[I]n 1685, when Louis Renard was seven or eight years old, he and his family left their native France to settle in the Netherlands, where Huguenots—French Protestants—could worship without fear of persecution.
In Amsterdam, Renard led a colorful life as a spy, a seller of patent medicines, and a book publisher until his death in 1746. His only known likeness shows him smoking a pipe in a brothel as scantily clad women parade by.
Renard published Fishes, Crayfishes and Crabs, of Diverse Colors and Extraordinary Form, That Are Found around the Islands of the Moluccas and on the Coasts of the Southern Lands, his only scientific book.
Theodore Pietsch, a professor from the University of Washington in 1984 published an article, asserting that Renard’s assurances that the fish were real were, basically, bunk, and made up.
“Despite these repeated promises that nothing is embellished beyond the truth, the colors used in the paintings are, more often than not, applied in a totally arbitrary fashion and have no similarity whatsoever to those of the living animal,” Pietsch wrote.
They were mythological, or cryptids at best.
By 1995, Pietsch had changed his mind, finding as many as half could now be identified to specific species, and even more to general genus or family, leaving only 10% a mystery.
Renard – whom there is no record of having himself been in the islands – seems to have been telling the truth, raising the inevitable question – where are those remaining 10%?
Via The Scientist.