants.

In his 1860 book, A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals, Gosse describes how this connection to London Zoo came about. In December 1852, he wrote to Mitchell suggesting that his own collection of Zoophytes [plant-like animals including corals and sea anemones] and Annelids [segmented worms], which he had collected in Devon and kept for a couple of months in glass vases in London, be relocated to the Zoo’s new Fish House, which had just been built in the Zoo's gardens in Regent’s Park. Mitchell agreed, and Gosse's “little collection” became “the nucleus and the commencement of the Marine Aquarium afterwards exhibited there”.

London Zoo’s ‘Fish House’ which opened in May 1853 as its first aquarium – and, right, early tanks in the Fish House and around the walls

The aquarium proved to be a big hit with the Victorian public. As Secretary Mitchell at London Zoo recorded in his Report of February 28th, 1854 in The Zoologist (the Zoo's journal), the number of visitors to the gardens had “exceeded all precedent” (with the exception of the year of the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace). He also noted with some satisfaction that the new exhibits of “living fish, Mollusca, zoophytes, and other aquatic animals” had probably “excited more attention from its novelty and the intrinsic beauty of the objects themselves, than any other of the recent additions to the collection”. The Zoo duly expanded the exhibition, building additional tanks, and engaging Gosse for the summer to collect further “marine inhabitants” for them. Gosse wrote that over the course of 3 months that summer he collected “upwards of five thousand specimens of animals and plants”.

The writings of Philip Henry Gosse

Gosse's first book on the subject of marine life, Rambles on the Devonshire Coast, published in 1853, recorded his experiments during a 9 month stay in Devon studying “the curious forms…of strange, beautiful, or wondrous objects” that very few "idle pleasure-seekers" were aware of dwelling in the sea just a few yards from their feet. Gosse wanted this book to be a faithful record of his observations during that period, and so the plates in the book were, he wrote, all drawn “from living nature, with the greatest attention to accuracy”.

'Chrysaora Cyclonota' [now 'C. hysoscella'] or the compass jellyfish, a common species that inhabits coastal waters. Plate XXVII from Gosse's book 'Rambles on the Devonshire Coast', 1853

After his success at London Zoo, Gosse began writing what would become his biggest bestseller – The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea. Initially titled The Mimic Sea, it documents his theories and the practice of maintaining a marine aquarium, inspiring many in their own explorations during a period of growing public interest in the natural world. Published in 1854, it reportedly sold like “wild-fire”, sparking not only a fad for aquariums, but widespread interest in the marine world.

In the Preface to his book, Gosse mentions the plates which he thought were “its principal peculiarity” and that he had endeavoured, in a manner he believed not attempted before, “to represent marine animals, with their beauty of form and brilliance of colour, in their proper haunts, surrounded by sub-marine rocks and elegant sea-weeds, as these appear when transferred to an Aquarium”.

Reviews of Gosse's book at the time – as can be seen below, were particularly complimentary about the plates. Modern commentators agree that Gosse was a skilled scientific draughtsman and that the chromolithographic plates in The Aquarium, prepared from his own watercolours, were a major advance in natural history book illustration intended for the mass market.

Excerpts from reviews of Gosse’s book, 'The Aquarium; An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea', 1854

'The Parasitic Anemone', Plate IV from Gosse’s 'The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea', 1854 – and as seen on the right

In 1855, Gosse published another book, A Handbook of The Marine Aquarium. In the Preface to this book, he writes that the increasing popularity of marine aquariums demanded a handbook of practical instructions, and that he was “probably the most proper person to write such a book” – as indeed he was.

'A Year at the Shore' by Philip Henry Gosse, published in 1865

At the beginning of the Handbook, Gosse provides his own definition of an aquarium as being “simply a vessel of water in which aquatic plants, or animals, or both, are preserved alive”, and a marine aquarium being one that contained plants or animals from the sea. He also writes that although the marine animals were usually the main source of interest, the sea-plants – often dismissed by many as ‘weeds’, were in fact very beautiful, with “elegant forms” or “delicate muslin-like tracery” often in beautiful reds and greens.

Gosse was a spiritual man and as well as producing books devoted to the natural world, such as A Year at the Shore (1865) as shown here, he also wrote several books on religious themes. [His Wikipedia entry has details.]

‘Scallops’, Plate 2 from 'A Year at the Shore' by Philip Henry Gosse, 1865

Aquariums in the Horticultural World

Of course, it didn't take long for other writers to jump on the aquarium bandwagon as it were. And that included horticultural heavyweight Shirley Hibberd (1825-1890). Hibberd wrote 3 books on aquariums, while his best known book, Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste, published in 1856 had information on just about every ‘adornment’ for a Victorian home, including both freshwater and marine aquariums as detailed in an advertisement for the book (below). In 1865, Hibberd also wrote articles for a scientific magazine, Intellectual Observer, about establishing and maintaining freshwater and marine tanks.

Advertisement for Hibberd’s book 'Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste' published in 'The Gardeners’ Chronicle', February 23, 1856

In 1856, Hibberd also published The Book of the Aquarium or, to give it it’s full title, The Book of the Aquarium; or Practical Instructions on the Formation, Stocking, and Management in all Seasons, of Collections of Marine and River Animals and Plants' -– probably his best known book on the subject.

Untitled image at the beginning of Hibberd’s 'The Book of the Aquarium' first published in 1856 showing a typically ornate Victorian aquarium

In the Preface to his later book, The Fresh-Water Aquarium of 1869, Hibberd states his intention to produce a useful guide for beginners rather than a strictly scientific treatise. He also appreciated Gosse’s work, writing that “much of our extended knowledge of marine life, and of the rationale of Aquarium management” was owed to him. Hibberd also “heartily” commended his “elegant and able works on the subject” – cheerfully acknowledging that he was deeply indebted to Gosse’s books for information that he “could scarcely have acquired by other means”.

Incidentally, in typical Hibberd style, he also mentions that his book's former edition had been plagiarised by various writers, including one entire chapter lifted wholesale by a “dealer in toads” – Hibberd warning that he would resort to the law to "visit the plagiarists with a proper reward for their deeds”. After this rant, Hibberd settles down to providing good advice for those wishing to establish an aquarium, writing that it’s the fashion of the age to increase “the elegance of the home by the introduction of natural objects for purposes of adornment and the progress of horticulture…”.

The Professional Aquarist

Such was the demand from the public for fish, animals and plants to stock their aquariums, that it was quickly realised that it was neither practical nor sustainable for everyone to obtain marine plants and animals from the sea directly. So, in stepped the middle-man.

One man who spotted an opportunity to provide the public with just what they needed was one William Alford Lloyd (1826-1880), described as a self-taught zoologist, who later became the first professional aquarist (i.e. a person who keeps an aquarium). However, Lloyd was not just a man on the make; he had a sincere interest in the marine world having been inspired by Gosse's book, The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea. (Having submitted papers on the subject of marine aquariums to London Zoo’s journal, The Zoologist, he came to the attention of its editor who later described Lloyd as having a devoted “love of sea things”.) And so, recognising the growing popularity of the 'parlour' or home aquarium, Lloyd began planning his own aquarium supply business.

Lloyd eventually opened his first shop “selling everything relating to aquaria” in Clerkenwell, London. Just a little later, in 1856, he also opened The Aquarium Warehouse at 19, 20 & 20A Portland Street, Regent’s Park, and by 1858 his establishment was producing a 128-page catalogue devoted to all sorts of aquariums and related equipment.

Lloyd’s catalogue of 1858 titled 'A List with Descriptions, Illustrations and Prices of Whatever Relates to Aquaria', priced at One Shilling

Not surprisingly, Lloyd and Gosse got to know each other – Gosse becoming not just a customer, but a friend and supporter, while Lloyd was only too happy to stock a plentiful supply of Gosse’s books on his shelves.

Lloyd’s catalogue was not just a list of prices and descriptions of his goods, but also a helpful guide full of advice for the amateur aquarist. It was also full of the necessary paraphernalia to allow people to get up-close and personal to the life in their aquariums, including magnifying lenses and microscopes, as can be seen below.

Pages from Lloyd's 1858 catalogue showing prices for various kinds of magnifying lenses and microscopes allowing close-up views of the marine life in tanks

Lloyd's catalogue also helpfully provides us with an image (below) of one part of The Aquarium Warehouse, which shows the walls lined with aquariums containing marine life.

Image of The Aquarium Warehouse, ‘Number Nineteen, Portland Road’, from Lloyds’s 1858 catalogue

Advertisement in 'The Gardeners’ Chronicle', April 26, 1856 for marine and freshwater aquaria from Sanders and Woolcott, manufacturers of glass tanks for London Zoo

With such demand from the public, it was inevitable that other companies joined the fray selling an assortment of aquaria, various salts and chemicals required for the water and, of course, marine life. One such company was Sanders and Woolcott of London, recommended by Gosse, and manufacturer of the glass tanks used at London Zoo.

The Aquarium Craze across 'the Pond'

The aquarium craze eventually crossed the Atlantic, and one of the first books offering a step-by-step guide to maintaining a home aquarium for the American public was published in 1858 by a Henry D. Butler. Butler titled his book The Family Aquarium; or, Aqua Vivarium. A 'New Pleasure' for the Domestic Circle – using the old-fashioned term for an aquarium discarded by Gosse.

Image from 'The Family Aquarium' by Henry D. Butler, 1858

In his Preface, Butler acknowledges the work of Gosse and Warington in perfecting a working aquarium system, and additionally provides us with a wonderful description of the ‘aquarium craze’. After Gosse’s successful experiments and the opening of the Fish House at London Zoo, Butler writes that “sumptuous exhibitions” were held in the grand “Aquaria” of London and Dublin, and that these “created such a popular excitement in Great Britain that all the other curiosities of nature sank, at once, into comparative insignificance”. The public were seized with “aquarium-mania”. Innumerable books were written about it, lectures without end were delivered “in elucidation of it”, while the gardens of the Zoological Society in Regent’s Park “groaned with the crowd”. [At this point, I have to say that while writing this blog I was uncomfortably aware of all the thousands of sea creatures, on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere, that in all likelihood died nasty deaths in unsuitable surroundings –- especially in home aquariums.]

So, it’s no surprise that it didn’t take long for this latest novelty to come to the attention of the great P. T. Barnum, who set off for Europe to find out what all the fuss was about and, no doubt, whether there was money to be made. Already acquainted with London Zoo’s Secretary Mitchell, Barnum “promptly secured his valuable aid in the introduction of this 'new pleasure' to the American public”, returned to the US and set about drumming up interest in the exciting new craze. Boston already had a public aquarium with rare marine animals “imported and collected exclusively for this establishment…a perfect and striking illustration of life beneath the waters”. Originally located in Bromfield Street, it relocated in 1860 to a new facility and reopened as the Boston Aquarial and Zoological Gardens.

The Aquarial Gardens, Bromfield Street, Boston, 1859. Wood engraving by Winslow Homer

In 1862, Barnum bought the business, remodelled the space, and changed the name of the business to Barnum’s Aquarial Gardens. However, in true Barnum style, the place became more of a show-hall for 'entertainments' than a serious scientific establishment. An attitude that would be echoed in other large public aquaria.

Advertisement for Boston Aquarial Gardens, 1859. Courtesy US Library of Congress

But the seedy side of this craze wasn’t just restricted to across the pond and, although aquaria in the home were popular, public establishments weren't always successful. In the UK, several large aquaria opened: at The Crystal Palace (in 1871, probably the largest), Brighton (1872), Manchester (1874), Blackpool (1875) and Yarmouth (1877), to name just a few. Unfortunately, many failed quite quickly, including Manchester and Yarmouth with both only lasting some 3 years. However, some did prosper, including that at Brighton.

But it's an aquarium that opened in London in particular that caught my attention – one that's little known, and one that I've certainly never heard of. I came across mention of it in The Gardeners' Chronicle, which reported in July 1874 on the establishment of The Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden Society – its object being to provide facilities for “the promotion and encouragement of artistic, scientific, and musical tastes” in “the heart of London” at a location in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. According to The Gardeners' Chronicle, the building would “consist primarily of glass, forming a large conservatory and promenade, surrounded by galleries”.

The new 'Royal Aquarium' was to open in January 1876 and, as reported in The Era magazine, the idea was to combine educational facilities and exhibitions like those at the Crystal Palace, with popular entertainments such as theatre and music akin to London’s pleasure gardens, such as Cremorne Gardens in Chelsea. It had a great hall 340 ft long by 160 ft wide covered with a roof of glass and iron – just like a winter garden.

Image of The New Royal Aquarium & Summer & Winter Garden, Westminster at the time of its opening in 1876

The huge hall was surrounded by palms, exotic trees and shrubs. There were fountains planned, as well as space for an orchestra of up to 400 performers. Around the hall were 13 tanks to house the marine and fresh water exhibits, with the salt and fresh water reservoirs for the tanks hidden underneath the floor. These reservoirs were built of brick and could hold 700,000 gallons of water. There was also a library and reading room, a telegraph office and a roller-skating rink – apparently another popular craze of the time. This elaborate structure cost around £200,000 to build and, as it employed 300 regular and a further 700 occasional staff, it was costly to maintain.

Advertising poster for The Royal Aquarium – note the images of tanks on the walls filled with fish and other marine life

Unfortunately, not all went to plan. After the Opening Ceremony in January 1876, readers of The New York Times were given a more candid, and probably more accurate, idea of the reality than readers of the UK press. The building was found to be in an unfinished state and the tanks for the “much-boasted aquarium contained neither water nor fishes”. Those who had paid 2 guineas for a season ticket were, apparently, less than amused. And, the paper reported, the Duke of Edinburgh, who had agreed to be a patron of the new undertaking, was said to be “much annoyed that he…appeared as sponsor for such a piece of humbug”. As the paper’s writer put it: the company didn’t have enough money to complete the Aquarium and so needed to catch “subscribers first, in order to get the means of buying fish afterward”. Charles Dickens later noted that the empty tanks were something of a “standing joke”, and it's reported that by 1896 the Aquarium was still only providing a “beggarly show of fish”.

All was definitely not well. Just like London’s famed [and often infamous] pleasure gardens, the clientele of the newly opened Royal Aquarium were a mixed bunch. Drunks, thieves and prostitutes often mingled with sight-seers, and in 1889 London County Council refused to recommend the renewal of its operating license. However, after much debate in the press, it was decided that the Aquarium was no better or worse than similar establishments and its license was renewed. However, its reputation suffered. As detailed in The Era magazine, it struggled from the start and quickly abandoned its “lofty ideals”. Financial trouble and dwindling visitor numbers led the once exciting new venture to degenerate from “a prospective temple of learning into a glorified freak-show”, with music-hall and sensational variety acts of an often doubtful nature. There was even a music-hall song about the Aquarium’s delights titled “Lounging in the Aq.” – with rather suggestive lyrics about some of the ‘activities’ on offer.

Advertisement Poster for “Lounging in the Aq.” – a music hall song

As noted by the magazine, of the few fish that were on display “one or two lingered on to the very end 27 years later, in 1903”, although they wondered whether “anyone went to look at them and if the water was ever changed”.

All this is very far from Gosse's ideals of encouraging the public to view the wonders of God's creations in the sea at a time when many people still believed it was populated by huge monsters. As German writer, Bernd Brunner, pointed out in his 2005 book about the history of aquariums, titled The Ocean at Home, an Illustrated History of the Aquarium, today it's easy to take the aquarium for granted, but just imagine how truly “awesome it must have been 150 years ago to peer through a window into a truly alien world”.


With the opening of London Zoo’s first public aquarium in 1853, Gosse believed he had finally unveiled the wonders of the sea to the public – his intention being to educate them, as well as allowing them to “get acquainted with the peculiar creatures of the ocean [that so entranced him] without having to descend into the depths”. As one writer commented, as the public's fascination with aquaria took off they began to dominate the parlours of the well-to-do, just as televisions did in the 20th century living room. Gosse himself understood the value of ‘parlour’ aquariums as ornamental objects – he had one himself, but he still viewed them as being primarily to allow the study of aquatic life in the comfort of one’s own home. See Notes for link to a YouTube video from the Horniman Museum in Manchester presenting their mock-up of Gosse’s own aquarium.

By the 1860’s, aquaria were so popular that they were mass-produced in all shapes and sizes – for both freshwater and marine life. Some were, in typical Victorian fashion, elaborately decorated much like the one pictured below. Taken from one of Gosse's books, it shows a marine aquarium with a fountain in the middle for water aeration. Decorated with rock, it was home to fish, shrimp, anemones, snails, worms and seaweeds all from the UK coast.

A typically ornate Victorian marine aquarium

To get an idea of just how over-ornamented some of these aquaria were, see Notes for a link to another YouTube video. This one is from a Professor Joseph Pawlik, showing his restored Victorian tank made by a New York company. The Professor also explains a little about the US firm, but it's still worth watching as their goods would have been very similar to those offered for sale by The Aquarium Warehouse in London.

Much of Gosse's success was due to the fact, as one modern-day writer puts it, that "he was essentially a field naturalist who was able to impart to his readers something of the thrill of studying animals at first hand rather than the dead disjoined ones of the museum shelf". And, in addition, he was a skilled scientific draughtsman who was able to illustrate his books himself, with the beautiful plates that so caught my attention.

By the early 1860’s, Gosse had remarried (following the death of his first wife), and continued to write on both natural history and religious subjects throughout the decade. By the early 1870's, he had retired as a professional writer being very comfortably off due to successful investments and his book royalties. However, his interest in natural history continued and he took up the study of orchids, even exchanging letters on the subject with Charles Darwin, although he never published on the subject himself. After a short illness, he died in 1888.

But, like all crazes, the aquarium craze didn't last.

Plate II from A History of the British Sea-Anemones and Corals by Philip Henry Gosse, 1860

As the interest in public aquaria began to decline, so too did their interest in home marine aquaria – which were difficult and expensive to maintain. Even Lloyd began to complain about the lack of devoted aquarium hobbyists as he saw his number of regular clients dwindle, writing that during the 12 years of running his business he had set up some 3,500 aquaria, out of which only around 50 were “now in successful operation”.

The marine aquarium hobby remained mostly dormant until the 1950’s until new technologies and new personalities came along – such as Frenchman, Jacques Cousteau. As a teenager, and in later years, I well remember being fascinated by his tv programmes about life in the sea, just as so many of us are riveted now by David Attenborough’s programmes. And it was Cousteau and others that led to a resurgence in the public’s appetite for the delights of the marine world.

However, it's nice to see that Gosse is still remembered. The mural shown below was installed in Poole, Dorset just last year to celebrate his achievements – local artist Ricky Also, who painted and designed the mural, saying that “by recreating Gosse’s artworks, as true to his as possible but at a scale they have never been seen before, we’re showing them in an environment that is as alien as they would have appeared to human audiences when first published”...

A mural painted on the side of a 3- storey shop in Poole, Dorset in 2022 in celebration of Philip Henry Gosse


It was generally believed that corals were plants until the 18th century, when William Herschel used a microscope to establish that they had characteristic animal cell membranes.

Horniman Museum's Victorian Aquarium exhibit - YouTube Jamie Craggs of the Horniman Museum in Manchester presenting their mock-up of Gosse’s own aquarium

A J.W. Fiske antique cast-iron aquarium - YouTube Professor Joseph Pawlik's film about his very ornate restored Victorian tank made by New York company, A.J.W. Fiske


An Ocean in the Parlor, article by Adrienne Mason, Hakai Magazine, March 2017

The Man Who Invented the Aquarium, blog by James Galbraith, Chief Librarian of the Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass, January 2016

L.R. Croft, University of Toronto Library & Archives, Canada, writing in regard to their holding of Gosse’s correspondence, much of which dates to his earlier life when he spent some time in Canada. Undated

'Victorian Fish Tanks', article by Melanie J. Marin, Antique Week, March 8th, 2010

‘Victorian Pioneers of the Marine Aquarium’, article by Tim Wijgerde, February 10, 2016,

'When the aquarium was a novelty/Victorian fish tanks brought mysteries of the deep into homes', article by Zahid Sardar, Chronicle Design Editor, SFGate, November 12th, 2005

Information on William Alford Lloyd from

[In 2020, a blog from The Corning Museum of Glass cast doubt on Gosse being responsible for the beautiful plates in his books, saying that recent research indicated that his first wife, Emily Bowes Gosse (1806-1857), a landscape painter in her own right, was the artist behind the intricately detailed chromolithographs. However, it's generally accepted that this is incorrect. Emily was not a landscape painter nor did she illustrate Gosse’s book. Gosse’s second wife, Eliza Brightwen (1813-1900) shared his interest in natural history and is known as having had considerable skills as a watercolourist; however there's no suggestion that Eliza was responsible for the plates.]


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