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The St Aubyn collection

One of the collection labels.... see Muesum website or print version of the magazine for more...

If you recognise these labels and own a specimen bearing one, Plymouth City Museum and Gallery would like to hear from you…

Geoscientist 18.7 July 2008

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery is currently undertaking a large project on a collection previously owned by Sir John St. Aubyn (1758-1839). Recently the museum secured a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to enable its natural history department to conduct a variety of work on this collection and to research his life.

The 5th Baronet was born at Golden Square, London on 17 May 1758. He was captivated by science and the arts and was a keen collector. His particular interest was for mineralogy, but he also had interests in botany, and he created his own herbarium. Succeeding his father at the age of fourteen he proved himself a clever and distinguished man. He served as High Sheriff of Cornwall (at the age of 23), and went on to become a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Linnéan Society, a member of Parliament, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Fellow of the Geological Society of London, Fellow of the Society of Arts and Provincial Grandmaster of the Freemasons.

Consisting of over 1500 specimens, the St Aubyn mineral collection contains material that St Aubyn purchased from Richard Greene of Lichfield and Society founder Dr William Babington (previously owned by the Earl of Bute) as well as material from Europe. There are also some Cornish specimens, which St Aubyn may have collected, and a small micromount collection. Sir John’s position at Clowance, in the centre of the great mining district of Cornwall, and his other seat on the granite pinnacle of St Michael’s Mount in the bay of Penzance, enabled him to obtain the finest specimens.

Currently, there is much interest in the ‘missing’ elements of the mineral collection and the journey to their respective resting places. After his death, Sir John St. Aubyn’s collection was split by the mineral dealer Isaiah Deck (1792-1853), and although an extensive collection was arranged for the Civil Military Library at Devonport (now at the main Plymouth City Museum), the remaining minerals were auctioned.

As part of the project, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery wish to pre-publicise the project, just in case anyone who reads it can provide information about the subject. Jess Shepherd of the museum says: "We are also trying to locate other specimens from Sir John’s mineral collection. We hope to locate as many specimens as we can so that Sir John’s collection is fully documented. Our wish is to authenticate and photograph every specimen both in the museum and in other collections so that we can create an online digital database. "

  • If you recognise the labels (pictures) you may have a St. Aubyn mineral in your personal collection! If so the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery would like to hear from you. For more information about Sir John, his collection and the labels associated with his minerals, please contact Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery on 01752 304765 or email [email protected]. You can also visit the website

More specimen labels

Aubyn collection label
Aubyn label
Aubyn label
Aubyn label
Aubyn label