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Richard Talling

Richard Talling was beyond question the greatest Cornish mineral dealer of all time. He was born on June 18, 1820, the fourth of ten children of John and Margaret Talling of Lostwithiel, Cornwall. Richard was an apprentice shoemaker in the 1841 Census, but was already developing a profession more to his liking. Talling ran a "Fancy Repository" on the corner of Fore Street and Queen Street, Lostwithiel, apparently for almost all of his life. The earliest confirmed record of Richard's interest in minerals is probably the donation by "R. Talling" of specimens of garnet, axinite and pyrite to the Royal Institution of Cornwall Museum in the 1840–41 year when he would have been 21 years old, although by his own admission, by 1863 he had been "in the Mineral trade, more or less, for 26 years" (i.e. since 1837, when he was just 17).

Talling was directly responsible for the discovery of the then-new minerals langite (1864), devilline (1864), bayldonite (1864), botallackite (1865), churchite (1865), woodwardite (1866), andrewsite (1871), tavistockite (1874), and ludlamite (1876), the last species being named in celebration of Henry Ludlam (1824-1880), one of Talling's best customers. The new mineral tallingite was named in his honor by Church in 1865, but has unfortunately been discredited and is now a synonym of connellite. Talling was exceptionally well-placed at Lostwithiel. Within a 15-mile radius of his front door were many of Cornwall's most famous specimen-producing mines, their names appearing time and again in lists of Talling's finds: Fowey Consols with its cuprite and post-mining sulfates; the Caradon mines and Wheal Mary Ann with some of Cornwall's best fluorite; Wheal Wrey and its classic calcite twins; the Phoenix mine with its remarkable cuprite and suite of copper phosphates; and, forever associated with Talling, the great bournonite and tetrahedrite of the Herodsfoot mine. Talling's most famous achievement was the acquisition of the best of the magnificent bournonite and chalcopyrite-coated tetrahedrite specimens raised in the Herodsfoot mine, Cornwall in the 1850's and 60's. As always he sold the finest specimens to the British Museum.

Apart from the British Museum, Talling's best customers included Henry Ludlam, John Ruskin (1819-1900, who bought some 1,200 specimens from Talling between 1865 and 1873), Clarence S. Bement (1843-1923), the brothers Randolph and Joseph Clay, James R. Campbell of Cheltenham, and French chemist and mineral dealer Félix Pisani (1831-1920). In addition to minerals from Cornwall and Devon, Talling also stocked foreign material from time to time, including minerals from the Americas and Germany, possibly acquired in exchange from people like Bement and Krantz and certainly from the Clays who supplied him with lead minerals from the Wheatley mine in Pennsylvania and also with fragments of meteoric iron.

Talling very rarely used a loose label of any kind for specimens he sold, and appears never to have had any pre-printed labels prepared with his name on them. Nor does Talling seem to have maintained a mineral collection of his own that might have bourne custom labels (though he may have been an early British micromounter). Talling died by his own hand On 22 December 1883. He left his stock of minerals and his gold watch to his friend and sole executor, Francis H. Butler, who went on to become one of the best and most successful of British mineral dealers--a worthy follower in the Talling tradition, but no match for his stature. With Henry Heuland, Talling stands head and shoulders above all British mineral dealers before and since.

COOPER, M. P. (2005) The History of British Mineral Dealing. Mineralogical Record, Tucson.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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The Mineralogical Record - Richard Talling 52 x 51 mm,
British Museum label for a specimen of Herodsfoot mine Bournonite, noting that it was purchased from Talling in 1872. Talling is most famous for this discovery.
The Mineralogical Record - Richard Talling 49 x 69 mm,
A label (1884-1887) from Talling's successor, Francis H. Butler (1849-1935), who found some of Talling's famous Herodsfoot mine bournonites still among Tallings's stock after he died.
The Mineralogical Record - Richard Talling 33 x 56 mm,
A label (1884-1887) from Talling's successor, Francis H. Butler (1849-1935).
The Mineralogical Record - Richard Talling 32 x 51 mm,
A label (1884-1887) from Talling's successor, Francis H. Butler (1849-1935).
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