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Lost Treasure

James Tennant (1808-1881) was in his time one of the UK's most notable mineralogists and dealers in minerals, fossils and shells.

His specimens can be found in many museums around the globe, and in many notable historic collections.

In his heyday he operated his business from large premises in the Strand, London, and supplied the almost insatiable interest of middle class Victorians in the natural wonders of the world.

One of his top selling products were his boxed sets of minerals, fossils and shells. These came in a few sizes and designs - all beautifully encased in mahogany with handwritten catalogues and labeling.

Quite a few of these survive and periodically show up on sale, or even as "sleepers" in unexpected places. Collector and friend David Walker Barker was lucky enough to spot his example in a small antique shop in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, in the early 1990's.

This is the higher status cabinet design with 8 pull out drawers, contents all together. A real gem.

The lost Arc?

The other thread to the Tennant story which is quite interesting is the sale and subsequent "disappearance" of Tennant's collection.

In 1880 Tennant decided to retire and he put his stock and premises up for sale; however he did not live to see this completed, and in 1882 his huge stock was auctioned off. During this time his personal collection of some 2,600 of his best selected specimens, housed in a vast mahogany cabinet disappeared and have not been traced since.

It is known that this contained portions of other historical collections including Duke of Buckingham and Sir John St Aubyn.

One can only dream that this treasure is still lurking somewhere waiting to be rediscovered.

Mineral references: 
Provenance/Attribution references: 
Photos: Lost Treasure
Photos: Lost Treasure
Photos: Lost Treasure
Photos: Lost Treasure