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The Universal Conchologist,

exhibiting the Figure of every known Shell accurately drawn and painted after Nature: with A New Systematic Arrangement by the Author.

Stock Code 108232

London, [Thomas Martyn], 1789

Original price £35,000.00 - Original price £35,000.00
Original price £0.00
£35,000.00 - £35,000.00
Current price £35,000.00
An exceptionally fine copy. The 'South Seas' issue of Thomas Martyn's (d.1811) richly illustrated The Universal Conchologist, comprising 80 hand-coloured engravings of shells purchased by Martyn from specimens collected by 'several officers of the ships under the command of Captains Byron, Wallace, Cook, and others, in the different voyages made to the South Seas' (p.6).

Whilst shell collecting had been a popular amateur pastime since the seventeenth century, it was the discovery of new species by European explorers a century later that really propelled natural history to the forefront of public imagination. The Universal Conchologist fed into this burgeoning interest in the new world, producing hand coloured illustrations of previously unrecorded shells comparable to watercolours in terms of quality. This copy is one of the specially produced 'select copies... in a rich extra-binding in large folio, [which] may be had at nine guineas each volume, or ten guineas and a half in Morocco' (see the prospectus in English dated 1787).

Frederick du Cane Godman was a leading English naturalist of the Victorian era and co-editor with Osbert Salvin of the Biologia Centrali-Americana, an encyclopaedia of the natural history of Mexico and Central America privately printed in 215 parts between 1879-1915. John du Pont (1938-2010) founded the Delaware museum of Natural History, donating some one million shells from his private collection.

The 'South Seas' issue; 2 vols bound as one; folio (35.5 x 29 cm, 14 x 11.5 in); two armorial bookplates to front pastedown; hand coloured etched frontispiece, two engraved parallel titles in English and French (the first with imprint also in French), engraved dedication to the King, two engraved explanatory tables, half-title, engraved plate of medals (undated), 80 hand coloured engraved plates numbered in a contemporaneous hand, with two loose contemporaneous single leaf prospectuses in English and French; contemporary full red morocco by L. Staggemeier and Welcher (with ticket), gilt-ruled borders of a Greek key roll and gilt-dotted rule, gilt spine with emblematic and classical tools offset by two green morocco contrasting lettering-pieces, all edges gilt, extremities lightly rubbed, a few minor stains to binding, very occasional spotting internally; 39, [1]pp (pagination begins half-title verso). A very fine copy.

Forbes 1: 176; cf. Freeman 2499; Nissen ZBI 2728.

Provenance: Frederick DuCane Godman (bookplate); John Cleuthére due Pont (bookplate).


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The Universal Conchologist,

MARTYN, Thomas.

Stock code: 108232



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