The Trade in Tortoiseshell

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AMONG the number of misnomers current in popular language, and more especially in that relating to natural history, few are more unfortunate than is the application of the term “tortoiseshell” to the substance which should properly be designated turtleshell, or perhaps rather turtle-skin. It is, however, far too late in the day to attempt a change; tortoiseshell it always has been, and tortoiseshell it will doubtless remain. In its manufactured state, whether in the form of inlaid buhl-work, as the handle of a fan, or as a comb, the translucent plates of tortoiseshell, with their rich mottlings of golden yellow and warm chestnut, are familiar to all. The particular species of reptile, or reptiles, from which it is derived, the part that it plays in the economy of these creatures, and the methods of the manufacture, to say nothing of the enormous volume of the trade, are, however, less matters of common knowledge.

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L., R. The Trade in Tortoiseshell. Nature 59, 425–426 (1899) doi:10.1038/059425a0

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