Tag Archives: publication

Tales from a shell cabinet

In the latest SHNH Newsletter the following note was published, which not only gives an amusing and interesting little story, but also reveals the existence of a British conchologist not yet listed in Coan & Kabat (2016): Samuel Smith (1802–1892).

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.42.41 Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.43.52
Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.44.38 Schermafbeelding 2016-08-07 om 10.45.14

Nelson EC. 2016. Tales from a shell cabinet. An old lady’s house burgled. Society for the History of Natural History, Newsletter 110: 17–19.

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

Chatenier: bio, portrait

Constant Chatenier (1849-1926) was a French botanist and conchologist. He was elementary school principal and he explored the plains and mountains of the Drome department. He worked as collaborator to the Flora of France, with the famous botanists Rouy & Foucaud. Some species had been described by him, particularly in the Rouy & Foucaud’s work, and some others had been dedicaced to him.


Chatenier was interested in local malacology. In 1888, he published a Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles observés dans le département de la Drôme… at the same time of the appearance of a similar work of Gustave Sayn, and almost with the same title, ignoring one another!

He was influenced by Saint-Lager, who was a well-known botanist in Lyon, also a nomenclaturist. Saint-Lager proposed a “reform of the botanical nomenclature” in 1880 and published a “trial of the botanical and zoological nomenclature” in 1886. Chatenier applied the principles proposed by Saint-Lager to the names of species of molluscs, notably he rejected all substantive names in apposition for specific names and other linguistical problems, e. g. Helix ericeticola instead of H. ericetorum, Pupa aveniformis (vs P. avena), P. frumentiformis (vs P. frumentum), etc. In total, 24 names had been changed for grammatical “errors” in his Catalogue. He confessed that the reasons to change the nomenctature were ‘pre-emptive’ and concluded: “J’ose espérer qu’elles [les raisons] seront ratifiées par tous ceux qui n’ont pas pour la tradition un respect exagéré”. Chatenier judged that the priority rule was less important than grammatical rules.

In malacology, Chatenier described: Helix megalomphala Chatenier, 1888, Helix petrophila Chatenier, 1888 and some manuscript names: Moitessieria elegans Chatenier, Pupilla costulata Chatenier. He is dedicatee of a Helix chatenieri by Germain, 1905. Victor Piraud, director of the Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Grenoble, had been asked him to determine regional molluscs in the museum.

Chatenier C. 1888. Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles observés dans le département de la Drôme. Bulletin de la Société de Sciences naturelles de la Drôme, (62 p.).
Sayn G. 1888-1889. Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles du département de la Drôme. Bulletins de la Société malacologique de France 5: 121–184 (1888); 6: 67–81 (1889).

[1] Portrait: MHNGr archives (I’m grateful to Mrs Catherine Gauthier for access to the collections and Philippe Candegabe for the scan).

An annotated copy of Geyer (1909)’s book

David Geyer (1855-1932) is a famous German malacologist. His book entitled Unsere Land- und Süsswasser-Mollusken, and published in 1909, is useful still today, with magnificent plates.

In my copy [1], the plates are hand labelled with typical old german handwritting.

Numériser 16

In addition, a sample of a manuscript written in Kurrent (Deutsche Kurrentschrift), used in Germany until beginning of the 20th century, is stucked on the last page of the book by a precedent owner, maybe Forbes (see the signature) with this comment: “Manuscript Prof. Karschs – geplante Vorarbeit für eine analytische Tabelarisirung”.

We don’t have any information about this Prof. Karsch. We welcome your comments!

Geyer D., 1909. Unsere Land- und Süsswasser-Mollusken. Einführung in die Molluskenfauna Deutschlands. Stuttgart: K. G. Lutz’ Verlag : 155 p., 18 pl.

[1] Audibert C., private library.