Studying Shells (with an emphasis on image reproduction)

Mollusca is the name used for classification of fascinating invertebrate animals; the second largest phylum of life on our planet. Many identify these kind of creatures as those that live inside of shells. This may be why malacology and conchology, the names for two fields of scientific study, are often argued to be nearly identical studies of molluscs and their shells (for those which have them). These animals continue to play diverse roles for humankind, who have a long historical relationship with mollusca; as traders, diners, and collectors of them.

Within its own scholastic sphere, taxonomies have been created by collecting and identifying specimens of all kinds of mollusc to create links within and between species of this animal group. By using a range of reproduction techniques, drawings and photos of specimens have continued the spread of knowledge on conchology & malacology not only among academics but also to engage with the inquisitive minds of visual artists and young learners.

The use of shells as material (and/or tool) with which to record, reproduce, or account for information has a much longer history than the scientific and life-science studies of this material. A notable case being an approximately 100,000 year old abalone found in Blombos which was discovered to have been used as a kind of painter’s palette for primitive humans.

Below are suggested resources culled from both widely recognized & "reputable" resources as well as from highly investigative natural history collectives & enthusiasts which explore the diversity of disparate topics. The resources include the study of shells, print technologies, and knowledge production & distribution over a very long period of human history — a period paling in comparison to the duration of mollusc existence on planet earth.

Blogs & Periodicals

The Conchologists: Searching for Seashells in 19th Century America: This Library of Congress blog post provides some digital reproductions of books on conchology within their collection while also providing insight to the history of conchology. Included in the post is a link to the catalog record for a book which has been considered the very first on this topic, from 1684, Recreatio Mentis et Oculi: in Observatione Animalium Testaceorum Curiosis Naturae Inspectoribus. Within that record is another link to an electronic copy of the book found in the Hathi Trust digital library.

Auckland Shell Club's Poirieria: A list of articles and their attributions for the contents of every issue of the periodical, Poirieria, which were published by the Auckland Museum Institute, New Zealand. A link is provided on this page to view the entire collection; digitized and hosted online by the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). No longer in print, the earliest issue dates back to 1962 with the latest issue from 2014.

Baily-Matthews National Shell Museum's The Nautilus: One of the longest running journals on the topic, still in print, The Nautilus' earliest issue dates back to 1889. A link is provided on this paged to view the entire collection; digitized and hosted by the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) In volume 102, no.1, 1998, page 8 are seven print reproductions of photos called "light micrographs" which were created using SEM, a scanning electron microscope at USNM, the National Collection of the U.S.

note: for periodicals digitized online and hosted by the BHL, the user is able to see notes in a menu on the left hand side of the browser which identifies every scientific name mentioned on each page of the publication Eddie Hardy's site is linked to by many conchology and malacology clubs, organizations, and collectives in the U.S. including the Pacific Conchological Club who host monthly meetings at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Hardy explicitly sites a long and detailed list of professionals & scholars in addition to attributing much of this online collection to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Shells and Sea Life newsletter vol. 7, no.8 1985: published by Steven J. Long and Sally Bennett (1976-77) president of Conchologists of America, a periodical which has photographic reproduction, an advertisement for a new & antequarian book seller “seashell treasures books” in bayside, CA (including a three and one half page listing of books for sale and ending with a form to be used in purchases made by mail), as well as a highlight on a 33-year-old painter’s work (commissioned paintings of palauan shells) being featured on stamps.

Shells as Communication & Print Technologies

Akkadian cylindrical seal : Dated as far back as 2350 B.C.E., these two cylinder seals are both made from shells. Part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these seals were rolled onto clay before it hardened in order to identify ownership of or account for monetary exchanges of certain items.

Senwosredet I, cartouche: three cartouche to be worn as necklaces in Egypt ca. 1961-1917 B.C.E. to identify persons as loyal servants of the king Kheperkare, likely military persons but it remains somewhat unclear to scholars.

From the William Healey Dall collection at the Smithsonian Libraries

The Conchological Magazine published by Yoichirō Hirase

Kaisenshu by Yoichirō Hirase: Hirase was a malacologist who’s collection was devastated (alongside the collection of his son & fellow malacological scholar, Shintarō) during The Bombing of Tokyo in 1945 by the U.S. Air Force in World War II.

The Nautilus reported on the collections lost, three years later.

From the UCLA Libraries & Special Collections

Manual of the Mollusca: or, A rudimentary treatise of recent and fossil shells by S. P. Woodward, illustrated by A. N. Waterhouse and Joseph Wilson Lowry; 1851-56: Rebound for the UCLA libraries, the illustrations at the final pages of this text have been trimmed to fit inside, and so, running off of the page. Because of its size, likely this text was taken with a scholar while in the field, printed in English and illustrated with anatomical drawings throughout the text. Two copies at UCLA Libraries. In the Biomed History and Special Collections cage, call number QL403 .W877m 1851, two volumes, non circulating items. And in the Southern Regional Library Facility (barcode (A0013850961), two volumes bound together in omnibus.

Little conchologist : an introduction to the classification of shells; 1837: In the UCLA Special Collections at Young Research Library, a tiny, nearly coin-pocket-sized volume, intended for the use of young students to help to identify shells. Many illustrated plates, and a hand colored frontispiece. call number CBC QL405.2 .W55 1837

Testacea Vtrivsqve Siciliae Eorvmque Historia et Anatome Tabvlis Aeneis Illvstrata a Iosepho Xaverio Poli. Poli, Giuseppe Saverio. 1791: About 110 years after what the aforementioned blog post identified as the very first book on conchology - this book, entirely in Latin, very oversized, with 36 full-page intaglio illustrations was created. The illustrated plates are highly detailed with numbered anatomical parts. call number, ***Z233.B6 P76.