London: Reeve and Benham, 1851. First edition. Original green publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and front board. Gentle rubbing to corners and wear to cloth at the extremities of the rear joints. Rebacked, preserving the original yellow end-papers. A square, tight copy that is internally unmarked, with only the lightest scattered foxing to preliminaries. Collates [x], 396, [1, ad]: complete, including all 18 colored plates. This important work by one of the leading female scientists of the Victorian era is scarce in institutions and in trade, with its most recent appearance at auction occurring a decade ago, and the present copy being the only one on the market.
"Growing up in the Gloucestershire countryside, Mary Roberts developed an interest in natural history [...and] became a keen amateur botanist. This love of nature and her keen observations gave rise to the works for which she is best known" (ODNB). Roberts, who was devoted to promoting women's intellectual worth as writers and thinkers, used her scientific books to welcome in a range of readers to the fields of botany and biology. "She had a writing career that spanned the early 1820s to the early 1850s, during which she produced over ten natural history works on conchology, zoology, vegetables, and trees" (Lightman). Mary Roberts has been credited with helping to popularize the sciences for young readers and women. Connecting Mollusca to her previous book The Conchologist's Companion, Roberts clarifies that while the two fields are related, there are key distinguishing points. Thus her book will "treat not so much of shells as of their animal occupants; and this is desirable, because shells are too often regarded as merely objects of ornament or fancy. Owing to the retired habits of Mollusca and to their soft and perishable nature, Conchology has but slowly advanced in the true spirit of science." Roberts believes in the importance of recognizing not only the beauty of shells, but also their function; therefore, conchology should be accompanied by the biological study of mollusks, and the study of mollusks can advance the quality of conchology. "It is hoped that the following popular account of the instincts and habits of the constructing animals will render their shells more intelligible and of greater [scientific] interest." In what follows, Roberts writes in her accessible and lucid way about cephalopods, gastropods, and a range of other species that rely on shells for life. She walks readers through the construction of shells by those creatures, as well as how those animals employ their shells; and she includes information on the study of mollusks of different regions. Accompanying the text are 18 plates, all beautifully colored, with 90 different examples of mollusk life. A beautiful copy of an important work of science, encouraging a wider diversity of students as well as a recognition of scientific fields' intersections.
Feminist Companion to English Literature 910. Near Fine (Item #2768)