Tracing Collections | Mollusca Types in Great Britain

Tracing historical mollusc collections

Many of the great shell collections of the past were broken up, dispersed, and relabelled. The contents of many, including some types, are unidentifiable or presumed lost. Even some of the collections that changed hands intact, and have survived intervening wars and disasters, can prove difficult to trace today.

The indispensable modern catalogue of workers on molluscs, with references to their biographies and bibliographies, is Coan & Kabat’s “2,400 Years of Malacology” (now in its 15th edition, 2018). This also gives information on key early publications, journals, societies, and museums.

It does not, however, deal so directly with shell collections, their contributory sources, and types as did a much-used list that appeared as Appendix IV in Dance’s A History of Shell Collecting (1986) (and in an earlier form in 1966). In turn this guide to collections drew upon earlier work including a card index compiled by R. A. Winckworth. This index was used by Coan & Kabat in 2010 thanks to NHMUK curator Kathie Way. Similarly, a copy of this index at NMW was used and added to by S. Peter Dance in the 1960s - 1970s, and by Alison Trew in the 1980s.

Dance’s excellent book has been long out of print and can be difficult to obtain, so we here reproduce (with permission) an amended version of Appendix IV. Updates have been made to a number of entries and a few collectors added, with a particular focus on collections in the UK. The location of type specimens (if not entire collections) tends to have been more explicit from the mid-20th century onwards, so there remains a focus on earlier collections and authors

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S. P. Dance Guide to Collections


Coan, E. V. & Kabat, A. R. 2018. 2,400 Years of Malacology. 15th ed., February 11, 2018, 1,594 pp. + 109 pp. [Annex 1 – Book Collations] + 65 pp. [Annex 2 – Küster Collation], 51 pp. [Annex 3 – Journal Collations].  American Malacological Society:

Dance, S. P. 1986. A history of shell collecting. E. J. Brill-W. Backhuys, Leiden. xv + 265 pp., 32 pls.