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Society for the History of Natural History


About SHNH

Celebrating 75 years 1936 -2011


History & Mystery

SHNH Celebrating 75 years 1936-2011

2011 was the 75th Anniversary of the Society for the History of Natural History. Do look at the brief history of the society. To celebrate the anniversary, the Society published History and mystery, an anthology of the most interesting, bizarre and entertaining notes and queries from the Society’s newsletters.

The Society was founded in 1936 by a small group of librarians, bibliographers and naturalists who mostly worked in the London area either at or near the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. In the 1930s the Museum’s staff contained a number of distinguished naturalists whose experience made them authorities in their respective fields, as well as librarians and bibliographers who were international figures. The fortunate association of bibliographers and librarians such as Charles Davis Sherborn, B.B. Woodward, and B.H. Soulsby with distinguished naturalists like John Ramsbottom, W.N. Edwards and N.D. Riley who all brought an appreciation and love of books inspired the formation of the Society as The Society for the Bibliography of Natural History.


Today SHNH – The Society for the History of Natural History is a friendly international society for everyone who is interested in natural history in the broadest sense. This includes botany, zoology and geology as well as natural history collections, exploration, art and bibliography. Everyone with an interest in these subjects – professional or amateur – is welcome to join.

2011 was also the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Davies Sherborn, first President of this Society (when it was founded in 1936 its name was Society for the Bibliography of Natural History). We celebrated Sherborn’s life with a one-day symposium entitled “Anchoring Biodiversity Information: From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond” on Friday 28 October 2011 at the Natural History Museum in London. The Society’s Publishers Edinburgh University Press have made Sherborn’s articles for the journal freely available online as well as two biographical articles.

History and Mystery

History & Mystery is an anthology of notes and queries from Newsletters of the Society for the History of Natural History. Naturalists, books, collections, works of art, societies, even a mermaid, are contained here. Some of the notes are witty commentaries. Some of the topics are unexpected, even bizarre. Some of the reprinted queries are still unanswered. History & Mystery celebrates SHNH’s Diamond Jubilee.

Compiled by Charles Nelson, it is 208 pp with the cover designed by Dr Rebecca Jewell. For more information on the contents, visit the index. Council has fixed a retail price of £15 (including postage and packing) for UK members, and £18 for the rest of the world (ROW). We hope that as many members (and non-members; or “soon-to-be” members?) as possible will avail themselves of this fascinating read (excellent Christmas present material!).

Please do not be shy either about sending a donation as much in excess of the asking price as you feel able to afford! Proceeds from the sale of this volume will help replenish the Alwynne Wheeler Bursary to support young scholars in attending SHNH conferences and meetings.

History & Mystery is exclusively available direct from the SHNH. As this is a fund-raising project, we regret that trade or other discounts are not available. For addresses in UK £15 (post paid); elsewhere £18 (post paid). ISBN 978-0-901843-09-8 208pp.

If you would like to reserve a copy, download the order form and forward to Dr Charles Nelson. His address details are given on the form.

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We have set up a facility to allow donations to be made to the Society via PayPal. Please use the donate button below to order. Please indicate the number of copies you are requesting on the confirmation (second) page of the order form.