316. Large Collection Boxed Cowry Shells Provenance Elizabeth Gray 1831-1924


An Exceptionally Rare Collection of Twenty Six Mostly Large Size Nineteenth Century Cowry Shells offered with various patterned markings.

The Shells are boxed in their original wooden boxes, each lid with a plaque which reads “Collection by  Elizabeth Gray 1876” see notes below.

Condition: Good condition.

Largest ones are approx.  3.5” (9cm) long.

Elizabeth Gray 1831-1924:

Born Elizabeth Anderson married Robert Gray in April 1856 and they both shared an interest in collecting fossils each holiday back in Girwen. They lived in Glasgow, where Robert worked in a bank, and their holidays were spent back in Ayrshire. Elizabeth's interest lay in documenting and discovering fossils and she trained her children to document their findings too. Robert co-founded the Natural History Society of Glasgow where much of their findings were exhibited. It was traditional that men took the lead and Mrs Robert Gray was a name she used. Robert would present and take credit for his family's work. At the time you needed to publish papers to join learned societies. Elizabeth's specimens were frequently used at the start of meetings of the Natural History Society of Glasgow but with poor attribution that implied that her husband or she were possibly those responsible. However, in 1866 the first Gray collection was given to the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow by the two of them.

The curator of the Hunterian Museum was John Young who was the Regius Professor of Natural History at the University of Glasgow and a strong supporter for women's higher education. He ran classes for women and in 1869 he invited Elizabeth to attend lectures in geology at his university. Her finds and their scientific descriptions became type specimens.  Many of her finds are type specimens which include the Mollusc  Lophospira Trispiralis, the starfish Hudsonaster Grayae and the Echinoderm Atchophiactis, are all defined by fossils she found

Gray has left extensive collections of Scottish fossils in a number of British museums. She and her family worked in Girvan from 1855 to 1941. The family created scientifically organised collections of fossils for several museums including the Natural History Museum.