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Society for the History of Natural History

Press releases

History and Mystery now published – witty, unexpected, even bizarre

History and Mystery now published – witty, unexpected, even bizarre

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 208pp and the beautiful cover features paintings by the artist Rebecca Jewell. For more information on the contents, visit the index and list of contributors. Proceeds from the sale of this volume will help replenish the Alwynne Wheeler Bursary to support young scholars in attending SHNH conferences and meetings.

Professor Geoff Moore, the Society’s President, writes:

‘As a more ephemeral publication than the Society’s journal Archives of natural history and not being available online (except for the most recent issues), the Newsletter is much less readily available for consultation; few are likely to have access to the full run since 1977. If you’ve ever wondered what Broadwood pianos, criminals, wrapping paper, forged wills, the Secret Service, bad lighting, or Blandings Castle have ever had to do with natural history, then read on. There is erudition aplenty in the contributions made by stalwarts of the Society to the Newsletter. It seemed a shame that the scholarship encapsulated in its back-numbers had so limited a present circulation.’

Comments from our readers!

“What a lovely surprise to receive a copy of History and Mystery in the post yesterday. I have been dipping into it at odd intervals and what an extraordinary amount of information it contains.” – Sue Thackray (original Newsletter editor in 1977)

“I give you a thousand marks out of a hundred for ‘History & Mystery’ – a delightful compilation.” – S. Peter Dance

“It was a great and pleasant surprise to receive the elegant volume of SHNH extracts this morning. Congratulations … I look forward to a lot of happy dipping.” – Jack Smith

“… after briefly dipping into it this morning I can foresee many happy hours of browsing ahead.” – John Edmondson

“Many thanks for the copy of History & Mystery … . What a marvellous publication the Society has produced, I am thrilled to be a very minor part of it.” – David Saunders

“History & mystery is a delight – and I can’t put it down (even though a disproportionate number of the words are my own!). It was a brilliant idea …”. – David Allen

“The book is impossible to leave alone! It is alive with anecdote and inscrutable interest. It was on my mind as I was on my knees in heavy wet dew checking the mole traps before breakfast so you can appreciate the pleasure it has given here, for one moves as over a mine field during this operation. So many questions and so many answers not unlike lifting ancient wallpaper from ancient French domains. Well done!” – David Evans

History & Mystery is exclusively available direct from the SHNH. For addresses in UK £15 (post paid); elsewhere £18 (post paid). ISBN 978-0-901843-09-8 208pp. To reserve a copy, download the order form and forward to the Honorary Editor, Dr Charles Nelson. To order through PayPal please visit the SHNH website/History & Mystery.

For more information or photos please contact Elaine Shaughnessy, Newsletter Editor, SHNH-Society for the History of Natural History at

Notes for Editors:

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.

The Society has a thriving international membership and international meetings are held at regular intervals. The Society’s main publication is Archives of natural history and all volumes published since 1936 are now available online. Containing refereed, illustrated papers and book reviews, Archives is published for the Society by Edinburgh University Press. A more informal Newsletter is published three or four times a year. From time to time, the Society also publishes other works of interest. The most recent publications are History & Mystery and Darwin in the Archives.