Accession No

6601


Brief Description

the Charles Elcock archive of microscope slides, preparatory tools and materials, book, and ephemera, collected by the slide preparator Charles Elcock, Irish, 1872-1910


Origin

Ireland [now Northern Ireland]; Belfast


Maker

Elcock, Charles [slide preparator for most slides]


Class

natural history; microscopes; biology


Earliest Date

Jan. 1, 1872


Latest Date

Dec. 31, 1910


Inscription Date


Material

wood (mahogany; pine; others); glass; paper; metal (brass; steel); stone; string


Dimensions

6601.1: 38cm wide x 30cm deep x 35cm tall 6601.2: 39cm wide x 31cm deep x 35cm tall 6601.3: 20.5cm wide x 10.5cm deep x 8.5cm tall 6601.4: 16cm wide x 21.5cm deep x 4cm tall 6601.5: 16.5cm wide x 22cm deep x 4cm tall 6601.6: 25cm wide x 16cm deep x 11cm tall 6601.7: 25cm wide x 32cm tall x 2.5cm thick 6601.8: 13cm wide x 20.5cm tall 6601.9: 20cm wide x 25cm tall 6601.10: 11.5cm wide x 17.5cm tall [folded] 6601.11: 17cm wide x 22.5cm tall [folded] 6601.12-18: 17.5cm wide x 25.5cm tall


Special Collection


Provenance

Purchased from Christie’s Private Sales, 8 King St., St. James’s, London, SW1Y 6QT on or before 14/08/2015. Purchased with a grant-in-aid from the PRISM fund. This collection is believed to have been the remaining slides and materials in Elcock’s possession at the time of his death. It then appears to have remained in the family by descent, at some point coming into the possession of a private dealer.


Inscription

[6601.1:] “[A]LLAN & SONS, Removers & Storers, [C]OLWYN BAY 1623” [label pasted to side of cabinet]; “Chalk Foraminifera”; “TYPE SLIDE, No. 1.”; “TYPE SLIDE, No. 2.” [labels pasted to front of slide drawers].
[6601.2:] “ROYAL COUNTY DEPOSITORY, READING. C. & G. AYRES, Ltd. Name: Mrs. Elcock. No.:” [label pasted to side of cabinet].
[6601.4:] “8” [label on front of tray]; “PRINTED WITH INK MADE FROM ROMAN RED PAINT FOUND IN EXCAVATING CLOSE TO GLOCESTER CATHEDRAL 11-8-1890 J.B.” [text on printed card in tray]; “Sir Charles Lanyon Memorial Prize for Measured Drawing of Architecture, 1st Prize £8-8-0 (£4-4-0 now awarded) Mr. Charles E. Elcock” [manuscript text on envelope in tray]
[6601.5:]
[6601.6:]
[6601.7:]


Description Notes

the Charles Elcock archive of microscope slides, preparatory tools and materials, book, and ephemera, collected by the slide preparator Charles Elcock, Irish, 1872-1910.

6601.1: Large mahogany[?] slide cabinet with brass carry handle and hinged door (key no longer extant), with 24 custom-fitted drawers (numbered with pasted on printed labels, some missing), containing a large number of microscope slides of mounted foraminifera. Partly worn away printed label stuck to outside of the cabinet reads “[A]LLAN & SONS, Removers & Storers, [C]OLWYN BAY 1623”. Large printed label pasted onto drawer 4 reads “Chalk Foraminifera”; large printed labels pasted onto drawers 9 and 10 read “TYPE SLIDE, No. 1.”; large printed labels pasted onto drawers 11 and 12 read “TYPE SLIDE, No. 2.”. All slides in this cabinet appear to have been prepared by Elcock, and all are slides of foraminifera, mounted (usually in groups) onto black rectangular matrices with each square in grid carrying a printed number. The mounts are slipped into a removable glass cover sleeve. Smaller slides use circular black mounts. The slides come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some slides have printed labels naming species, Elcock as maker, etc., others have manuscript labels. 617 parts.

6601.2: Large mahogany[?] slide and materials cabinet with brass carry handle and hinged door (key no longer extant), with 11 custom-fitted drawers. The top 7 drawers contain a wide assortment of microscope slides, including foraminifera and other flora and fauna mounted by Elcock, many in circular mounts, on regular-sized rectangular slides with printed labels by Elcock; some slides of foraminifera and other specimen types by other makers, including of foraminifera collected during the HMS Challenger scientific expedition (1872-1876); and stained histological slides by Elcock, of animal organ specimens. The bottom four drawers contain a wide variety of slide preparation materials and tools. The bottom drawer contains numerous small glass bottles of slide staining materials; the two above the bottom drawer contain numerous small sections with assorted materials, including slide-making supplies and mountable specimens, plus numerous labelled paper packets of collected specimens, etc. The fourth drawer from bottom contains assorted materials, including 2x humorous ‘Matrimony Thermometer’ with labels, some mounted fossils on card, and some fine artist’s ink pens with assorted nibs, in card box.

6601.3: Small pine(?) cabinet with hinged lid and front flap, secured with two brass hooks + pins. Oval brand / heat stamp burnt into inside face of lid (illegible). Contains twelve fitted pine trays, loosely stacked on top of one another. Each tray contains six rectangular microscope slides in fitted recesses. All slides contain foraminifera, mounted on circular or rectangular black mounts. Most slides have manuscript labels with species name, plus many also have location specimens were collected and/or at which depth in the ocean, in fathoms.

6601.4: Loose tray, seemingly removed from some sort of cabinet. Tray is made of a light wood (pine?) covered in black paper, plus a rough green canvas covering on front of tray only. Front has a small steel wire handle and a square of paper pasted onto upper left corner printed with the number “8”. The tray contains a printed rectangular card, 3.5” x 4.5”, which reads “PRINTED WITH INK MADE FROM ROMAN RED PAINT FOUND IN EXCAVATING CLOSE TO GLOCESTER CATHEDRAL 11-8-1890 J.B.” Illegible manuscript note on the back names the printer. Tray also contains a very small paper envelope, with a manuscript inscription that reads “Sir Charles Lanyon Memorial Prize for Measured Drawing of Architecture, 1st Prize £8-8-0 (£4-4-0 now awarded) Mr. Charles E. Elcock”. Tray also contains eleven foraminifera slides of the large type, with multiple mounted specimens on large black mounts with numbered matrices. These slides appear mostly incomplete or damaged or otherwise generally neglected in comparison with slides in fitted cabinets.

6601.5: Loose tray, seemingly removed from some sort of cabinet. Tray is made of a light wood (pine?) covered in black paper, plus a rough green canvas covering on front of tray only. Front has a small steel wire handle and a square of paper pasted onto upper left corner printed with the number “6”. Tray fits into canvas-covered card slip case. The tray contains an assortment of slide mounting materials, tools, and specimens, including a canvas covered oblong card slip case containing quartz specimens; two large quartz crystals; a ball of string; two packs of square card mounts wrapped in paper; two small thumb-turn clamps; a glass vial of “PURE TIN”; an empty glass vial; pumice stone; two glass slide covers; card table of small letters; circular box of small fossils/shells; three small circular boxes of sand(?); a glass-plate negative of photo of two people on horses.

6601.6: Mahogany(?) cabinet with hinged lid (key no longer extant). Fitted internal slots for holding glass vials. Slots contain 43 small glass vials, plus two small vials stored outside slots (too big for holes) and one large vial stored horizontally. Large vial has rubber stopper and paper label that reads “RVBIES rough 1867”, and contains small uncut rubies. Also with bottles is one folded paper pocket with manuscript label: “autim. Tarl. Ix = 1/10”(??); and one paper advertisement sheet for “Leath & Ross’s Homeopathic medicine” in poor condition [now is conservation frame - see ‘Conservation History’ field]. Most of the small vials contain small labels that read “TURNER & Co. HOMEOPATHIC CHEMISTS MANCHESTER” or “CORFIELD & PERRY HOMEOPATHIC CHEMISTS BIRMINGHAM” or “THOMPSON & CAPPER HOMEOPATHIC CHEMISTS LIVERPOOL” or “J. A. RAY HOMEOPATHIC CHEMIST DUBLIN” or “J. J. WATSS & Co. WHOLESALE HOMEOPATHIC CHEMISTS LONDON AND MANCHESTER”. Most vials still contain substances, presumably homeopathic medicines, but some also look like they might be slide staining materials.

6601.7: Book, hardback quarto, leatherbound spine with cloth covers. Les Foraminiferes de L’Eocene des Environs de Paris, par M. Terquem. Title page carries manuscript inscription: “Charles Elcock Belfast, 1882”. Front cover sheet carries same manuscript inscription, but with date 1884. Book contains 187 numbered pages and 20 B&W plates. Wh.6601.8 was found inside this book, slipped inside the front cover.

6601.8: Single sheet of paper with manuscript notes in French. “Caleaire Grassier des Environs de Paris” [Coarse Limestone Outside Paris]. Sheet lists places where materials had been collected/listed.

6601.9: B&W photographic portrait of Charles Elcock, pasted onto card mount. Mount carries printed label on front: “T. Steward & Co. Buxton Derbyshire”. Manuscript inscription on back of mount reads: “Charles Elcock, 2nd of 7th Month 1900”.

6601.10: Folded rough sheet of paper with manuscript notes on, appearing to list specimens on certain slide/s.

6601.11: Folded printed sheet listing by latin names “ACEPHALA LAMEELLIBRANCHIATA” [molluscs]; “GASTEROPODA PROSOBRANCHIATA” [gastropods]; and “GASTEROPODA PULMONIFERA” [gastropods]. Some names have vertical manuscript score marks through them, and/or numbers, expressed as fractions, written in manuscript next to their name.

6601.12: Sheet of watercolour paintings, signed “C. Elcock, 10/2/72”, showing the physiognomy of 9 different moss spores, as viewed under the microscope. Entitled “Genera 1”. Manuscript note on back reads “British Mosses C Elcock”.

6601.13: Sheet of watercolour paintings, signed “C. Elcock, 14/2/72”, showing the physiognomy of 6 different moss spores, as viewed under the microscope. Entitled “Genera 2”. Manuscript note on back reads “British Mosses C Elcock”.

6601.14: Sheet of watercolour paintings, signed “C. Elcock, 15/2/62” [typo by Elcock? Surely he means “72”?], showing the physiognomy of 6 different moss spores, as viewed under the microscope. Entitled “Genera 3”. Manuscript note on back reads “British Mosses C Elcock”.

6601.15: Sheet of watercolour paintings, signed “C. Elcock, 16/2/72”, showing the physiognomy of 5 different moss spores, as viewed under the microscope. Entitled “Genera 4”. Manuscript note on back reads “British Mosses C Elcock”.

6601.16: Sheet of watercolour paintings, signed “C. Elcock, 16/2/72”, showing the physiognomy of 7 different moss spores, as viewed under the microscope. Entitled “Genera 5”. Manuscript note on back reads “British Mosses C Elcock”.

6601.17: Watercolour paintings, signed “Chas. Elcock, 29/3/89”, showing the physiognomy of moss spore of “Acrocarpous Moss”, as viewed under the microscope. Movable flap over the head of the spore can be pealed back in two layers to show inside of calyptra, exposing operculum and stoma. Manuscript note on back reads “Mosses - Diagramic sketch - with moveable calipptra + lid. C. Elcock”.

6601.18: Watercolour paintings, signed “Chas. Elcock, 10/IV/89”, showing the physiognomy of four types of moss “Calyptra”, as viewed under the microscope. Manuscript note on back reads “British Mosses C Elcock”.


References

Joshua Nall; 'The foraminifera slides and working tools of microscope slide maker Charles Elcock'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge; 2015: https://www.whipplemuseum.cam.ac.uk/explore-whipple-collections/microscopes/foraminifera-slides-and-working-tools-microscope-slide-maker


Events

Description
Charles Elcock (1834-1910) was a naturalist, museum curator, and professional microscope slide maker who spent his working life in Belfast. These materials were in Elcock's possession at the time of his death, and we can therefore presume that they represent slides and tools that remained significant to him. Together, they point to an intriguing commercial scientific career. After his initial start as an amateur Elcock appears to have made a living from his slide preparations, and by 1901 he was listing his profession as 'microscopist' whilst also serving as the Curator of the Art Gallery and Museum at the Free Public Library in Belfast.

Elcock was a specialist in the highly skilled work of mounting the tiny fossils of foraminifera. Foraminifera are minute single-celled aquatic microorganisms that form protective shells. They date back to at least the early Cambrian period, 540 million years ago, and fossils of their shells are prevalent in a wide variety of geological settings. Specimens provided to Elcock from major expeditions are present in slides in this collection, including from the important Challenger, Porcupine, and Knight Errant scientific surveys, preserved here alongside numerous specimens from Irish locations. Together they form a unique record of global foraminifera study at the turn of the twentieth century.

Together Elcock’s collection encapsulates the work of a mostly forgotten profession. As a 'microscopist', Elcock was both a man of science and a craftsperson, his work spanning the realms of academic research, commercial scientific manufacture, and public education.
10/11/2015
Created by: Joshua Nall on 10/11/2015


FM:47119

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