Tag Archives: dealer

Sikora: an Austrian dealer based in Reunion

Franz Sikora (1863–1902) was an Austrian collector and dealer.

He was born on 12 January 1863 in Stockerau, near Vienna, Austria. As a youngster, he left Austria for Africa, where he married with Marie Amalie Teia in Zanzibar and moved to Reunion with his family. He explored Reunion island (Cilaos, Saint-Leu etc.) and collected many zoological specimens which he sold to different buyers in Europe.

During seven years from end of 1880s, he was entrusted with a scientifical mission by the Austrian gouverment; he lived in Antananarivo or Tananarive (Madagascar) and he frequented the Protestant mission based in Andrangoloaka (Battistini & Richard-V., 1972) from where he brought back important collects (insects, plants, shells…). After Beolens et al. (2011): “he discovered some remains of giant lemurs and early human settlers at Andrahomana Cave, Madagascar (1899)”. He was in contact with Alfred Grandidier (1836-1921), a great naturalist who explored Madagascar as nobody else (His Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar count ab. 30 vol.). We know that Sikora took many photographs of plants, and several photographs were given to Grandidier (e.g. the plant Pachypodium ramosum wlas described on a specimen of Grandidier and on a photograph that Sikora who had given him) and conserved in his herbarium (MNHN). Some photographs taken by Sikora are present in the photographic library Grandidier in ORSTOM (Feller & Sandron, 2010).

After his stay in Tananarive, he moved to Fort-Dauphin before returning to Reunion until his death.

He worked with some museums (e.g., Wien, MNHN, BMNH, Turin). Various animals, vertebrates and invertebrates, were named after him; included two molluscs: Ampelita sikorae Ancey, 1890 and Cyclostoma sikorae Fulton, 1901.


Example of publicity in the Feuille des Jeunes Naturalistes

He died in Reunion Island in May 1902, but the day and the locality seemed unknown until now. The Ultramarine Archives (ANOM) on line allowed to find these information, in searching for each municipality one after the other! It appeares he died on 23 May 1902 in La Plaine-des-Palmistes (Reunion Isl.). The act is written in French, the name is francized: François Sikora. We learn also he was in resort since two years in this municipality and was known there as naturalist.

Lacroix M. “Hannetons”. http://hannetons.free.fr/page217.html (consulted in 2016)

Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The eponym dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1–296 (Sikora: p. 243).
Battistini R., Richard-Vindard G. 1972. Biogeography and Ecology in Madagascar. The Hague, Springer-Science, 765 p.
Feller C., Sandron F. 2010. Parcours de recherche à Madagascar. L’IRD-Orstom et ses partenaires.Marseille, IRD, 424 p.


Shells dealers

From the middle of 19th century, a strongly development of shell trade is observed, in particular, the retail sale and the sale by mail order (see also Dance, 1966, 1969).

Hermann Rolle (1864–1929) was a famous German dealer in Berlin specialised in ornithology and conchology. He acquired several important collections and stocks of material (e.g. Möllendorf). His store was immense, especially for palaearctic shells. We have a copy of his catalogue which has to be dated ca. 1894 [1]. The prices are given in Deutsche mark, but foreign customers found the exchange rates directly on the cover.

Sowerby & Fulton is another well-known house for shells, based in London. The mail order catalogue is written like a scientific publication, including a systematic order following the last classification (Pilsbry and Tryon’s Manual of Conchology; Sykes (1900) for Achatinellidae; Kobelt & Möllendorf (1890), etc.), with genera, subgenera and sections, authors for species and synonyms for genera, e.g.Chondrella 1871 = Diadema 1868 non Schaum 1817 = Garrettia 1874)”. Sowerby & Fulton wanted to be always up-to-date with a serious proposal and precise identifications.

Each booklet provides an index of generic names. The copy we have is dated between 1902 to 1906 [2] and it includes six booklets:
Inoperculate land shells (April 1902)
Cephalopoda, Pteropoda, Gastropoda (marine and freshwater) and Scaphopoda (April 1903)
Pelecypoda and Brachiopoda (June 1903)
Operculate land shells (1906)
For these five booklets, the prices are not given: specimens are sent on approval.
Recent shells (August 1902) is a compendium with a wide selection (almost 900 genera); the prices are given in shillings, with francs and mark equivalent.

Compared to Rolle’s catalogue, the scope is entirely on the worldwide malacofauna. The number of species is very substantial. Both catalogues were adressed to French, English and German collectors (the introduction in Rolle’s catalogue is even provided in three languages); many conchologists purchased specimens from these two shell suppliers and material of Rolle and Sowerby & Fulton can be found in most European museums.


Rolle Sowerby & Fulton

Dance SP. 1969. Rare shells. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 128 p.

[1, 2] Source: Audibert, private library

The fate of the Morelet collection

When Arthur Morelet died in August 1892 he left a considerable collection of shells (but due to lack of an inventory we do not know the precise size of the collection). His two daughters soon decided to sell it and in the Crosse archive we found two letters that allow for a partial reconstruction [1].

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-04 om 21.42.44Schermafbeelding 2016-08-04 om 21.43.13

The first letter, dated 31 October 1892 by his daughter Marie Huguette Aurélie [2], also on behalf of her sister, was written with misspellings (“Nous sommes bien embarassées ma soeur et moi, pour la vente de la conchyliologie de mon pauvre père et vraiment j’ai recours à vous comme à un ami. Que nous conseillez-vous de faire et dans quels journaux faut-il faire des annonces. / M. Ponsonby m’écrit que M. Sowerby de Londres achèterait la collection en bloc. / Peut-on s’en rapporter à ce Monsieur, que vous devez connaître je pense. / enfin, Monsieur, comment devons-nous nous y prendre pour faire connaître aux Etats-Unis la vente de la collection ?”). It may be summarised as follows: the two ladies wanted advice from Crosse about the sale of the collection and asked him if Sowerby (who was prepared to buy everything) was a good choice and if there was a possibility to find someone in the U.S.A. who would be interested in the collection.

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-04 om 21.41.40

The second letter was written by Emile Striffling, notary at Dijon, on 24 November 1892 and made clear that the collection had been sold to the shell dealer Hugh Fulton but that he had asked for type material still in the possession of Crosse (“la collection de coquilles a été vendue à Monsieur Fulton de Londres. Celui-ci s’entendra avec vous pour la reunion des types qui sont entre vos mains mais il me demande la nomenclature de vos types. Voulez-vous avoir l’obligance de me l’adresser pour Dimanche, M. Fulton devant venir à Velars ce jour là?”).

Fulton must have been very quick to offer parts of the collection to his clients, because already a few months later (4 February 1893) the British Museum (now NHMUK) started the registration of many lots from Morelet’s collection. Other parts have ended up in the MHNG (Breure, 2016), MNHN (likely via de former collection of the Journal de Conchyliologie), and NMW in Europe, and MCZ and ANSP in the U.S.A. Pilsbry (1893) reported that the ANSP had obtained “over 250 species of land and fresh-water shells, mainly of Africa, India and South America. As they are all new to the collection, and accompanied by reliable data, the great value of the series will be apparent. The additions to our collection of Helices are especially notable, many rare and long needed species being secured”. Another part of Morelet’s collection came to the same museum via the collection of Andrew D. Brown (who died in 1887), with whom Morelet apparently had been in exchange.

Although Sowerby and Fulton may have been competitors in this case, they soon joined forces and established their firm Sowerby & Fulton in 1897. It cannot be excluded a priori that some errant lots from the Morelet collection were dispersed under this label after that date.

Breure ASH. 2016. Annotated type catalogue of the Orthalicoidea (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Stylommatophora) in the Muséum d’histoire naturelle, Geneva. Revue suisse de Zoologie 123: 57–103.
Pilsbry HA. 1893. Report of the Conservator of the Conchological Section. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 45: 563–565.

[1] The Crosse archive is in the private possession of W. Backhuys.
[2] She was the eldest daughter of Morelet; the letter was written on paper with black margins, typically used by people who recently lost a relative.