# 23418

MAWE, John (1764 - 1829)

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

  • Sold

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, later red roan with a crude gilt illustration of a land snail, handmade papered endpapers, hand-coloured aquatint frontispiece, pp. [iv]; vii; [blank]; 75; [1 – adverts]; hand coloured aquatint plate in the text, a couple of old paper tape repairs, else very good, housed in an early papered boards slipcase.

The first guide to shell collecting, with 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, of which there is a sole surviving example. The second edition is completely unrecorded, while WorldCat records two examples of the third edition of 1821. The fourth edition (here) of 1825 is similarly rare, with two copies recorded on Trove, and is enhanced by two exquisite plates engraved by John Mawe, and as Stilwell suggests, coloured by his wife Sarah. The illustrations depicts shells and fauna to be found in the farthest parts of the world, including the South Seas, with shells of the Sandwish Islands (Hawaii), the Marquesas and Society Islands, Otaheite and New Zealand all discussed in the text. The collecting of shells in New Holland are discussed across three pages : ‘Van Diemen’s Land offers a vast field to the naturalist, particularly to the conchologist, zoologist and and entymologist, who would be amply remunerated for whatever they might collect … ‘ with further discussion of rare shells found by two boys on a whaling ship in Western Port.

Mawe’s Shell collector’s pilot is a charming and very rare early guide to collecting shells, with some of the earliest references to the shells of New Holland.


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.