The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…. Thomas MARTYN.
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…
The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…

The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature…

London: [the Author], 1784.

Two volumes, square folio, engraved frontispiece with a Greek-key border applied in gold, and 80 engraved plates, all finely coloured by hand, edged in black, each plate presented on a larger sheet of blue paper, each with manuscript edging in black and numbered in manuscript; two engraved title-pages (in English and French), and with 27 pages of bilingual text, each volume with an engraved explanatory table; in the original binding of full tan marbled calf, Greek-key border reprised to boards, spine (restored) banded and lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers.

The "select issue" of the great Pacific shell book

An excellent copy of the rare "select issue" of "one of the most beautiful of all shell books, containing exquisite renderings of shells collected on Cook's three voyages and on other voyages, with specimens identified as having been obtained from New Holland, New Zealand, Tahiti, Tonga, and the Hawaiian Islands" (Forbes). The plates in this work are of such refinement and beauty that they are routinely mistaken for original watercolours, testament to the skills of the artists involved in printing and handcolouring this lavish production.

An excellent copy of the rare "select issue" of "one of the most beautiful of all shell books, containing exquisite renderings of shells collected on Cook's three voyages and on other voyages, with specimens identified as having been obtained from New Holland, New Zealand, Tahiti, Tonga, and the Hawaiian Islands" (Forbes). The plates in this work are of such refinement and beauty that they are routinely mistaken for original watercolours, testament to the skills of the artists involved in printing and handcolouring this lavish production.

The work was prepared under Martyn's own direction from specimens gathered on South Sea voyages. As he states in his introduction, 'specimens were provided by the several officers of the ships under the command of Captains Byron, Wallis, Cook and others…'. The most notable collection of shells represented is that of the Portland Museum. This outstanding copy is one of the few prepared as a "select issue" for the author's patrons. The plates are edged in black and part-mounted on a sheet of blue paper which in turn is edged in black (in manuscript), with each page numbered in manuscript in the top right hand border. The frontispiece is within a Greek-key border in applied gold to match the gilt-border on the boards of each volume. On a free endpaper of the first volume in manuscript is the note "a select copy" signed "Thos. Martyn".

"A work which, for beauty, has seldom been surpassed in the history of conchological iconography" (S.P. Dance, A History of Shell Collecting, Leiden, 1986), this is the only work of the late eighteenth century to deal exclusively with shells. It was prepared under Martyn's own direction and is virtually a companion to the three-volume John Hawkesworth edition of the voyages of Byron, Wallis and Cook published in 1773.

The most notable collection of shells represented is that of the Portland Museum assembled by the remarkable Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, second Duchess of Portland. Patron of Captain Cook, friend of Rousseau and Reynolds, colleague of Daniel Solander, bluestocking and philanthropist, she made her home, Bulstrode House in Buckinghamshire (or "The Hive" as it was known in court circles), a place of great activity and home to her private museum, which was "considered the finest in England and rivalled the best in Europe" (S. Peter Dance, A History of Shell Collecting, p. 73).

The plates are delicately engraved with faintness of line and then richly handcoloured with minute attention to detail and highlights. The illustrations are the exceptional work of a private Academy of young artists trained by Martyn himself. He recruited young men who showed artistic talent and trained them so that there "would generally be found that uniformity and equality of style, conception, and execution which it would be in vain to expect from a variety of independent artists". (Martyn, S.P. Dance).

This was a deliberate - and successful - attempt by Martyn to achieve the life and energy of original watercolours making it one of the most beautiful illustrated book productions of the late eighteenth century.

Provenance: With the bookplates of Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville (1757-1835) of Tehidy in the parish of Illogan in Cornwall, English nobleman and politician, a member of the ancient Basset family; later name on title of Richard I. Johnson.

Bagnall, 3437 (listing the later 1789 edition).

Condition Report: Spine restored retaining original title labels, inner hinges strengthened; some slight scattered browning to backing paper and text sheets otherwise in good original condition.

Price (AUD): $98,500.00

US$69,338.25   Other currencies

Ref: #5000264

Condition Report