Mantell Collection

The Mantell Collection numbers nearly 1000 titles covering a diverse range of subjects, including New Zealand and Australia, histories and literature, as well as geology and archaeology. The collection reflects multiple generations of collecting within the Mantell family (evident by the presence of multi-generational bookplates), who were active within the scientific community in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It is part of the Turnbull Named Collections.

The collection is comprised of both scientific and literary works, spanning the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Titles relate to the geology and natural history of both Britain and New Zealand, and include works by such scientific authors as Alexander McKay, Charles Babbage, Charles Lylle, and Charles Darwin. Literary material includes such 19th-century New Zealand authors as William Reeves and William Skey, as well as serial titles and humorous poems and novels.

Decorated inner papers, including pasted-in collector plates.
Mantell family bookplates in Elizabeth Cobbold’s Ode on the victory of Waterloo, 1815. Record page

About the Mantells

Gideon Algernon Mantell (1790–1852), a physician by trade, was one of the first English geologists and palaeontologists. He was the author of a number of works about the geology of England. His son, Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell (1820–1895), left England for New Zealand on the Oriental for the New Zealand Company and arrived in 1840. He was an active member of the scientific community in New Zealand, in contact with New Zealand’s foremost leaders in the hunt for the moa: William Colenso, Julius von Haast and James Hector.

More about Walter Baldock Durrant Mantell in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Botanical illustration from plate 57 of Joseph Dalton Hooker's The botany of the Antarctic voyage of H.M. discovery ships Erebus and Terror.
Joseph Dalton Hooker, The botany of the Antarctic voyage of H.M. discovery ships Erebus and Terror, 1844–1860. Record page

His most noteworthy association, however, was with Richard Owen, the superintendent of the natural history department of the British Museum. Mantell’s work with Owen resulted in the largest moa skeleton yet discovered. Additionally, Mantell was active in the Wellington Philosophical Society and the New Zealand Institute and he gave his name to the Latin classification of the extinct North Island takahē, notornis mantelli.

Mantell’s son, Walter Godfrey Mantell, inherited his father’s and grandfather’s book collections, which were donated by his widow to the Alexander Turnbull Library along with the family papers in 1927.

See the Mantell family papers in the Manuscripts collection

See Gideon Aldernon Mantell's papers

Access items in this collection

Original items in this collection can be requested through the Library’s catalogue and consulted in the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room.

This collection is catalogued online and may be called up as a list on the National Library catalogue by searching ‘Mantell’ using the ‘in call number’ search option in the NLNZ catalogue advanced search.

Though mostly kept together, the rarer volumes, such as first or early editions by authors like Ben Jonson, Lord Byron and Francis Bacon, along with copies of works by Gideon Mantell which include interleaved pages upon which he added notes and coloured drawings, were transferred to the Rare Books and Fine Printing Collection.