6 Collecting: Meaning and Direction

The Yorkshire Philosophical Society established a complex and structured membership in order to create a sustainable institution capable of meeting society objectives. Key amongst these objectives was the desire to construct a collection as a resource and cultural statement. From our retrospective view it might appear that building respectable collections was, for these institutions, just a matter of time – they were expected to exist into ‘future ages’. Patience, however, was not a viable collecting strategy. It was soon apparent that a museum’s reputation lay not in its collecting programme or intentions but in what it possessed. The main objective was to create a functioning scientific institution.[1] To further science, and provide display, lecture and identification services, an institution needed a collection. Without this it could not operate, or indeed, attract the army of observers and collectors so essential to its plans. The philosophers needed an immediate solution to the collecting problem.

Viewing the natural world as a finite resource, they envisaged a process which was essentially one of transporting specimens from the field into the cabinet. With effort the fossil realm could simply be gathered up. While acquisition was to continue throughout the life of these institutions this was, in part, to satisfy the social motives and bonds bound up in the act of donation, and also a recognition of the impossibility of drawing boundaries to collecting.[2] While many participants were collectors or knew collectors, the size, nature and socio-political make-up of these corporate bodies provided opportunities for collecting in new ways and on a new scale.

These institutions saw no limits to growth, and the immediacy of the collecting problem meant acquisition at the maximum possible rate. Their annual reports, in the early years, generally placed geological items at the head of the list of topics for review. And rather than review research successes, or the highlights of their lecture programme, they chose to chronicle donations received giving the most important additional emphasis in the main preamble. In its first two years the Yorkshire Philosophical Society gathered 4500 fossils, and although Phillips considered this a small collection, it was seen by the society’s council as a great achievement.[3]

The culture of the gift

When Vernon first came to consider how his institution could rapidly build the necessary fossil resource he called on Buckland’s expertise. Undoubtedly the quickest way to secure a museum was simply to draw in existing private collections; all philosophical societies did this in their early years. Buckland had no doubts concerning the power of honorary membership in making this possible. As he told Vernon, ‘There is a very fine collection at Scarborough belonging to Mr Hinderwell, an elderly gentleman, which would at once set you up if he could be induced to bequeath it to you, or transfer it immediately wh[ich] w[oul]d be much better’, adding, ‘by all means make him a Member’. At the next meeting they did just that.[4]

Thomas Hinderwell was an antiquarian but no field geologist. He relied upon others to do his fieldwork, acquiring much of his material through purchase. It is probable that his collection lacked identification, stratification and localisation. Some of this information was simply not available to him; other information was unimportant in a pre-Smithian age. But this aside, it would certainly meet the superficial needs of quality cabinet specimens. To expect anything more than this would be overly optimistic, this was still very early days for the new science. In the hands of Smith and Phillips such material might be ‘backwards correlated’ with strata and even locality. The art of interpolation was as important to the mapmaker in the cabinet as it was in the field. Hinderwell, however, was unwilling to donate his collection. As a historian connected entirely with Scarborough he had no reason to give allegiance to its city neighbour. Hinderwell was not part of the city or county clan. However, the York society proceeded with an honorary membership anyway, hoping perhaps to win by attrition. In the meantime Vernon actively sought intelligence regarding other collections which their owners might wish to donate, perhaps with an additional bribe, or sell. In 1823, for example, he discovered from John Bird that a Mr W. Wetherall had left Whitby to reside in Ripon, to the north of York, and had taken his collection with him. Bird had never thought to attempt to acquire it, but enquired on behalf of Vernon and obtained for the York society the promise of a donation.[5]

However, acquisition of ready-made collections was never likely to be the key to the collecting problem nor would it satisfy the focused research objectives of the York philosophers. Instead, all societies relied upon an entirely new (at least in local circles) collecting mechanism, that of ‘selfless’ donation. The York society would ‘congratulate’ itself on the ‘zeal’ of its supporters, and ‘the spirit of research which it has awakened’. They found ‘no reason to regret the rule which they have laid down to themselves, of relying, for the augmentation of the Geological part of the Museum, chiefly on the individual exertions of the Members of the society, and the liberality of those who are willing to contribute to its objects.’ Of the 9183 geological specimens in the collections at the end of 1826, 89 per cent had been donated.[6] Private collectors, who relied upon their own fieldwork or the fullness of their purses, could hardly compete with these collective enterprises. 

In the fee structure, initially discussed by the York society’s founders, a five guinea admission (joining) fee was to be used as the basis for a purchase fund. Objects bought with this money were to remain the property of those who paid the fee. Alternatively, new members might gain admission by donating objects to the value of five guineas. All specimens were to be ticketed with the name of the donor and returned to him if the society dissolved. These were obviously nervous first steps. The new societies were uncertain of the potential of donation but need not have concerned themselves; this fitted very well with the social mechanisms which underpinned their operation.[7]

Take William Danby, for example. He was typical of the wealthy gentlemen who supported the York society, a ‘liberal and disinterested patron of natural science’, an author and cultivator of the arts who also invested heavily in paintings which he displayed at his Swinton Park home. Here he also created a mock Stonehenge. What motivated such men to participate and were they really so disinterested? When Danby donated the remains of a fossil elephant tusk from Harswell it was he who was recorded in the annual report, not the finder nor his agent. His wealth, status and time for leisure enabled him to acquire specimens and most importantly give them in his own name. Although they were then possessed by the new institution they always retained an attachment to the giver and as such remained as much a statement about him as about anything else: ‘the thing given is not inert. It is alive and often personified’. He was not, in fact, entirely disinterested, and was no doubt aware of the benefits of attaching his name to something which in the hands of the society might achieve celebrity.[8] At very least it enhanced his reputation as knowledgeable patron. And as has been noted, it was important that such acts of patronage were visible; only then could their social and political potential be exploited. As an act of benefaction and patronage, a donation placed the institution in a position subservient to the giver. Donation was claimed as a right by the giver, and gifts were rarely refused. Refusal could establish a cancer in such a closely inter-linked and often politicised network. To the donor the gesture was often more important than the gift: the donor hoped to reap a social reward from the act; the institution in return gained another building block towards its scientific and cultural reputation. Such objects simultaneously performed plural functions: fact, cultural artefact, gift, prestige symbol and so on.[9]

The exchange culture adopted by the nineteenth-century philosophical societies was much like that associated with ‘primitive’, ‘archaic’ or ‘clan-based’ cultures in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere. These patterns of exchange, explored by Marcel Mauss, have in recent years drawn a resurgence of interest. Mauss compared Western ownership of private property, where a person has alienable rights of ownership, with clan-based economies, where there is no private property, and consequently no alienable rights over things. The distinction is between the exchange of commodities where a price is paid and ownership is transferred, and the exchange of gifts where it is not. Thus gifts ‘are never completely separated from the men who exchange them’; an ‘indissoluble bond’ existed between ‘a thing’ and its ‘original owner’.[10] In accepting gifts, a society gained possession but its rights of ownership were reduced.[11] Theoretically, donors could ask for the return of specimens. If material was no longer needed (through duplication or the arrival of better examples) it was sometimes possible to return it to the donor or dispose of it following consultation. Purchased objects were much more malleable. 

While they received no payment as such donors were given the return gift of notice whether in society reports, on museum labels, in the name of the collection or even the naming of the object. Such return gifts may have been the equal of the original donation, but in many cases they were not and so the society remained indebted to the individual. In the gift-giving culture of Papua New Guinea, status is achieved by having others indebted to you. To infer similar processes in the philosophical societies is to infer a ‘clan-based’ culture – a middle-class unity which cut across political and social divides. Here too the gift became a cultural mechanism, symbolic of and cementing, in one respect, a close bond. But in another respect it became a means of claiming social status. The gift, by being given to the society, was given to the group. That group, which may have been formalised as joint shareholders in the enterprise, then became indebted to the giver. Gregory discusses concentric circles of exchange around the core of the clan, as the circles increase away from the centre the bonds are weaker. Marx determined that, at the boundaries of communities, transactions take the form of commodity exchange where a price is paid.[12] This too is seen, for example, at the interface between society men and the artisan collectors.

This rule appears to be contradicted by the British Museum’s purchase of the William Smith collection and other ‘named collections’. Here money exchanged hands but the collection retained its association with the previous owner. In these collections part of their value was embodied in that association; collector details were a desirable attribute linking specimens to a moment or period of discovery. Many of these collections had acted as a kind of publication and there was in effect a desire to preserve the name of the author.[13] The sellers retained no power over their former collections.

A reliance on gifts, with no firm control from the society and little chance of refusal, held potential for disaster. Broad collecting interests had already been established by each society’s statement of mission but exactly what was donated was largely determined by what members and non-members found and were prepared to give. As a means of acquisition undirected donation was (and remains) extremely inefficient: information content and collecting rigour were uncontrolled and while purchase was avoided, the hidden costs of maintaining large and nebulous collections would in time undermine the museum mission of the movement as a whole.[14] Societies needed to exert some means of control. 

This came in the form of annual status reports which highlighted the institutions’ strengths and weaknesses. To this end the York society issued a statement in February 1828 claiming that its 8000 fossil specimens gave fairly complete coverage of British strata. Donations were now required in specific areas: ‘from the tertiary strata of Norfolk and Suffolk, of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, from the Oolite, Lias and Mountain Limestone of Bath and Bristol. In the Yorkshire series, the fossils most needed are from the Lias of Whitby, and the Mountain Limestone of Craven.’ For a society pursuing county geology, its focus was surprisingly non-local and showed a desire to explain the broader picture. Indeed it was also desperate to acquire fossils from Scotland and Ireland, and from abroad. In the following year, the society moved into its new rooms; its rate of acquisition could now be considerably increased. This space was to be filled by expanding the collections of Yorkshire fossils which suddenly became less than adequate – these should be ‘the richest part of the Museum’; ‘numerous are the fossils which might be procured in all parts of the county, the supply would doubtless have been greater, were the members aware how much is still wanting to complete the excellence of this part of the Museum.’[15] The philosophers in Whitby may have read of the York society’s eagerness to extend its Yorkshire collection and thus found an easy purchaser for some of the remnants of the late John Bird’s collection. 

Phillips also visited collections, sometimes for information gathering purposes but also to discuss the selection of specimens or to cultivate collectors in the hope of future donation or bequest. In March 1826 he was nurturing a Mr Bosvile of Ravenfield Park who held an important collection but ‘His collection of saurians [were] sold in London 1819 for the benefit of some persons at Lyme Regis [which] supplied Cuvier’s fine specimens.’  In a previous existence, Bosvile had been Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James Birch of the First Life Guards but had succeeded to the family name and estates of the Bosviles in May 1824. He sold his reptiles for the benefit of the Annings who were going through a very lean spell.[16]

The collector’s ‘fragile monuments’

Collectors like Bean, Williamson and Dunn, formed a key element in the success of the York society. However, they also required their rewards. A precedent had been set by James Sowerby who gave generous credit to his collectors (well knowing the need for diplomacy upon which his work depended), and in so doing created ‘lasting monuments to their incessant and assiduous collecting’. Indeed one anonymous contributor to Philosophical Magazine in 1815, soliciting interest in James Sowerby’s Mineral Conchology, published a list of those ‘collectors and contributors of specimens of fossil shells’ in the hope of attracting others who would like their names to be in such illustrious company.[17]

The practice of naming fossils after individuals, however, was not universally approved. Bristol curator, Johann Miller, disapproved but felt so indebted to his friend Henry Jelly that he offered to name a new species after him. Jelly, although flattered, declined: ‘Such an act I am sure would be in violation of your views and feelings upon science and therefore its acceptance would be highly improper on my part however my vanity might be gratified by it.’[18] With respect to crediting the collector, John Phillips’s book on the geology of the Yorkshire coast, which was particularly praised for its treatment of fossils, was a great disappointment to those who had supplied him with material and they told him so.[19] Both science and the collector had reasons for wanting known the names of the owners of figured specimens. Science would demand a record of repository for the purposes of validating or continuing research; the collector required his recognition. John Dunn, for example, had seen Phillips’s work as a means to personal fame; he was bitterly disappointed by Phillips’s failure to give credit and warned him against repeating the mistake:

Respecting your work, something must be done and this directly; our collectors will not let their labours remain unknown … copy no specimen from any collection without acknowledging; it is a trifling task, more interesting to the public than you think, and which is of more consequence to you, a duty to those from whom you owe the specimens. The want of it the last time has left a severe heartburning among some of your earliest and best friends and contributors … you must indulge the finders with the names they choose to give, if not very ridiculous. They have the right of property and can instantly obtain the fulfilness of such wishes by sending their specimens to London or Paris. You should have sent Williamson your Yorks report. It is not yet too late. Do not forget so industrious and worthy a fellow.[20]

Dunn’s words caused Phillips alarm and fearing the loss of support of his ‘earliest and best friends’ he wrote to his collecting contacts in Scarborough to assure them of his intentions. Bean responded immediately, reassuring Phillips, adding, ‘I must confess I have no ambition in seeing my name appear among some of your correspondents.’ Bean needed no such assistance in establishing his reputation, for unlike Dunn his talents were widely known outside of the town. His was the only private Yorkshire coast collection given in a  ‘List of Geological and Mineralogical Collections in Great Britain and Ireland’ published in the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal in 1829. But then perhaps the likes of Dunn and Williamson were aware of this disparity. Bean also felt himself above association with the other collectors in the town. Nevertheless, when Phillips came to produce the second edition of this work, and a companion volume on the Mountain Limestone district, he did identify the collections from which the figured specimens had come and thus gave the collectors the credit they demanded.[21]

Collectors were particularly keen to reap the rewards which might arise from the use of their material in scientific publication. Theirs were claims of scientific discovery. Even if they had not been present in the field at the point of collection, they had still been able to distinguish the worth of the specimens held in their cabinets. Often they were able to provide data which linked the cabinet specimen to its field context – small but vital information for those assembling the geological jigsaw. 

The need to credit collectors is seen in the reprinting of early society reports. Understandably, the first report of each philosophical society was produced in small numbers and rapidly went out of print. But so that donors should see their gifts acknowledged, the York society republished the donation list of the first report in the second. They chose to do this rather than extol their mission statement which later members might also have missed. Donors expected to see their names emblazoned on labels and in the annual report. Here they were patronised with superlatives. In an era when language was uncontrolled in advertising, it should be no surprise to find it in museum reports. Donations were ‘fine’, ‘important’, ‘beautiful’, ‘rare’, ‘valuable’ and so on. These adjectives were a linguistic payment, flattering the donor and advertising the increasingly significant collections. For example, in 1827, William Bean gave the Whitby society a ‘Valuable collection of 60 fossils including 4 rare ammonites; 3 rare belemnites; 3 rare echinites; one rare spinite, a fine specimen of Cancer from the Speeton Shale.’ Such adjectives infer superior collecting skill and discriminating connoisseurship. Later the term ‘series’ was adopted for donations of collections of fossils. The term conferred scientific credibility on the donor, suggesting informed collecting based on an understanding of the strata involved. Edward Forbes was later scathing of the practice of placing donors in such high profile: ‘The only label attached to nine specimens out of ten is “presented by Mr or Mrs So-and-so”; the object of the presentation having been either to cherish the glow of generous self-satisfaction in the bosom of the donor, or to get rid – under the semblance of doing a good action – of rubbish that had once been prized, but latterly stood in the way.’[22]

Collectors could, by their activities, make important links with men of elevated social or scientific station. Knowing science’s dependency on their work, they often exploited these contacts for their own ends. Thus Ripley saw Phillips as a means to increase his fossil sales, and similarly John Leckenby wished Phillips to help him join the scientific élite: ‘May I venture to ask of you the favour to nominate me for the Royal Society. I have promises of support but your name will be a tower of strength if you will condescend to aid so humble a labourer in your vineyard.’[23] In this he was unsuccessful.

Fossils as commodities

In Whitby there was an awareness than acquisitions might involve purchase but the society knew it could sell on what it did not need. Its motivation continued to be promotional:

The amazing number of 660 visitors entered since last anniversary, attests the pleasing fact, that the Whitby Museum has lost nothing of its interest in the eyes of strangers, who view with delight those fine specimens of Organic Remains, which so particularly distinguish this Institution from all others. Your Council would respectfully urge, the propriety of purchasing chiefly any new fossil specimens which may be found on the immediate coast and neighbourhood, as they consider those the most valuable and interesting parts of the collection.[24]

Young and Ripley’s contacts with local collectors gave them access to all that was found; they could simply pick what they wanted. With shelves groaning under the weight of the collections, they still complained of incomplete local series and continued to draw up lists of desiderata.[25]

Many society members, including Vernon, often purchased their donations from dealers; they simply went shopping for presents. The new social need to give presents to these institutions bolstered the supplementary income derived from selling fossils among the impoverished labouring classes of the coastal towns. Each coastal locality had its gaggle of workers scouring the coast for its natural products which could be sold or used in some way. Fossils were simply added to the list. During the summer fieldwork season, philosophers regularly toured the coast picking up what they could. They perhaps experienced the excitement of the hunt, feeling that they were pursuing philosophical ends, but not all had the skill, patience or local knowledge to find fine specimens. The summer months were, and still are, not the time for the true fossil enthusiast, as the best material reveals itself in the cliff falls brought down by the winter’s stormy seas and torrential rain storms. These specimens were gathered up by jet workers, and others, and retained for future sale to tourists or ‘strangers’ when they flocked to the coast during the summer, or sold on to middlemen and women who specialised in such materials.

William Williamson recalled how ubiquitous fossils were along the Yorkshire coast at this time; they were much rarer by the end of the century. In Scarborough, men such as Rudd (also known perhaps as Reed and Ruff) and Irish Peter exploited this newly valued resource, skilful at both collecting and knowing the worth of what they had found. One noted local collector, John Leckenby, acquired much of his collection through the efforts of these two men. Fossils could be found in shops in all the main towns along the coast – Bridlington, Scarborough, Whitby and Filey – and every touring philosopher would take advantage of the ease with which they could be purchased.[26]

Shops selling fossils in Bridlington in the 1820s included those of Walter Wilson – ‘an intelligent lapidary of the place’ – and Sam Cowton and Sons. These acted as intermediaries in the sale of fossils, often assembling larger collections from a number of different parties. Wilson, for example, took in the collection of a Mr Waters of the Custom House, Bridlington to which he added further specimens.Waters thus became a partner in the sale, apparently not being paid until the collection was sold. He contacted the York society in the spring of 1823 to inform them of its availability and display in Wilson’s shop enclosing an itemised price list which included a mammoth tooth valued at £5 and 14 belemnites at five shillings, the whole collection being valued at the not inconsiderable sum of £20. ‘They are a great variety of local specimens which would be suitable to your establishment. Wilson informed me that the tooth of the Hippopotamus was found near Barmston and the elephant at Hornsea.’[27] Vernon became interested in the collection. It did indeed seem appropriate to the society and might usefully supply material for him to purchase and donate. He visited Wilson’s at the earliest opportunity and expressed an interest in ichthyosaur remains and the elephant tooth, ultimately, purchasing both ichthyosaur and plesiosaur material, and the teeth of the hippopotamus (which turned out to be rhinoceros) and elephant.[28] Like Danby, he donated these in his own name. Their true origin – through at least two other pairs of hands – was sacrificed from the record. Vernon had become the primary owner and ‘collector’, and his name would remain attached to his presents. The selflessness of donation was hardly such, given that the gift spoke so much about the donor: his taste, connoisseurship, wealth, scientific knowledge and so on. While Vernon and Danby certainly collected from the field, history has tended to infer that this was the case with every donation when it was often not so. 

Commercial collectors and dealers – even those, like Mary Anning, who were acclaimed within their lifetime – were not recorded in the museum lists.[29] Such lists were to record the act of selfless donation. The distinction was between ‘commodities’ and ‘gifts’: ‘commodities have price while gifts have rank’.[30] With commodities, ownership was transferred and a price paid, thus Anning deserved no such acknowledgement.

With their rapid rate of acquisition, all philosophical institutions ran out of space within a few years of establishment. Within half a century, the burden of extensive reference collections would make the provincial museum an unattractive adjunct to the business of provincial societies, but in the 1820s there were few such worries. ‘Want of room’, wrote Phillips to Goldie, on hearing of the York society’s overfull premises, ‘fills me with delight because it proves the spreading knowledge and spirit of enquiry which distinguishes the present and will I hope adorn the future age.’ Like its contemporaries, the York society had at first established its museum in temporary rooms. If these became overcrowded then larger premises were sought. However, a building of their own was a rapidly realised goal for most of these societies. It was imperative that this should be so: ‘There was indeed no time to be lost: every corner of the Society’s present apartments is filled with cases and drawers, and every drawer and case is crowded with specimens’. Despite this, acquisition continued unabated, though there were concerns that this might need to be constrained if confusion and injury were not to result.[31]

The Whitby society had collected every local fossil of the slightest importance, its thirst for new specimens was unquenchable. The scale of its collecting had certainly outstripped that of the private collector, but at what cost? Its ‘peculiar local advantages … for procuring those rich and gigantic fossil treasures’ had resulted in institutional bulimia. It had gorged itself until ‘the drawers and shelves’ were ‘literally crammed, and groaning under the accumulated loads’. The result was disorder and a risk of damage which could undermine the gift culture: ‘contributors will not consider themselves honoured on finding that their donations have been consigned to an obscure corner, or perhaps to a drawer, where they can seldom be seen, and it is reasonable to infer, that they would rather present them to some other Institution’. The collection desperately needed classifying, rearranging, cataloguing and labelling but it was felt that such effort would be wasted if the fossils could not be placed behind glass.[32]

The Hull society also rapidly outgrew its accommodation. Unlike its contemporaries it had great difficulties in establishing permanent quarters, and was unable to organise or display the collections. Potential donors became increasingly reluctant to give material, preferring instead to retain valuable items in their own collections rather than risk exposing them to the museum’s disorder. Consequently, the museum’s collections grew slowly and each year admitted few gifts of substance. The pioneering Newcastle philosophical society found itself in a similar position. It had begun acquiring natural history collections as the foundation stone of its building was being laid but had never formally determined a mission to create a museum. The material simply flooded in. It soon poured out again, along with its growing clique of natural historians, to form a new society and a new museum.[33]

Duplication was another problem resulting from incessant donations. But if a knowledgeable curator was on hand, the sheer number of specimens coming under his gaze considerably raised the statistical probability of something unusual being discovered. Phillips, for example, found in one of Samuel Woodward’s presents from Norwich a ‘new Spatangus’ of whose significance Woodward was presumably unaware.[34] This process of mass accumulation was identical to that adopted by Richard Ripley to locate rare ammonites, indeed this was the only way to isolate rare elements in a fossil fauna.

Ripley knew that he could sell on what he did not want. The societies also found dealing a useful adjunct to their activities; they had no scruples about selling the poorer duplicates, and indeed all societies saw this as a legitimate way of raising income. In some cases the duplicate might be a poorer specimen which may have been at the heart of an original discovery. The practice of selling duplicates had long existed in private collecting circles, and there was no reason not to expect it in society museums. Bean, for example, had told Phillips, ‘I have been at a great expense in fitting up my museum and the glass which will cost £30 or £40 is yet wanting. I can spare a good collection of British Shells 350 or 400 spp. and varieties for £35 or £40 if any of your friends want, have the goodness to inform me.’[35]The society museums had similar needs and resorted to similar mechanisms to satisfy them. There were institutional precedents. In its early years, the Geological Society had sold duplicates. Such practice was seen as good museum management.

Among the Yorkshire societies none pursued this commercial aspect with greater business acumen than Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society. George Young, in particular, but also John Bird and Richard Ripley, were active correspondents with societies further afield, and particularly with their counterparts in York. The York society used these contacts to acquire fossil reptiles, plants and fish. Young acted as an agent for both the York philosophers and the Whitby collectors. He was a middleman with the interests of both in mind but with those of his own society firmly to the fore. By this means material flowed indirectly from the coast and into the collections of the Yorkshire Museum, or perhaps via a member who donated the specimens in his own name. Young selected and purchased specimens from dealers on Vernon’s behalf. He also made purchases himself before selling these on to York. For example, in 1825 he bought a fossil fish which he described as rare and well preserved; ‘I bought it for 16s and judging that it would be highly profitable, I resolved to forward it without waiting to hear from you.’ Young’s ability to tap into the philosophical brotherhood made him an essential contact for Whitby collectors and one, perhaps, to be favoured with specimens or discounts. With the explosion of interest in geology in the 1820s, fossils were becoming a new currency which the Whitby society could use to extend its collections in other areas ‘chiefly by the sale or exchange of duplicates, or by bartering Whitby fossils’. This enabled the diversification of the society’s collections.[36] Both the society, and Young and Ripley as individuals, encouraged the local fossil market and then hoped to act as a central control on the dispersion of fossils. Acting as agents for other societies they had considerable buying power. For those gathering the fossils they were the best way into new markets.

In 1839 the society attempted to expand its collections of foreign fossils in the same way: ‘these might be conveniently procured by an exchange of Whitby fossils, which here are so accessible, and would be rare and invaluable acquisitions to Institutions like ours, in distant localities. The traffic would be mutually advantageous.’[37] But such exchanges and purchases were notoriously fickle, and needed skilful salesmanship. A few years earlier, the society had been awash with fossils and decided to put together a collection of 300 to 400 good specimens properly arranged into series, for sale in London. The money it hoped this would raise – some £60 to £100 – would enable the purchase of cases and the classification of the fossil collections. However, fewer specimens than expected were put on sale and just £13 raised.

As the market in Yorkshire fossils took off during the 1830s, middle-class men also saw the potential for income generation. Most notable amongst these was the surgeon, and secretary of the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society, Richard Ripley. Ripley, with his brother John, had long been a generous supporter of his local society and had also given much to the men of York. But in 1830 he saw possibilities for material gain and so the brother surgeons also became brothers in the business of fossil dealing – though it seems that Richard was the main participant in this side of the business, with his younger brother concentrating more on surgery. By 1838 their trade was in full flow. As Richard Ripley told Phillips, ‘I am now quite a wholesale dealer in the fossils of this neighbourhood – for in consequence of having become somewhat notorious for distributing fossils for so many years gratuitously I found the demand so considerable that it became expedient for me to alter my terms – and I am now disposing of them for a small profit so as just to secure me from losing money by them.’ Possessing thousands of specimens from the local strata he could now supply ready-made collections consisting of 70 to 100 specimens at a price of between 50 shillings and £5. For institutional collectors he had larger and more expensive specimens in hand. ‘These collections will include belemnites, ammonites in great variety and beauty – many fine bivalve fossils – vegetable impressions – vertebrae of Ichthyosaurus, Plesiosaurus & Crocodile or Proteosaurus etc. etc.’ Ripley asked Phillips to mention his name to any potential purchasers. Ripley’s role was that of middleman, purchasing from coastal labourers during the winter and then selling this material on at profit. He believed that his advantage in this trade was a knowledge of both localities and nomenclature.[38]

Phillips asked Ripley to look out for any material which seemed particularly promising, for which Ripley requested the favour of having Phillips identify some of the fossils he was offering for sale. Ripley’s plan was to produce a lithograph of the local Lias with an associated catalogue and price list which he would then send to collectors. He made frequent trips to London to tout his wares around the major collectors and museums, acting also as an agent for collectors in the sale of Whitby reptiles. His list of contacts was impressive and on his visit to the town in August 1842, Murchison added Ripley’s name in his notebook.[39] Ripley also continued to collect for his own interest, amassing an important series of locally rare ammonites: ‘I wish much to be able to buy all the fossils which are offered in order that I may find out new species or varieties at any rate.’ Some of these ammonites he parted with in 1841, allowing his own society to purchase them from him.[40]

Ripley’s role as fossil distributor is complex and reflects the long-established financial value of fossils. He, like Young, had long held the position of middleman in the fossil market, resulting in part from their official positions within the local society. They took on these tasks partly as individuals and partly for the benefit of the society. For Ripley to commercialise this aspect of the business is not unexpected given his need to derive an income from whatever opportunities came his way. In 1831, Young too was well established as a fossil dealer, though it is unknown if he profited personally. In this year he was supplying an Edinburgh collector with 80 fossils each ‘numbered on the stone’ as well as on the envelope into which each specimen had been put. An itemised list gave individual prices, fossil name, the relevant plate in Young and Bird’s coastal work, and any comments on importance, scarcity and so on. Young was obviously receiving a regular supply of Malton fossils and he had expended considerable effort identifying them and ensuring the box included a large number of different species. The total cost of the collection was £3 10s, the price being somewhat higher than expected due to the expense of those fossils from Malton. Young also kept a copy of his list so that if the buyer wanted to extend the series Young could do so easily.[41] His brother in Edinburgh took payment for the fossils.

In 1842, Martin Simpson, then curator at the museum of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society in Wakefield, travelled to Whitby to negotiate an exchange between the two institutions. Simpson bemoaned the fact that his society was too impoverished to purchase some of the better specimens; ‘the plants of the sandstone beds I fear are beyond my reach.’[42] An enterprising collector, however, he undertook an excursion inland and rapidly gathered up 1000 fossils from the Dogger which he hoped to use for barter.

Scarborough Literary and Philosophical Society also saw dealing as a means to generate income. Unlike its larger cousins in Bristol and Leeds, it could make no money from lectures and had little in the way of operational funds. In 1831 the society asked John Williamson ‘to prepare a collection of specimens to be sold for the benefit of the museum’. Williamson was to receive a quarter of receipts in payment.[43] As a natural point of contact for distant geologists unable to visit Yorkshire, the Scarborough and Whitby societies often received requests for exchanges or purchases. In Scarborough the curator was ‘instructed to make a small collection and send them with prices affixed for his [the purchaser’s] approval’.[44] As Scarborough developed its own fossil specialities, such as the fossil plants from Gristhorpe, so these became much sought after by both societies and collectors. 

With the society struggling for funds, the most accessible room in Scarborough Museum was shelved out for the purposes of displaying duplicate fossils for sale or exchange. What exactly was meant by the term ‘duplicate’ here is unclear. Certainly, the coastal societies were often poorly equipped in terms of men of science or books on natural history. Their discussion of reptile finds suggests that they sometimes thought in terms of general types of fossil rather than species.[45]

The Scarborough Museum was becoming another coastal dealership. Barely having adequate facilities to display its best specimens, its new shop was treated as a priority. The society, through bureaucracy and lack of funds, found the acquisition of local finds difficult. It could not exert the same influence on the market as its Whitby counterpart and competing with private collectors in the town such as Bean was a problem. In an effort to improve this situation a subcommittee of Dunn, J. Bury and Smith was established with delegated powers to engage in purchases (for objects valued at less than £50), sales and exchanges without informing the society’s council. With the coming of the railway in the mid-1840s the coastal communities were contemplating the arrival of ‘monster trains’ carrying 3000 visitors. Such unprecedented tourism was good for museums and dealers alike. To meet this new need Williamson was again turned from curator to honorary dealer and asked to prepare ‘small collections of fossils in cases for sale’ to tourists.[46]

The situation in York was very different; it had no rich local source of fossils. It could only hope to rely on exchange as a means of acquiring more exotic or desirable specimens. Its rapid acquisition of fossils meant there was no shortage of duplicate material, although this only became apparent when Phillips began to curate the collections. One of the first collections he worked on was that of coal fossils amassed by a network of collectors throughout the North of England. Such specimens could be ‘exchanged with advantage’.[47] Phillips established a ‘duplicates room’, and during the curation process threw away considerable numbers of apparently worthless specimens. Of the remainder, he decided, ‘It is very desirable to exchange all the duplicates which are worth sending away, then to arrange the remainder in lots according to donors, to whom they may be offered: if refused let them be thrown away.’ In 1833, 10 per cent of the York collections as a whole consisted of duplicates.[48]

Hull Literary and Philosophical Society, despite a desperate want of room, continued to purchase natural history collections knowing that duplicates could profitably be sold. Amongst those interested in such material were neighbouring societies hoping to fill gaps in their own collections, or find material of importance overlooked by the selling institution. As Dikes wrote to Phillips in January 1828: ‘I cannot yet say exactly when I shall be ready to sell our duplicates. I have bought another large collection so that their number will be very greatly increased. I have almost made up my mind to alter the mode of disposing of them and to adopt the Tankerville system instead of forcing a sale by auction. I think I shall be ready in a month or two when I shall hope to have the pleasure of a visit from you.’ Dikes was undoubtedly referring to the collection of Charles Bennet, fourth Earl of Tankerville, whose large collection had been bought up by G.B. Sowerby who catalogued it and then sold it on in numerous small lots to collectors who came to view it.[49]

The panorama of geological progress

The Yorkshire Philosophical Society, like other societies, also took a broader interest in geological progress and reflected this in its collecting. In this period geology had great newsworthiness, and stories which were in the future to become simply points of reference were then stories of discovery. The society’s continuing attachment to Phillips as his career entered the science’s mainstream also encouraged a wider view. During the 1830s Phillips produced a number of general works including his Guide to Geology and an extended essay on geology for the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana. In 1834, he became Professor of Geology at Kings College, London, where he gave courses of lectures on general geology. His work as assistant secretary of the British Association also kept him in touch with the latest developments in science. As he grew in stature so he became increasingly indispensable to the local society.[50] Whether through good fortune or intent, the York philosophers assembled collections which reflected this wider view.

In 1838, for example, and as a result of good fortune, the York society found itself a participant in an Anglo-French debate concerning the oldest known mammals. In 1818, Cuvier had seen two tiny half jaws from the Stonesfield Slate which on casual inspection he compared to Didelphis, a modern opossum. Opossums were known only in Australia and the Americas, whereas these fossils had come from Oolitic strata. No fossil mammals had previously been found in rocks this old. In 1826, William Broderip found another example and published a description in Zoological Journal; and in October 1829, he donated a number of his monographs to the York philosophers, including his account of Didelphis. On 28 March 1831, Phillips’s good friend and coastal observer, the Revd Christopher Sykes, donated one of these jaws to York, which Phillips had found in Sykes’s collection: ‘the Opossum, will be better preserved in the society’s collection than mine, therefore I will thank you to present them.’ In presenting the jaw at the April meeting, Phillips explained its rarity and importance: it was the fourth example known and possibly a new species; these jaws alone contradicted the belief that no mammal existed in rocks of this age. In its annual report the society referred to it as its most valuable specimen. It had originally come from a collection made by Joseph Platt for the donor’s father, Sir Christopher Sykes, more than forty years earlier. Platt was a well-known Oxfordshire dealer. Sir Christopher, who was living at Wheldrake at the time, purchased a collection of fossils from Platt in January 1772. It seems likely, from the surviving bill, that he paid between sixpence and one shilling for this fossil. It was probably the first of the four jaws to be found, recognised by Phillips perhaps only after seeing the articles presented by Broderip. Enthusiasm for these fossils led Phillips to meet Murchison at Stamford in Lincolnshire for a failed attempt to find examples in the lithologically similar Collyweston Slate.[51]

By 1838, the debate concerned the taxonomic place of Didelphis – was it really a mammal? The answer to this question had serious philosophical implications for the opposing creationist and transmutationist camps.[52] As Charlesworth explained at the time, the debate had gathered considerable public attention and such tiny fragments were turning perceived notions upside down. As for Sykes’s specimen, the French only had a drawing, which Phillips had long before sent to Cuvier; the specimen itself, whilst known, appears not to have participated in the action directly.[53]

In an entirely different way, the collecting interests of the York society reflected the growing interest in some of the youngest and oldest fossils then known. In 1830, Deshayes published the results of a comparison of extant and extinct species in the Tertiary rocks of Europe. He attempted to show by numerical methods that the relative age of these rocks could be determined from the ratio of these two species groups. The work was supported by Charles Lyell, and heightened interest in the Crag of East Anglia. Phillips visited the Suffolk Crag, perhaps for the first time, in April 1831.[54] This formation became of increasing interest as Charlesworth debated the stratigraphic details with Lyell. In the process its relatively young, and consequently superbly preserved, fossils became much sought-after additions to the cabinet. The Whitby society was certainly keen to exchange local fossils for examples from the Crag. At the same time Samuel Woodward was distributing specimens to as many societies as he could. Some years later, Edward Charlesworth encouraged even greater interest amongst private collectors in these and other fairly recent and finely preserved shells, and in the process established one of the most sophisticated fossil trading enterprises of the century.

Crag localities were not the only ones to rise to fame in this period. The collector’s vocabulary and cabinet were soon adorned with the remarkable products of Christian Malford, Hordle, Bradford upon Avon, Bovey Tracey and so on. These became symbolic of geological connoisseurship, itself a phenomenon, though hardly acknowledged, which has accompanied the growth of fossil collections.

Fig. 6.1 Shark fin spine ‘from the Mountain Limestone of Shropshire’, presented to the York society by Revd Thomas Lewis in 1837. Lewis, a keen collector and one of Murchison’s earliest helpers on the Welsh Borders, also donated a ‘Mass of fish bones, & c. from the Ludlow formation (Silurian system)’.

Phillips’s volume on the Mountain Limestone district of Yorkshire, published in 1836, thrust the author into the heart of controversies surrounding much older rocks. In response the York society began to gather considerable quantities of Mountain Limestone and Transition Series fossils from various parts of Britain, Europe and the United States, from donors who included some of the main players in the debate.[55] With the publication of Murchison’s The Silurian System in 1839, these collections were completely reorganised and redisplayed so as to illustrate the latest understanding. Throughout the early 1840s the society continued to collect fossils from ‘those parts of the series of Palaeozoic organisation, which are at this moment of special Geological interest’.[56] The museum was to become ‘the means of investigating some of the most general questions at present under discussion’. Such comparative collections were invaluable in deciphering the generalisations of geology, and interpreting more local successions. Wherever description and publication had taken place, the localities concerned became important ‘type’ areas from which to collect a fauna for comparative purposes and to supplement the inadequacies of the two-dimensional representations in monographs.

Another major area of general interest for all the societies in Yorkshire, and elsewhere, was that of coal deposits; this was the primary concern of the Yorkshire Geological and Polytechnic Society, and indeed the much older philosophical society in Newcastle. Coal was the country’s most important economic resource, yet its origins were still a subject of considerable debate, its flora poorly differentiated and described, and its stratigraphy far from clear. If geology was to have any utility then this was dominated by its ability to predict the location of coal and aid its safe extraction. For this reason, coal plants became prized possessions and were collected in considerable numbers. The intense interest in these fossils during this period cannot be overstated, but has largely been overlooked.

Coal was thus of interest to every geologist, not least amongst York’s scientific correspondents. In the mid-1820s, Buckland was encouraging the noted botanist Robert Brown to take a lead in rescuing fossil botany from obscurity; a task for botanists and not geologists. He also put the York men in contact with Sternberg, a key figure in the developing science of palaeobotany.[57] At the same time Vernon’s friend, Conybeare, encouraged De la Beche to send him representative examples of the extant Jamaican flora for comparison with coal measure plants.[58] And perhaps most importantly, Parisian palaeobotanist Adolphe Brongniart continued to encourage the York society to investigate its local fossil flora and communicate information to him.[59] There were also local celebrities who made much of this deficiency of knowledge. Most notable was Henry Thomas Maire Witham, of Lartington Hall, an honorary member who pioneered research into the internal structure of fossil plants, and discovered in one Mountain Limestone specimen, donated by Vernon’s brother Charles, traces of both monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous structure. He named this specimen Lepidodendron harcourti.

Vernon told Buckland in 1823 that he was putting himself in contact with the coal, iron and lead producing districts and was to tour them.[60] Coal plants were to become one of the York society’s largest areas of acquisition, supported by its most extensive network of collectors and donors. Examples from all the major coal-producing regions in Yorkshire as well as from Scotland, Somerset, Northumberland and Newcastle arrived in York. The collecting methodology here was entirely inductive and led, as we have seen, to a high proportion of ‘duplicates’.

Coal also formed the topic of a Phillips lecture which he toured around the societies in 1824. During his visits to Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and Manchester he took every opportunity to become versed in coal measure stratigraphy. In May 1825 he wrote to Goldie in great excitement, having identified Pecten papyraceus as a marker fossil capable of linking the stratigraphy of the Sheffield coalfield with that of Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield where the fossil also occurs. He wished to record ‘in the immortal archives of the society my claim to an original discovery because though it be of local interest, discoveries are so rare nowadays and so often disputed that it becomes desirable to have them well authenticated.’[61] Phillips’s visits to these neighbouring societies also encouraged further local research into the coal flora and a drift of specimens and information to the York society.

In November 1825, the Yorkshire Philosophical Society received its most impressive coal measure plant – a natural sandstone cast of a Syringodendron measuring nearly 6 feet long and 30 inches in diameter. Revd Samuel Sharp located it in a quarry at Altofts near Wakefield and extracted it with the assistance of William Marshall, George Goldie and Wakefield’s Revd Thomas Kilby. Placed in the Yorkshire Museum in the position in which it was found it formed ‘a gigantic monument of ancient vegetation’ and an impressive monument to the donor. Sharp donated another gigantic coal measure plant a few years later, this time a huge sandstone cast of Lepidodendron. The museum of the Wakefield society was founded upon a similar specimen of Lepidodendron nine feet high and with a maximum girth of six feet nine inches. It too had come from the sandstone quarry at Altofts where these ancient trees were preserved in situ.[62]

In their early years the philosophical societies discovered for themselves both the means to collect and an understanding of its implications. In a material sense they were responsive to contemporary issues in geology, and their collections formed an encyclopaedic record of discovery. The need for a collection was such that the societies collected as rapidly as possible, exploiting as many avenues to specimens as could be found. The collection was essential to progress. It performed a social function, bonding members and shareholders. It was also a mechanism to acquire recognition and status. As gifts and commodities, fossils existed in two different social worlds, each giving them different cultural meanings. Societies tried to direct, if not control, collection growth, and in the process became effective dealers. By this means, a process of distillation took place within these collections – particularly those of the coastal societies – which resulted in a progressive improvement in the quality of material as less aesthetic or complete items were sold as duplicates. The criteria used in this process of distillation were essentially those of the cabinet rather than those of science. Value was placed on aesthetics and rarity. Ultimately these collections became too large for the available resources. From cultural symbols they metamorphosed into historical burdens which contributed to the decline of these societies – a subject to be discussed in a later chapter. 

Curators sought to maintain order and reason in the collections so as to maintain the status of the gifts received. Some were required to use their collecting and connoisseurship skills to generate income but their most critical role was in giving collections the aura of science. A few, and none more so than John Phillips, were central to a process of constructing knowledge from collections. This was a process which placed the collection and the field in close harmony but also, for Phillips and others, placed the collector and dealer between nature and its understanding. As a result the fieldcraft of geology became not simply the province of the hammer and notebook but also of the purse and the manipulation of collectors’ personal agenda. The fieldwork of Phillips, as the young, bright, eloquent and neutral observer, reveals this perfectly. In the 1810s, he and his uncle began their groundbreaking cross-country correlation of strata which was finally to give order to the Yorkshire rocks. It was a process which made Phillips but which also left a coast littered with collectors, dealers and new localities. 

[1].          Conybeare remarked after the first meeting of the revived Bristol Institution that ‘the Museum will immediately contain a very fair geological collection.’  This was the norm.  Conybeare, Bristol to De la Beche, Jamaica, 8 January 1823, NMW 301.  The same was true of the natural history society in Newcastle, for which, Goddard (1929: 29). 

[2].          The problem of locating these boundaries remains with museums today, see Knell (1999).

[3].          For the years 1823 and 1824, YPS (1825) Annual Report for 1824.

[4].          Buckland to Vernon, 29 December 1822, in Melmore (1942: 322), and YPS Minutes of General Meetings 1822-1839, 6 January 1823.

[5].          Hinderwell (1811: 235) discusses local fossils. On Wetherall, Bird to Vernon, 9 December 1823, in Melmore (1942: 324). The collection, however, seems not to have come to York.

[6].          For ‘no reason …’, and statistics, YPS (1825 and 1827) Annual Reports for 1824 and 1826.

[7].          These initial plans, YPS Minutes of General Meetings 1822-1839, 14 December 1822

[8].          William Danby (1752-4 December 1833). In 1775, he married Caroline, daughter of Henry Seymour and in 1822, Anne Howell.  Created Lord Marshamshire in 1781 and High Sheriff of York in 1784. YPS (1834) Annual Report for 1833; Hailstone (1869). Danby also published translations, poems and other works. For ‘the thing …’, Mauss (1954) quoted by Weiner (1985: 223), see also Thomas (1991: 14, 22).

[9].          See Thomas (1991: 143).

[10].        Gregory (1982: 18).

[11].        Such issues cause modern museums problems which are resolved by the concept that objects are ‘held in trust’, and by the use of documents which transfer legal ownership. The philosophical societies had no such mechanisms.

[12].        Gregory (1982: 12).

[13].        For collections as publications see chapter 13.

[14].        Knell (1996). See chapter 12.

[15].        For ‘from the Tertiary …’, ‘numerous are …’, YPS (1828 and 1829) Annuals Report for 1827 and 1828 respectively.

[16].        YPS Daybook of John Phillips.  For Birch sale, see Torrens (1979; 1995: 261)This Bosvile died 21 April 1829, Foster (1874).

[17].        For ‘lasting …’, Sowerby quoted by Cleevely (1974: 423). The anonymous contributor was [Farey] (1815a: 275-6).

[18].        Jelly to Miller, May 1827, Bristol Record Office 3207g (43).

[19].        Phillips (1829).

[20].        Dunn, Scarborough to Phillips, York, 25 June 1831, OUM Phillips 1831/8.  The Scarborough men obviously felt that collectors could dictate names to those who would undertake the description.  In 1833, the council of the Scarborough society proposed that one of their new fossils would be named after Miss Currer, one of their benefactors. SL&PS Minutes of Council, Thursday 11 April 1833.

[21].        ‘I must …’, Bean, Scarborough to Phillips, 1 July 1831, OUM Phillips 1831/9.1. The list of collections was in Edinburgh Philosophical Journal21, 115, where he is listed as ‘Behne’; reproduced by Torrens (1979) Newsletter of the Geological Curators Group2, 421. Phillips (1835: 177-84). See Secord (1994: 290) for the issue of credit in contemporary botanical circles.

[22].        ‘Valuable …’, WL&PS (1827) Annual Report5, Cancer here is a crab. Edward Forbes (12 February 1815-November 1854), see Mills (1984). For ‘presented by …’, Forbes (1853) also quoted by Rudler (1877: 20).

[23].        Leckenby, Scarborough to Phillips, 13 June 1870, OUM Phillips 1870/33.

[24].        WL&PS (1829) Annual Report7.

[25].        WL&PS (1839) Annual Report17.

[26].        On Leckenby’s collecting method, Williamson (1896: 55). For a time Bridlington changed its name to Burlington, Theakston’s Guide to Scarborough (1859: 76).

[27].        For ‘an intelligent …’, Bean (1835: 355). ‘They are …’, Waters to YPS, 30 April and 29 May 1823, YPS Letter Book.

[28].        Cowton, Bridlington to YPS, 17 June 1823, YPS Letter Book; YPS (1825) Annual Report of 1824.

[29].        For Anning’s non-appearance in museum records, see Taylor and Torrens (1987: 140).

[30].        Gregory (1982: 42) and Thomas (1991: 17).

[31].        On burden of collections to societies, Knell (1996). ‘Want of …’, Phillips, Hull to Goldie, York, 7 January 1825, in Melmore (1943a). ‘There was …’, YPS (1829) Annual Report for 1828.

[32].        WL&PS (1835) Annual Report13. For bulimia in collecting, see Sola in Knell (1999).

[33].        Watson (1897: 86, 96, 303, 308).

[34].        YPS Daybook of John Phillips, 9 May 1826.

[35].        Bean to Phillips, 1 July 1831, OUM Phillips 1831/9.1.

[36].        Geological Society disposals, Woodward (1907: 46). ‘I bought …’, Young to Goldie, 22 & 28 February 1825, Melmore (1942); ‘chiefly by …’, WL&PS (1825) Annual Report2. Diversification through exchange, WL&PS (1837 and 1838) Annual Report15 and 16.

[37].        WL&PS (1839) Annual Report17.

[38].        Ripley, Whitby to Phillips, 10 November 1838, OUM Phillips 1838/56. His ‘small profit’ reflected a desire not to be seen as a mere tradesman but small is a flexible word and it is likely that Ripley made a fair profit from his trade.

[39].        This was on 8 August 1842, Murchison Notebooks; notebook for tour of England and Wales 1842, BGS GSM 1/127.

[40].        WL&PS (1841) Annual Report19.

[41].        Young to Josiah Bull, Edinburgh, 31 March 1831, Whitby Museum framed letter.

[42].        Simpson to T.W. Embleton, 16 August  1842, in Davis (1889: 163).

[43].        SL&PS Minutes of Council, 11 February 1831.

[44].        SL&PS Minutes of Council, 8 April 1831 and 13 February 1835.

[45].        The disparity between the taxonomy of science and the taxonomy of the collector would persist. In the late twentieth century private collectors still referred to the different types of the ammonite Dactylioceras as ‘Fat Dacs’ and ‘Thin Dacs’. When Howarth (Bull. BM(NH) Geol., 24 (1974)) came to lump them together in a new taxonomic review this particular character trait was seen as unimportant, indeed in affirmation of the significance of Smith’s discovery, he utilised shared stratum (bed) as an indication of taxonomic identity within a group of seemingly diverse individuals. Rather than species defining stratum, stratum defined species. Victorian artisan collectors in Sheppey and the cabinet collectors with their manuscript names similarly worked to their own notions of identity.

[46].        SL&PS Minutes of Council, subcommittee set up 8 December 1835; sale of small collections, 27 May and 7 July 1845, 4 December 1848.

[47].        YPS Daybook of Phillips, 9 March 1826. 

[48].        On duplicates, see YPS Daybook of Phillips, 11 March, 9 & 13 May 1826. For proportion of collection, YPS (1834) Annual Report for 1833.

[49].        Dikes to Phillips, 14 January 1828, OUM Phillips1828/1. Bennet (15 November 1743-10 December 1822). Buckland referred to Tankerville’s collection on seeing it at Walton in December 1818; his comments are testament to its quality (it contained shells, corals and fossils), for which, Gordon (1894: 23). For Sowerby’s purchase and sale by this method, Cleevely (1983: 282).

[50].        YPS (1838) Annual Report for 1837.

[51].        Broderip (1828). William John Broderip (21 November 1789-27 February 1859).  Cleevely (1983: 67). For ‘the Opossum …’, Sykes to Phillips, OUM Phillips 1831/3.2. see also Edmonds (1975b: 268). Prehistory of specimen, YPS (1832) Annual Report for 1831. Platt (1696-1776), for whom see Sherborn (1934), Torrens (1974: 38-9) and Delair (1979). Phillips trip is recorded in OUM Phillips Box 83 folder 22. Phillips was on his way to London to give his first course of lectures at the University of London (Rupke 1983b: 162-3).

[52].        Desmond (1989: 306-21).

[53].        Charlesworth (1839), Anon. (1839a), Blainville (1839a;1839b) and Valenciennes (1839).  Desmond (1989) has reviewed this controversy in detail, but incorrectly attributes this specimen to Colonel W.H. Sykes.

[54].        Zittel (1901: 430-34); Young, Whitby to Phillips, 19 May 1831, OUM Phillips1831/6.

[55].        Rudwick (1985) and Secord (1986a) give definitive accounts of these debates. YPS (1838 and 1842) Annual Report (for 1837 and 1841).

[56].        YPS (1843) Annual Report for 1842.

[57].        This is discussed in chapter 7.

[58].        Conybeare, Bristol to De la Beche, Jamaica, 3 April 1823, NMW 300.  Ward (1889) provides some useful sketches of the main personalities in fossil botany.

[59].        Adolphe Théodore Brongniart (1801-1876) considered to have founded modern palaeobotany in 1828 (Ward 1885: 372).

[60].        In January, 1793, William Turner (1762-1859) saw the local importance of coal and lead as justifying the establishment of a Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle in the expectation that its speculations might derive social and economic benefits (Watson 1897: 36).

[61].        Phillips, Sheffield, to Goldie, York, 14 May and 10 June 1825, in Melmore (1943a).

[62].        For ‘a gigantic …’, YPS Scientific Communications Volume 1, 9 November 1825; YPS (1826) Annual Report for 1825. Here Kilby is recorded as Wilby. Second specimen, YPS (1828) Annual Report for 1827. Wakefield specimen, Rules and Regulations of the Wakefield Museum to which is affixed Address of Rev M.J. Naylor being installed President (7 October 1829), Wakefield Local Studies Library.

From: Simon J. Knell. The Culture of English Geology, 1815-1851: A Science Revealed Through Its Collecting (Aldershot/Burlington USA/Singapore/Sydney: Ashgate Publishing, 2000).