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Natural History Museum

STORY-MASKELYNE, Mervyn Herbert Nevil (1823-1911), mineralogist


Reference code(s): GB 0060 DF 5001

Held at: Natural History Museum

Title: STORY-MASKELYNE, Mervyn Herbert Nevil (1823-1911), mineralogist

Date(s): 1848-1900

Level of description: sub-fonds

Extent: 16 items

Name of creator(s): Maskelyne | Mervyn Herbert Nevil | Story- | 1823-1911 | mineralogist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Mervyn Herbert Nevil Story-Maskelyne was born at Basset Down House, near Wroughton, Wiltshire, on 3 September 1823. He was educated at Bruton and graduated in mathematics from Oxford in 1845. He studied law, but abandoned this for science in 1847, attending lectures at the Royal Institution given by Michael Faraday (item 16). He lectured on mineralogy at Oxford from 1850, and was appointed Professor of Mineralogy in 1856. Story-Maskelyne became Keeper of Mineralogy at the Museum in 1857, and although he moved to London, he retained his Oxford professorship until 1895. At the Museum he worked with Thomas Davies on the proper documentation of mineral specimens in the collection, and in 1875 he started work on a 'Scientific Catalogue of the Whole Collection ...', containing both crystallographic and chemical data. He pressed for the establishment of a chemical laboratory, and studied and published papers on meteorites.

Outside his Museum work, Story-Maskelyne was a man of wide antiquarian and classical interests. He published papers on ancient mineralogy and, as papers in the class show, made detailed study of the history of the Koh-i-noor diamond. He was also a popular lecturer, and gave a notable series to the Chemical Society in 1874 (item 13). He inherited the family estate of Basset Down in 1879 and resigned from the keepership in 1880 to devote himself to its management. However, he continued to work and publish in mineralogy, and was elected Member of Parliament for Cricklade.


Scope and content/abstract:

Scientific and antiquarian manuscript and printed papers of Mervyn Herbert Nevil Story-Maskelyne, chiefly relating to his unpublished work on historic diamonds and other gemstones. Includes: Historical notes on the Koh-i-noor diamond and other historic gemstones; Notes on the Koh-i-noor and other historic diamonds; On the Koh-i-noor diamond: manuscript draft; Diamonds and antiquities: notes and newscuttings; 'Notes on jewels etc', with extracts from Theophrastus, Dioscorides and Pliny; 'Lectures on the mineralogy of antiquity'; includes much on historic diamonds; 'The filling of fissures', notes for a lecture on the formation of ore minerals; Newscuttings relating to the British Museum, one of them a letter of John Ruskin, 1866-1873; 'On diamonds', the text of a lecture given at the Royal Institution, reprinted from 'The Chemical News', 1860; 'The metals and minerals of the Bible' (printed), [1888]; 'Physical properties of minerals - I. optical': notes for a lecture, illustrated with diagrams; 'Visitors to Prof Maskelyne's lecture on crystallography, Nov 23, 1874', with notes on crystal structure from the works of Groth, Fedorov and others, and circular polarisation of crystals, 1874-1901; Translations of ancient texts; Viktor von Lang: crystallographic measurements and drawings from specimens in the Museum collection, 1863 and Royal Institution: Syllabus of lectures on the allied phaenomena of the chemical and electrical forces by Michael Faraday (printed), 1848. Many of the papers are accompanied by notes made by Walter Campbell Smith at the time of transfer.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

As outlined in scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Conditions governing reproduction:

Physical characteristics:

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Preserved at Story-Maskelyne's home, Basset Down House in Wiltshire, since his death in 1911.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented to the Museum by Story-Maskelyne's grandson, J A Arnold-Foster, in 1951.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Correspondence of Story-Maskelyne presented by Mr Arnold-Foster is at DF3/4, and a manuscript on meteorites is held in the Earth Sciences Library, Mineralogy Manuscripts. Letters relating to the donation of these papers, minerals, laboratory equipment and slides, are at DF1/55.

Publication note:



Archivist's note: Entry copied from the Natural History Museum online catalogue by Sarah Drewery.
Sources: Oxford DNB

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: Sep 2008

Antiquities | Works of art | Arts
Diamonds | Gems | Minerals | Mineralogy
Lectures (teaching method) | Teaching methods
Movable cultural property

Personal names
Maskelyne | Mervyn Herbert Nevil | Story- | 1823-1911 | mineralogist
Smith | Walter Campbell | 1887-1988 | mineralogist and petrologist

Corporate names
British Museum