During the 19th century several amateur conchologists have made interesting collections which – after their death – have either been donated to museums, been auctioned or sold, or have disappeared. Often their fate has not been well documented.
One of these 19th century collectors was Miss Janet E. Linter (1844-1909), who lived in Twickenham near London. Hardly anything is known about this lady-conchologist (a rare combination during her time), with only two very brief death notices being published after her death (Anonymous, 1909; E.A. Smith, 1910). Smith remarked that she had been a member of the Malacological Society of London since 1895, and added “of a retiring disposition Miss Linter did not attend the meetings of the Society, and consequently was not known personally to many of the members. She was, however, an enthusiastic collector, and her cabinets contained very many rare and interesting species, more especially of land shells. Many of these came from the collections made in India by W. Theobald and Colonel Skinner”.
Tomlin (1949) mentioned that her collection was sold in 1909; Dance (1966) listed her collection as being in the Exeter museum.
I came across her name several times. First, G.B. Sowerby III gave her an eponym in 1890 by describing Bulimus fulminates linterae from Mount Roraima on the border of Venezuela and Guyana [now Plekocheilus (P.) linterae]. It is likely that he knew this lady personally and saw her collection. Furthermore she was a correspondent of Dautzenberg and received many reprints of his papers (Breure, 2015; Breure, unpublished data). The obituary in The Nautilus signals she was well-known among American conchologists too.
Last week I received some messages from Graham Oliver (Cardiff Museum), who visited the museum in Exeter and inspected the Linter collection, which is still kept separate. He wrote “Her shells seem in very good condition and from many rather unusual places. (…) This collection is rather large and primarily of land snails for all over the world. There are significant holdings from Pacific Islands, S. America, India, Africa and Australasia. She began by acquiring the Skinner and Theobald collections so very strong in Indian subcontinent material. (…) The collection has been in Exeter since 1902!”. He asked for my opinion about the South American part of the Linter collection, containing over 400 lots. I noticed several rare species, one of which is very interesting for a work in progress; more about it in a next post.
Finally, it is interesting that Graham noticed on one of the labels the price Miss Linter paid for a shell during an auction: “One [label] indicates that she bought shells from the Barclay sale and paid high prices, £4 for a large cyclophorid in the 1880/90s was a lot of money then”.
This case demonstrates again that it is worthwhile to document the history of collections and collectors.
Anonymous (1909). Miss J.E. Linter. – The Nautilus 23: 84.
Breure, A.S.H. (2015). The malacological handwritings in the autograph collection of the Ph. Dautzenberg archives, Brussels. – Folia conchyliologica 33: 1–111.
Dance, S.P. (1966). Shell collecting, an illustrated history: 1–344. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles.
Smith, E.A. (1910). Obituary notice – Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London 9: 89.
Tomlin, J.R. le B. (1949). Shell sales, VI. – Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London 27: 254.