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Sowerby, George Brettingham (DNB00)


SOWERBY, GEORGE BRETTINGHAM the elder (1788–1854), conchologist and artist, was second son of James Sowerby [q. v.] and brother of James de Carle Sowerby [q. v.], and was born in Lambeth on 12 Aug. 1788. George was educated at home under private tutors, and afterwards assisted his father in the production of illustrated works on natural history. On the latter's death in 1822, he carried on certain of these, and, besides initiating others, dealt in shells and natural history objects, his place of business being first in King Street, Covent Garden, from which he removed to Regent Street, and finally to Great Russell Street. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 5 March 1811. He died at Hanley Road, Hornsey, on 26 July 1854. By his wife Elizabeth, second daughter of Nicholas and Mary Meredith, whom he married on 16 April 1811, he had issue George Brettingham and Henry (see below).

Sowerby's early work was carried out in intimate association with his father and elder brother, James De Carle. In this way he contributed much of the text to the ‘Mineral Conchology,’ and, with the assistance of his brother, carried on ‘The Genera of Recent and Fossil Shells,’ 1820–1834? (cf. Sherborn, Ann. and Mag. Nat. Hist. 1894, xiii. 370).

Independently he was author of: 1. ‘A Catalogue of the Shells contained in the Collection of the … Earl of Tankerville,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1825. 2. ‘Monographs of the Genera Ancillaria, Ovulum, and Pandora,’ with plates in his and Broderip's ‘Species Conchyliorum,’ pt. i., 4to, London, 1830. 3. ‘The Yorkshire Meteorite,’ s. sh., 1835. 4. ‘Molluscous Animals and their Shells,’ in the ‘Zoology of Captain Beechey's Voyage,’ 4to, 1839.

He also wrote some of the text for his son's ‘Conchological Illustrations’ and ‘Thesaurus Conchyliorum,’ and described the fossil shells in Darwin's ‘Geological Observations,’ besides some fifty papers, mainly on mollusca, in various scientific journals from 1812 to 1849 (see Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers). A manuscript catalogue by him of the shells in the East India Company's museum is preserved in the British Museum (Natural History). In association with T. Bell, J. G. Children, and his own brother, James De Carle, he conducted ‘The Zoological Journal,’ 2 vols. 1825–6. He attempted to found ‘The Malacological and Conchological Magazine,’ but only one part, 4to, London, 1838, appeared.

George Brettingham Sowerby the younger (1812–1884), conchologist and artist, eldest son of the preceding, was born in Lambeth on 25 March 1812. He was educated at Harrow, and afterwards assisted his father in his publications and his business, to which he succeeded. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society on 7 May 1844, and used the initials ‘F.L.S.’ after his name, to distinguish his work from his father's. Like his father, he was an admirable delineator of shells, but his lithographic work was less happy than his plate engravings, which are beautiful productions. He died at Wood Green on 26 July 1884, having married, on 25 Dec. 1835, Margaret, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Hitchen. By her he had a son, Mr. George Brettingham Sowerby, who has completed several of his father's works.

He was the author of: 1. ‘The Conchological Illustrations,’ &c., 8vo, London [1832–]1841. Some of the text was by the father. The first few plates were drawn in 1832, and were to have been issued with text by John Edward Gray [q. v.], but the scheme fell through; a portion of this cancelled text is preserved in the British Museum (Natural History). 2. ‘A Conchological Manual,’ 4to, London, 1839; 4th edit. 1852. 3. ‘Thesaurus Conchyliorum,’ with contributions by other conchologists, completed by his son, G. B. Sowerby, 4to, London (1842–)1847–1887. 4. ‘Popular British Conchology,’ &c., 8vo, London, 1854. 5. ‘Foraminifera from the Colne …, Essex;’ one plate with descriptive text, 8vo, 1856. 6. ‘Popular History of the Aquarium,’ 8vo, London, 1857. 7. ‘Companion to Mr. [i.e. Rev. Canon] Kingsley's “Glaucus,” containing coloured illustrations of the objects mentioned,’ &c., 8vo, Cambridge, 1858. 8. ‘Illustrated Index of British Shells,’ 4to, London, 1859; 2nd edit. by his son, G. B. Sowerby, 1887. 9. ‘Conchologia Iconica’ (begun by Lovell Augustus Reeve [q. v.]), vols. xv–xx. 4to, London, 1870–8. 10. ‘Malacostraca Podophthalmata Britanniæ,’ &c. (begun by William Elford Leach [q. v.]), Nos. xviii. xix., 4to, London, 1875.

Among other works, he illustrated: 1. Hanley's ‘Illustrated … Catalogues of Recent Bivalve Shells,’ 1842–56. 2. Forbes and Hanley's ‘History of British Mollusca,’ 1848–52. 3. The Rev. J. G. Wood's ‘Common Objects of the Country,’ 1859. 4. The same author's ‘Common Shells of the Seashore,’ 1865. 5. Jeffrey's ‘British Conchology,’ vols. iv. and v., 1867–9. He also wrote upwards of twenty-five papers for various scientific journals between 1840 and 1873 (see Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers).

Henry Sowerby (1825–1891), second son of G. B. Sowerby the elder, was born in Kensington on 28 March 1825. He was educated at Bickerdike's school, Kentish Town, and University College, Gower Street. From 1843 to 1852 he was assistant librarian to the Linnean Society. He went out to Australia in 1854, and became draughtsman at the Melbourne University, and subsequently teacher of drawing in the state schools. During the last twenty years of his life he devoted himself to gold mining. He died near Melbourne on 15 Sept. 1891, having married, in April 1847, Miss Annie Faulkner. He wrote for Reeve's popular handbooks ‘Popular Mineralogy,’ London, 1850, 16mo.

[Gent. Mag. 1854, ii. 406; Athenæum, 1854, p. 971; private information; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Brit. Mus. (Nat. Hist.) Cat.]

B. B. W.