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Martin Lister, royal physician and fellow of the Royal Society, was an extraordinarily prolific natural historian with an expertise in shells and molluscs.
Disappointed with the work of established artists, Lister decided to teach his daughters, Susanna and Anna, how to illustrate images of the specimens he studied. The sisters became so skilled at this that Lister entrusted them with his great work, Historiæ Conchyliorum, assembled between 1685 and 1692. This first comprehensive study of conchology consisted of over 1,000 copperplates of shells and molluscs collected from around the world. Martin Lister and his Remarkable Daughters reconstructs the creation of this masterwork, from the identification of the original shells to the drawings themselves, and from the engraved copperplates to the draft prints and final books.
Susanna and Anna portrayed the shells not only as curious and beautiful objects, but also as specimens of natural history rendered with sensitivity and keen scientific empiricism. Beautiful in their own right, these illustrations and engravings reveal the early techniques behind scientific illustration together with the often unnoticed role of women in the scientific revolution.
Anna Marie Roos is Reader in the history of science and medicine at the University of Lincoln.