Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2015 Issue

Shells and Shell Collecting from Yesterday's Muse Books

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Shell Collecting and Conchology.

Yesterday's Muse Books has issued a catalogue for collectors, but not just book collectors. The title is Shell Collecting & Conchology. Long before there was book collecting, or stamp collecting, or most other sorts of collecting, shells were a popular item for collectors. Beautiful, abundant near the sea, and free if you aren't too picky, they are a natural. Then, as explorers headed out to distant lands, some collectors of greater means began to build displays with a wider variety of shells gathered around the world. The result was books about conchology and later about collecting became popular. Here are a few items for those whose interests are focused on these wonders of the sea.

 

While many in London were concerned with colonial issues in 1776, Emanuel Mendes da Costa had his own personal concerns. Mendes da Costa was a naturalist and shell and mineral collector. He apparently had a few business interests but they did not provide him much support. It was through his occasional books and generous benefactors that he was able to build his extensive shell and mineral collections, and become an expert in conchology. His work was praised by notable scholars such as Carl Linnaeus. He was selected to various organizations, including the Royal Society, at which he was appointed as clerk and librarian. Unfortunately, finances were always an issue for him, and handling the society's membership accounts proved too much of a temptation. At times he would sign up members for a five-year term, but show them as annual members, paying the annual fees himself, effectively writing himself an interest-free loan between payments. At other times, he apparently just skimmed off funds. He got caught when a member noticed he was not signed up for the correct number of years. He was thrown out of the society in 1767 and sent off to debtor's prison. The remainder of his life proved an even greater struggle. Though his work was respected, he could not land serious employment any longer. In 1776, he published this book: Elements of Conchology: or An Introduction to the Knowledge of Shells. He needed the money. It is an excellent book, with seven fold-out plates and two fold-out tables, a worthy addition to a conchology library even if circumstances resulted in its author being ignored and then forgotten. Item 32. Priced at $600.

 

The aforementioned Carl Linnaeus provided the system of classification for shells (and other creatures). John Mawe offered a detailed and updated description of that classification in 1823: The Linnaean System of Conchology, Describing the Orders, Genera, and Species of Shells, Arranged into Divisions and Families... Mawe was a minerologist and conchologist, and was also a dealer in collections of these from his shop on The Strand in London. One of several books Mawe wrote, this one contains 36 hand-colored plates. Item 57. $350.

 

From the same era comes this illustrated identification of shells by William Wood: Index Testaceologicus; or A Catalogue of Shells, British and Foreign, Arranged According to the Linnaean System; with the Latin and English Names, References to Authors, and Places Where Found. This is the revised second edition of 1828, published ten years after the first. Wood was a surgeon and zoologist whose natural history works were focused on mollusks. This book contains illustrations of 2,300 shells. Item 83. $350.

 

Item 24 is The Living Cowries, by C.M. Burgess, published in 1970. We all know cowries, though I would guess many if not most of us have not seen a living one. Cowries have a rounded, somewhat egg-shaped shell, except for a relatively flat bottom. They are shiny and polished looking with a surface that looks like porcelain. Many consider them the most beautiful of all shells. This is an exhaustive but non-technical description of the cowries, with illustrations and descriptions of each species. It also tells us about the habits and characteristics of the animals that live inside these shells, that many of us have never seen. $60.

 

Once in awhile you come across a book that you instantly recognize as one you owned as a child. Here is one for me: Seashores: A Guide to Shells, Sea Plants, Shore Birds, and Other Natural Features of American Coasts, by Herbert S. Zim, published in 1955. Zim published all kinds of useful guides such as this one for shells. Of course, when we see a book like this that disappeared from our shelves ages ago, we always wonder, what would that book be worth today if I had kept it? Here is my answer - $3. Oh well. Item 85.

 

Yesterday's Muse Books may be reached at 585-265-9295 or yesterdays.muse@gmail.com. Their website is found at www.websterbookstore.com.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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