Seashells of Central New South Wales - A Survey of the Shelled Marine Molluscs of the Sydney Metropolitan Area and Adjacent Coasts

by Patty Jansen. Privately published. Townsville, Australia, 1995. Soft cover, stitched binding, 129 pages 21 X 29.5cm (8 3/8" X 11 7/8") A$40.00 +A$7.00 Surface mail, A$12 economy air.
What's a nice agronomy PhD from the Netherlands doing in a place like eastern Australia writing a book on the shells of Sydney? (Did I mention she is also the mother of 2 1/2 children, and loves to garden, draw, and make clothes for her children?) She's doing a bang-up job, and making a lot of us awfully glad there's a Patty Jansen. Patty's book, Seashells of Central New South Wales, is a gem. Actually it's an industrial diamond, because for all of its attractiveness, it is a much needed working tool for the collector of Australian shells.

A shell collector from childhood with an interest in small shells and micromolluscs, Patty discovered, when she came to New South Wales in 1988, that there was little interest in these small shells among her fellow collectors, because there was no book on the shells of New South Wales. Her own pursuit of their identities took her to scientific publications housed in the library of the Australian Museum; she became a volunteer at the museum, began writing for the Sydney Sheller, newsletter of the Conchology Section of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, and one thing led to another. Patty has now written the first book ever on the shells of New South Wales. And her mentor there, Winston Ponder, has done the nicely complimentary foreward to it.

Her aim is "to enable interested people, both amateur collectors and professionals, to easily identify shells found on beaches in central New South Wales." Thus she restricts her material covered (a mere 484 species) to species that can be found on beaches, because they are "readily accessible to everyone." Unlike most books, including Barry Wilson's 2 volume Australian Marine Shells, Patty Jansen's book includes a large number of micromolluscs, readily available from shell grit. ("One bag of shell grit can yield more exciting finds than a stroll on the beach at low tide.")

Bivalves are well-represented (40 families), and there are even a few scaphopods and a cephalopod, the little worldwide Spirula spirula. Among the 79 families of gastropods represented, the reader will find such groups as the Litiopidae, Eatonellidae, Iravadiidae and Epigridae; her own favorites, the Rissoiidae and related families, and the Pyramidellidae are well-covered.

She appends quite a lengthy reference list for the more advanced collector, enabling further work on the taxonomy and ecology of these species. A short but selective glossary is helpful to the beginner. Maps of the area covered and the obligatory charts of shell features increase the book's usefulness. Patty Jansen is a beach collector by preference and even has a few words of advice on the time-honored art of beach collecting.

I've saved the second-best part for last (the best part is that there is such a book). Did you note that little reference I slipped in above, the one about Patty Jansen's fondness for drawing? Well she is also very good at it. She has illustrated every one of the 484 species in the book with one of her own excellent -- and very accurate, judging by comparison with both photos and actual specimens in my collection -- and charming drawings. Get a copy now, if you have any interest in the shells of Down Under. That A$40 translates to only about US$32. Your favorite book dealer will certainly have them for sale, or there will be a few order forms available at the convention.