Rare Books

'The Shell: A World of Decoration & Ornament'

Shells have captivated humans through the ages and been put to a wide range of uses sharpened into tools, ground to make medicines, blown to make music.

Shells were used as currency from the Americas through Africa to Asia, and worn as amulets to bring fertility, good fortune, or protection from the evil eye.

Above all, the beauty of shells has fired the imaginations of artists and craftsmen, and their work forms the heart of this book.

Shells and mother-of-pearl have been carved to make buttons, jewelry, and delicate inlay work.

Shells are a universal element of human adornment, from the simplest string of beads to shell designs in gold and precious stones.

Mythological, symbolic, decorative, botanical, or fantastical: shells are a recurring theme in visual art.

Shells have featured in architectural ornament since ancient times, and in the twentieth century inspired the forms of landmark buildings.

Shells have inspired centuries of exquisite invention in silverware, ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, and fashion.

Shells were among the exotic treasures brought back from the voyages of discovery.

By 1796 the mania for shells was such that a single shell raised six times the sum paid for a Vermeer painting at an estate auction in The Hague.

Conchology and shell collecting remain hugely popular today, and the author explains how they can be pursued responsibly, without harming our precious marine environments.

500+ color photographs and illustrations.

Ingrid Thomas

Thames & Hudson


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