# 28427

MAWE, John (1764-1829)

The voyager’s companion, or shell collector’s pilot;

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with instructions and directions where to find the finest shells; also for preserving the skins of animals; and the best methods of catching and preserving insects &c. &c. &c. London : printed for and sold by the author, and by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825. Fourth edition. Duodecimo, full polished calf (corners rubbed), gilt-lettered contrasting black morocco title label, gilt-lettering to foot of spine ‘Library of Congress’ with gilt emblem of eagle and shield, bookplate removed from front free endpaper, hand-coloured aquatint frontispiece, pp. [iv]; vii; [blank]; 75; [1 – adverts]; hand coloured aquatint plate in the text, a couple of small stains. A fine copy.

The first guide to shell collecting, with some of the earliest direct references to collecting shells in New Holland and the South Seas.

Mawe’s charming and exceedingly rare guide to shell collecting was first published in 1804, unillustrated; only one surviving example of the first edition is known. The second edition is completely unrecorded, while OCLC locates two examples of the third edition of 1821.

The fourth edition (here) of 1825 is similarly rare, with only two copies recorded on Trove. This edition is enhanced by two exquisite plates engraved by John Mawe. Stilwell suggests these were coloured by his wife, Sarah. The illustrations depict shells and fauna found in the farthest parts of the world, including the South Seas, with shells of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), the Marquesas and Society Islands, Otaheite and New Zealand all discussed in the text. The collecting of shells in New Holland is discussed across three pages: ‘Van Diemen’s Land offers a vast field to the naturalist, particularly to the conchologist, zoologist and entomologist, who would be amply remunerated for whatever they might collect … ‘; there is further discussion of rare shells found by two boys on a whaling ship in Western Port.

The first edition (1804), is known in a single example, held in the State Library of New South Wales, published under the title A short treatise addressed to gentlemen visiting the South Seas and all foreign countries : more particularly to Commanders, &c of ships and gentlemen residing on shore with a view to encourage the collecting of natural history.

There is no known copy of the second edition, although its existence is confirmed by Mawe’s reference to it in the Preface of later editions.

The third edition (1821): National Library of Australia; University of New South Wales

The fourth edition (1825): The British Library; State Library of New South Wales

Reference:  Stilwell, Jeffrey. The world’s first shell collecting guide from 1821 : John Mawe’s The Voyager’s companion, or shell collector’s pilot. Perth : Western Australian Museum, 2003.

Provenance:  Library of Congress, Washington D.C., stamp to spine (the LOC has confirmed this work is a historical deaccession)