the Precious Wentletrap or Royal Staircase (Scalaria pretiosa), a large shell, twisted into a loose, untouching spiral, of a pale yellow hue, ornamented with ribs of pure white. This is always a prized addition to a cabinet, for it is undoubtedly a shell of extraordinary beauty; but the value which was attached to it in former years can only be considered as a phase of insanity, analogous to the well-known tulip mania, and other fantasies of a like kind. In 1753, at the sale of Commodore Lisle's shells at Longford's, four Wentletraps were sold for seventy-five pounds twelve shillings: viz. one not quite perfect, for sixteen guineas; a very fine and perfect one for eighteen guineas; one for sixteen guineas; and one for twenty-three pounds two shillings.
But higher prices than these have been given. That in Mr. Bullock's museum, supposed to be the largest known, brought at his sale the sum of 27l., and was estimated in 1815 at double that value; and there is a tradition that a specimen was sold in France for 2,400 livres, or 100 louis!
Another section, known as false Wentletraps, have the whorls contiguous; and many of these species are European. Some of them secrete a purple liquor, as has already been noticed in these pages respecting our commonest native species, S. communis. This shell is turreted, usually about
- Da Costa's Elements, 204.