MARTYN, Thomas (fl.1760-1816). The Universal Conchologist, exhibiting the figure of every known shell accurately drawn and painted after nature. London: sold at his House, 1784-.
4 volumes, 2° (404 x 395mm). Five engraved titles and 41pp. of letterpress text (mis-numbered -27; -39) in French and English (with duplicates of pp.-39] in vol.IV), engraved hand-coloured frontispiece in vol.I with gold border, all on large paper, 160 ENGRAVED PLATES, ALL FINELY HAND-COLOURED TO RESEMBLE ORIGINAL WATERCOLOURS, each on smaller format paper within a black frame, these and the plate numbers partly printed and partly inserted in manuscript, each plate mounted on blue thick paper, engraved dedication, 2 engraved plates of medals, 4 engraved tables, 4 additional letterpress leaves (including one duplicate and a prospectus). Publisher's red straight-grained morocco gilt, greek-key pattern roll-tool border, flat-backed spines divided into six compartments, blue morocco lettering-pieces in two, small circular green morocco lettering-piece in a third, the others variously tooled with decorative small tools, including two larger shell tools, gilt turn-ins, g.e. (neat repairs to head and foot of spine of vols. III and IV and some outer corners, some light scuffing to extremities). Provenance: R.M.Trench Chiswell (armorial bookplate); Archibald Acheson, 3RD EARL OF GOSFORD (1806-1864, leather booklabel at front of vol.I); Sondley Library, Asheville, North Carolina (blind stamps in lower blank margins of plates).
A FINE RARE LARGE-PAPER COPY OF MARTYN'S MAGNIFICENT WORK ON SHELLS OF THE SOUTH SEAS. The first edition was published in 70 copies in 1784 and comprised 80 plates. This is the so-called second edition, actually a second issue, includes the two plates of medals, with the first 80 plates re-drawn. The author issued this work in response to a vogue for conchology stimulated by the large number of specimens bought back from the various voyages to the Pacific. It is based on collections (belonging to the author and others) purchased from returning mariners. Published by the author from his Academy for painting Natural History, the plates were coloured by students at the academy and issued unbound, to allow later ordering according to genus, species, etc. The complete work in four volumes is a great rarity and even Sir Joseph Banks was unsuccessful in his quest for it. The illustrations rank amongst the very finest shell pictures and are exquisitely coloured and finished. Martyn 'produced a work which, for beauty, has seldom been surpassed in the history of conchological iconography' (Peter Dance Shell Collecting). Nissen ZBI 2728 (Nissen has conflated the author, Thomas Martyn, draughtsman, with Thomas Martyn (1735-1825) F.R.S, botanist); B.M.(N.H.) III,p.1258. (4)