Letter from Mary Anning

A letter from Mary Anning showing a sketch of a plesiosaurus and a note about the discovery.

Wellcome Library, London

Image Licence

Download Image
  • Intro
    Museum's Description
    • Mary Anning is a famous dinosaur discoverer who ‘sold sea shells by the sea shore’. She wrote this letter describing her discovery of a Plesiosaur.

      We asked the people who work in the archives at the Wellcome what exactly the letter says, so if you can't read Mary's handwriting here it is all typed out, including a second page that you can't see in the image.

      When you read the letter, you'll see that there were some words that even the archivist wasn't sure of. These have been shown with brackets and question marks.


      I have endeavoured in a rough sketch to give
      you some idea of what it is like. Sir, you understand me right in
      thinking that I said it was the supposed Plesiosaurus, but its remar-
      kable long neck and small head shows that it does not in the least
      (?resemble) their (unclear, possibly another type of dinosaur?) in its analogy to the Ichthyosaurus. It is large and
      heavy, but one thing I may venture to assure you it is the first
      and only one discovered in Europe. Colonel Birch offered one hundred
      guineas for it unseen, but your letter came one days post before. I

      (2nd page)
      consider your claim to an answer prior to his. Should you like it
      the price I ask for it is one hundred and ten pounds. One hundred
      guineas was my intended price, but if [I] take the same sum as Col
      B is offering he would think I had used him ill in not taking his
      money. Sir I am gratefully obliged to both you &
      Dr Bunbry for condescending to think of my favourite. He
      returned to Lyme at midnight quite well. I [am] also greatly obliged
      for your kind present of the game.

      Your most humble servant
      Mary Anning

      Lyme, December 26 1823


      P.S. Sir since I wrote the above I have received an
      order from the Duke of Buckingham if not sold to send
      him the specimen on his account. I hope you will not think
      me impertinent in requesting an answer by return of post
      I had forgot the Ichthyosaurus it is about four feete long although
      Not equal to C[aptain] Warrings it is not a bad specimen. The price is five pounds.
Share This