On View In:
Gallery 316
Artist:   Thomas Martyn  
Title:   Haliotis pulcherrima (Venus ear), fig. 62, from "The Universal Conchologist"  
Date:   1784  
Medium:   Etching outline and watercolor  
Dimensions:   8 7/8 x 7 1/2 in. (22.54 x 19.05 cm) (plate)  
Credit Line:   The Minnich Collection The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund, 1966  
Location:   Gallery 316  

After their voyages, Captain Cook’s ships returned to Britain loaded with treasures of rarities and shells. The first pick, of course, went to British collectors. Of these collectors, Thomas Martyn hoarded the largest number of shells brought back from the South Pacific Islands in 1780—the last expedition of Captain Cook’s, who was killed in Hawaii during that trip. Martyn’s purpose was to complete and illustrate The Universal Conchologist. For this he assembled a small academy of nine young artists to reproduce the shells he continuously collected. The project began in 1764, and in 1784 the first 2 volumes with 80 plates were published. Two more were added in 1787, each one boasting forty new plates and a brief text, written by Martyn himself. The color prints show the shells from two angles, as if they were little sculptures. Within the field of conchology, they remain among the best illustrations ever produced.

Name:   Martyn, Thomas  
Nationality:   English  
Life Dates:   English, 1760 - 1816  

Object Description  
Inscriptions:   No signatures.  
Classification:   Prints  
Creation Place:   Europe, England, , ,  
Accession #:   P.19,572  
Owner:   The Minneapolis Institute of Arts