London: G. and W. B. Whittaker, 1824. First edition. Later black cloth with gilt to spine. Collates xii, 251: complete, including frontis and the author's List of Authorities Consulted. Previous owner's bookplate to front pastedown; Scion College Library deaccession stamp to verso of title page. The author's name added in a contemporary hand to the title page. Faint offsetting to title page and occasional scattered marginal foxing, else unmarked. Internally an example of this rare book by an important woman scientist. Scarce in institutions and trade, The Conchologist's Companion has appeared only once at auction, with this being the only copy 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). Among them is The Conchologist's Companion, which Roberts wrote as a followup to her successful Wonders of the Vegetable Kingdom. "The link which unites the vegetable kingdom to the vast world of animal existence is composed of several extraordinary productions, termed zoophytes, or plant-animals, from their generally existing in the shape of plants," she explains in her opening pages. With this book, her goal is to help scientifically minded readers explore this gray area of the biological world, and to consider the relationships among plants and animals. Examining cases of coral, univalves, bivalves, and other creatures, Roberts even encourages readers to seek out and study fossils that provide us with examples of how biological entities have changed across time. 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.
Feminist Companion to English Literature 910. (Item #4375)