MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.

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Lot 210
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816.
The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement. London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.

Sold for US$ 27,575 inc. premium
Highlights from the Conchology Collection of the Late Richard I. Johnson
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816.
The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement. London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
2 volumes, large 4to (412 x 415 mm.) Frontispiece surrounded by elaborate Greek key border gilt, 80 stipple-engraved plates, ALL FINELY COLORED BY MARTYN TO RESEMBLE ORIGINAL WATERCOLORS, each plate numbered in manuscript and tipped onto thick blue paper, contemporary polished calf with gilt Greek key border, rebacked, some light wear. Plates with occassional light spotting.
Provenance: Francis Lord de Dunstanville (bookplate).

FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, ONE OF VERY FEW "SELECT COPIES" FOR PRESENTATION SIGNED BY MARTYN, comprising the first two volumes.

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).

"When the 'Resolution and the Discovery' returned from the third and last voyage in 1780, Humphrey purchased some more shells, but the bulk of the conchological spoils went this time to Thomas Martyn, a knowledgeable dealer, versatile writer and gifted artist ... Unlike Humphrey and other dealers who snapped up the Cook shells Thomas Martyn had more than a pecuniary interest in his purchases. Martyn's reason for wanting to corner the market in South Seas shells was entirely praiseworthy; although he sold many of the shells he had bought, he illustrated the finest in 'The Universal Conchologist,' his magnum opus [and] a work which, for beauty, has seldom been surpassed in the history of conchological iconography" (Dance).

The publishing history of Martyn's masterpiece is complex. The work is generally found with 80 plates (as here), constituting the first two volumes, or as an extended version with 160 plates, usually bound in four volumes. The title page can be either 1784 (as here) or 1789. The final 80 plates did not appear until 1792. Sets can vary in terms of the supplementary material such as titles, plates of medals, tables, observations on tables and so on. With the exception of the plates, only a few copies collate exactly the same. Dance Shell Collecting p 70; Forbes I, 176; Nissen ZBI 2728.
Contacts
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
MARTYN, THOMAS. 1760-1816. The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known Shell, accurately drawn and painted after Nature with A New Systematic Arrangement.  London: Thomas Martyn, 1784.
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