- The Universal Conchologist exhibiting the figure of every known shell, accurately drawn and painted after nature ... Figures of nondescript shells collected in the different voyages to the South Sea since the year 1764. London: Thomas Martyn, 1789
- paper, ink, leather
The present example is a second edition and complete, but also extra-illustrated with 19 very rare variant plates of images originally rejected for publication by Martyn. Copies of the Universal Conchologist exist with 160 plates but these "were apparently assembled rather than published and contain no letterpress text" (Forbes).
A highly lucrative market in shells from exotic lands had developed by the middle of the 18th century. Those collected on Cook's voyages were greatly desired and when the specimens from the Third Voyage were offered, one of their most enthusiastic buyers was Thomas Martyn. For the present work, Martyn was able to supplement his own collection with specimens from others including the Duchess of Portland, the Countess of Bute and John Hunter. The Universal Conchologist is the only extant illustrated catalogue of the greater part of the shells collected on Cook's Third Voyage. From a scientific perspective, it is therefore an invaluable conchological record, much as Banks' Florilegium stands as a monument to the botanical discoveries made on Cook's First Voyage.
The publication history of the work is complex in part due to Martyn halting production of the first edition and redrawing eighty plates. The present example includes 14 of these rejected plates, here bound adjacent to the published versions. They are printed on different paper to the published images and show differences in the way they are laid out on the page as well as variations in the coloring.
An intriguing additional five plates with no corresponding counterparts in the published work, but very faintly titled on the versos in an unknown hand, are bound at the back of the volume