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Mermaid illustration obtained by Blomhoff, late Edo period (artist unknown)

Reports of mermaid encounters were not uncommon in 19th-century Japan, and a number of illustrated documents from that period - including a few by notable natural historians - depict some fantastic specimens rarely seen in today’s world.

This mermaid illustration from the National Museum of Ethnology (Leiden, Netherlands) was obtained by Dutch trader Jan Cock Blomhoff, who served as director of the Dejima trading post in Nagasaki from 1817 to 1824. The drawing appears to show a different mermaid than Blomhoff’s famous mummified specimen, which is also owned by the museum.

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