24 November 2009

One more 19th century painting of a terrestrial gastropod and a malacologist's story


This picture of the snail formerly known as Helix aspersa adorns the cover of M. S. Lovell's 1867 book The edible mollusks of Great Britain and Ireland with recipes for cooking them. The book is available at the Biodiversity Heritage Library. I have scrolled thru the book quickly and noticed, in addition to recipes, many records, natural history observations and other miscellanea related to edible mollusks and also 12 colored plates.

The following anecdote is from page 20 and was taken from the famous 19th century malacologist E. A. Rossmässler's Reise-Erinnerungen aus Spanien.
Much amusement was afforded to the Spaniards, by Rossmässler throwing away the delicate animal, and only retaining its shell, which to them was worthless, but most valuable to him as a conchologist. Upon one occasion, on arriving at a posada, he found the hotel people sitting down to their midday meal, before a great dish full of snails. He says:—"One look satisfied me that they were of a rare kind, for which I had sought in vain; and I immediately seized upon some of the empty shells, which caused a universal laugh.
To a modern malacologist the snails' bodies would be as valuable as their shells. Rossmässler would undoubtedly have done the future malacologists a great favor if he had saved a snail or two along with their shells.

The previous 19th century painting of terrestrial gastropods was here.

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