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Gosse started writing and illustrating this beautiful and important book after the death of his evangelist wife, Emily. His young son Edmund ('Willy' - the author of the biography 'Father & Son') sometimes helped him in the collecting and examination of specimens, and 'parcels of a soft and oozy character' occasionally arrived at the breakfast table, containing sea-anemones or corals collected from the shores around Britain by the many amateur collectors and enthusiasts. On p223, Gosse mentions the intrepid Miss Anne Church who goes dredging in Loch Long and collects an unusual specimen of sea-anemone that Gosse later names after her, Stomphia churchiae. I have fictionalised Anne Church in my novel 'Seaside Pleasures' (Ann Lingard; Littoralis Press), where she is a student on one of Gosse's shore classes, and becomes familiar with the Gosse family as a result.
The coloured engravings in the book are masterly - Gosse was an astute observer of marine invertebrates - and were subsequently used by the well-known Dresden-based glass-blowers, the Blaschkas, as a basis for their exquisite glass reproductions.
Although many of the sea-anemones and corals have now been re-classified, the detailed descriptions and illustrations still remain a useful tool for 'anemonisers'.