Martin Lister

FEBRUARY 2, 2015

Martin Lister, an English physician and naturalist, died Feb. 2, 1712; we don’t know when he was born. Lister was an inveterate collector of shells, and in 1685 he published the first volume of his Historiae Conchyliorum, an encyclopedia of shells; the second...

Scientist of the Day - Martin Lister








Martin Lister, an English physician and naturalist, died Feb. 2, 1712; we don't know when he was born. Lister was an inveterate collector of shells, and in 1685 he published the first volume of his Historiae Conchyliorum, an encyclopedia of shells; the second volume followed in 1692. The work contains an astounding number of plates, 1062 to be exact, and most of these were drawn and engraved by Lister's daughters, Anna and Susanna. Anna was only 21 years old when the second volume appeared, and Susanna but a year older, so they started their careers as artists when they were barely in their teens. Anna Lister was one of the 12 featured artists in the Library's 2005 exhibition, Women's Work, and you can see three pages devoted to the Listers on the exhibition website. All of the copper plates were preserved at Oxford University (that must have been quite a stack!) and used to print a second edition in 1770; we have that set in our collection as well.

The images above, all from the first edition of the Historiae Conchyliorum, depict, in order: a pearly nautilus, a turbinate, three whelks, and a fossilized scallop, as well as the engraved title page to the first volume. Both volumes have been scanned and are available in their entirety in our digital collections.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City

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