Most Beautiful Seashells by Leonard Hill and Pete Carmichael.
246 pp., 462 colored plates. Carmichael Publications, Tampa,
FL. Hardback $29.95; softcover $22.95. ISBN 1-884942-00-8.
Without question the stunning
photographs of the 460 species in this beautiful coffee-table
book are the best yet offered to today's growing legion of shell-lovers.
No conchologist, whether professional or amateur, will fail
to enjoy this portfolio of exquisite presentations of what,
indeed, should be called "The World's Most Beautiful Seashells."
Each photograph by Pete Carmichael is a well-balanced portrait
with several views of each rare or well-known shell familiar
to most connoisseurs of shells.
Three hundred and seventy marine
gastropods, 68 attractive bivalves, and a sprinkling of 21 terrestrial
tree snails take the reader through a parade of traditionally
sought-after species. Quite naturally, dealer-purchased species
dominate, with 33 devoted to the be-spined Thorny Oysters and
brilliant scallops. Close-ups of the Tent Olive, the Cat's Tongue
Thorny Oyster, Kiener's Delphinula, and the Purple-ringed Top
Shell are worth many enjoyable moments of reflection upon the
"miracle of mollusks."
The text by biologist Leonard
Hill accompanying each illustrated species supplies interesting
information. In all cases the accurate popular and scientific
names are given. In many instances, however, no shell size is
indicated, although the viewer with some knowledge of shells
may assume that most pictures are life-size. Although it scarcely
mars the otherwise correct identifications, the wrong use or
absence of parentheses around the author-and-dates should not
be relied upon. This is not meant to be a technical identification
book, but an index would have been very useful.
When bad weather keeps you off
the beach or when driving rain or snow is swirling about your
abode, take this book in hand and relive your collecting fantasies
of deepsea treasures. You will rekindle your love of nature
and once again marvel at the exquisite creations that evolved
on our planet for our enjoyment and protection.
Life of the North Atlantic: Canada to New England, by Andrew
J. Martinez and Richard A. Harlow. Marine Life. Soft
cover, spiral bound, 272 pages.
How many collectors, I wonder,
have tried to identify a mollusk from observations made on live
specimens in the field when none of the standard shell books
show anything but dead specimens? This all-too-familiar problem
would soon become a thing of the past if more books like this
one were available. An expertly photographed field guide to
all variety of marine organisms, it is at once both useful and
Based in format on the marine
photo-guides usually found for tropical areas like the Caribbean
or Baja California, this book covers life under the sea from
A[cadian hermit crabs] to Z[ irfaea crispata} and all manner
of algae and fish in between. These pictures prove that there
is beauty under every sea, even one as cold as the North Atlantic!
Each pair of opposing pages is set up with text on the left
page and a photo illustration for every species on the right.
The text includes sections on the all-important identification
criteria, habitat, range, and a comments section that includes
interesting trivia and tidbits (common names, similar species,
etc.). The photographs, especially those of the mollusks, are
vibrant and clear, showing details of the living animals close
up. In addition, the photo pages contain a useful feature I
have not seen before: data lines for entering dates and locations
where the reader has seen the species in the wild.
The mollusk section, by far the
largest, is over 50 pages long, and is quite comprehensive for
this geographic region. The four major classes are included,
with the gastropods getting most of the attention. It is the
pictures that immediately grab you here, and the photos of the
nudibranchs are frankly spectacular, especially as many of them
depict the animals laying their species-characteristic egg masses.
Best, perhaps, is that the mollusks are photographed, for the
most part, live in the field and not as dead shells arranged
on a beach -- even the bivalves, a group that has always been
poorly illustrated in this type of book. Rounding out this edition,
excellent pictures of cnidarians and echinoderms (especially
the feeding sea cucumbers) show beauty in the sea extends beyond
There are a few problems, to
be sure. The few pictures of dead mollusks are of rather ratty
ones, and although this might be a more accurate depiction of
what the average person would find beachcombing, they look out
of place here. A few typographical errors occur, the most glaring
being the "bivalves" heading on the cephalopod pages;
and since the authors give some synonyms, I would like to have
seen at least the authors' names applied to the species. On
the whole, however, the many photographic positives definitely
outweigh the fe negatives.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing
about this book is that it is privately published, something
one doesn't see much of with these glossy photo-guides. This,
I suspect, tends to make the book harder to find than many,
but the hunt is worth the effort. For more information, write
Marine Life, P.O. Box 335, Wenham, MA 01984.
Dimensions, The Radiographic World of William Conklin, by William
Conklin. W.R.S. Publishing Co., Waco, TX. 1995. xi
+ 101 pages, 11" X 11", hardcover. $29.95. Order direct
from W.R.S. Publishing by calling (800)299-3366.
A new and very unusual book is
appearing on the coffee tables of shell collectors around the
country. Inner Dimensions, by William Conklin, a COA member
from Orangeburg, S.C., features radiographic photos of shells.
We've seen such photos, revealing the inner structure of a shell
through a light and dark x-ray image. But to peruse a whole
book of them, and one as beautifully assembled as this, is quite
an experience. For one so enamored of the shapes and swirls
of mollusc shells as a shell collector is, it can amount to
an uplifting journey of the spirit. We marvel at the internal
intricacy of a well-decorated carrier shell and its adornments,
admire the precise mathematical progression of Buccinum leucostomum,
wander the many-roomed mansion of the Emperor's Slit Shell,
and cherish the pas de deux of a cowry shell with its inner
Forty-nine molluscs and a sand
dollar have their internal complexities revealed by Dr. Conklin's
photos, a full-page white image on black ground. On each facing
page is a smaller, full-color photo of the shell itself, almost
always a really excellent specimen, lovingly lighted and photographed,
along with a standard short bio of the species, including interesting
facts and anecdotes, size, locality and degree of rarity.
Completing each full-page spread
is a scrap of appropriate poetry, selected by librarian and
author Christine Boldt. The predictable shelly works by Victorians
are there, including both the "This is the ship of pearl"
part and the "Build thee more stately mansions" bit
from Oliver Wendell Holmes' "The Chambered Nautilus."
But there are other, more surprising and very apt, inclusions:
The Junonia is teamed with Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Pied
Beauty": "Glory be to God for dappled things...."
and a quote from Plato's Phaedrus as comment on an Achatina
land shell: "Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who here
abide, grant me to be beautiful in the inner man, and all I
have of outer things to be at peace with those within."
Also of interest are the Introduction
on shells and shell collecting by Alan H. Shoemaker, a South
Carolina Zoologist, and a Foreword by Professor of Radiology
William W. Orrison, Jr. which provides the reader with a little
background on radiology. This isn't a book you can't live without,
but it's one that will bring you hours of peaceful contemplation
on a subject close to your heart, the lure of the shell and
its variations on a theme. And in these days of horrendously
expensive shell books, it's quite a bargain.
of Florida Fossil Shells (Pliocene and Pleistocene Marine Gastropods)
by Edward J. Petuch, Ph.D. Chicago Spectrum Press, 1994.
xii + 394 pages, 20 figures, 1 unnumbered photo, 100 plates,
all b/w. $60.00.
Anyone collecting Florida fossils
has experienced great frustration trying to put names on his
finds using the references available. All those Siphocypraea
are rivalled only by the Busyconidae and Melongenidae for forms
and variations. But Dr. Edward Petuch, of the Department of
Geology, Florida Atlantic University, has done us a great service
in pulling them all together in his new Atlas of Florida Fossil
Shells. (The Pliocene and Pleistocene gastropods, that is. Eocene
and those little Miocene species from the Panhandle are still
in limbo for most of us.)
This heavily illustrated reference
book is a pleasing 8½" X 11" size, stitched
and cloth-bound, and lies open nicely for study at any page.
Open it to the Introduction and you have Dr. Petuch's interesting
and informative overview of fossil study in Florida, including
his own place in this continuum. Open it to the Acknowledgements
and you'll see many familiar names, collectors of molluscs both
fossil and Recent, who have assisted Dr. Petuch. Open it to
Chapter 1, the Lithostratigraphy and Biostratigraphic Nomenclature
of the Floridian Plio-Pleistocene, and you're on your way to
learning how to tell a Siphocypraea alligator from a Siphocypraea
crocodila (maybe). Here Dr. Petuch explains all those formations
and units and such that keep a novice collector in a state of
confusion. Charts, columns, maps, photos and Dr. Petuch's own
charming drawings, called "ecological block" drawings,
aid in our learning process. Chapters 2 and 3 Cover "Faunal
Types" and "Chronologically-Equivalent Units and Faunas."
There follows Chapter 4, the
100 plates, containing over 1,100 photographs arranged taxonomically
by families, Most of these photos are clear and identifiable,
though there is much room here for improvement. In many cases
it is difficult to distinguish important details of the specimens
illustrated, or even to tell one species from another. The photo
reproduction process used is part of the problem. Figure captions
are helpful, listing name, author, date, size, abbreviation
for the unit(s) in which it occurs, and collecting locality.
Coverage is broad: 29 species of cowries, 41 Olividae, 73 cones,
and so on.
Chapter 5 is the "Systematic
Section." Here, 283 new species are described, (holotypes
of all new taxa are deposited in the Florida Museum of Natural
History in Gainesville) as well as 10 new genera and two new
subfamilies. For each new species, a description is given, followed
by holotype information, Type Locality, Remarks (including comparisons
of the new species to other similar species) and an Etymology.
A list of plates, a list of new
taxa, a six-page list of literature cited and used, and an index
conclude the Atlas. The index is arranged alphabetically by
genera, which makes finding a species difficult if the genus
is unfamiliar (or new). This book is, without a doubt, a more
satisfying, better rounded fossil guide than have been any of
his previous works. It is going to make fossil collecting in
Florida a lot more fun. But at a high price. We can only wish
that Dr. Petuch had been introduced to Dr. Conklin's publisher.