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Jacob Forster
(1739-1806)

Jacob Forster was born in 1739, of German ancestry, and married Elizabeth Humphrey, sister of George Humphrey, Jr., at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, London on August 16, 1768, about 2 years after Forster had established his mineral dealership in London. In time he became the most important metropolitan London mineral dealer of his day, and counted among his customers many of the leading mineral and fossil collectors of the late 18th century. Forster also had sales offices in Paris (established sometime before 1769 and still open at the time of Forster's death in 1806) and St Petersburg. He regularly sold specimens to all of the important mineral collectors in Paris, while also dealing in fine shells, corals and polished gems. The Paris business was run by Jacob Forster's brother Johann Heinrich "Henry" Forster. The mineral business in London was based at the Piazza in Covent Garden from at least 1789, and had moved to Gerrard Street, Soho by the turn of century; it was run by his wife Elizabeth during his long periods abroad. He was generally considered at the time to be the best mineral dealer in Europe, and always carried a considerable stock of the rarest and most precious specimens. Forster held four spectacular mineral auctions in Paris from 1769 to 1783, with catalogs written by the famous French mineralogist and crystallographer Romé de L'Isle.

The mineral forsterite was named in Forster's honor by Armand Lévy in 1824, citing his considerable contribution "to the advancement of mineralogy by his extensive connections in that branch of science in every part of the world, and by having laid the foundation of one of the finest private collections now in the possession of Mr. Heuland."

Forster sold a large and splendid collection to the museum of the St Petersburg Mining Institute in 1802, under the auspices of Czar Alexander I. He spent the last ten years of his life in Russia, and died in St. Petersburg in 1806. Forster's nephew Henry Heuland moved to London to help sort out Forster's personal collection and eventually took over the business from his aunt when she retired in 1808. He engaged Armand Lévy (1794-1841) to catalog the collection and sold it to Charles Hampden Turner of Rook's Nest, Surrey in 1820; Turner's collection was later sold to Henry Ludlam, whose collection was eventually acquired by the Natural History Museum, London. Forster's sales stock was bequeathed to his wife and cataloged for sale at auction by Henry Heuland. It contained 5,860 lots sold over 45 days from May 2 to July 4, 1808, and raised the respectable sum of over £3,000. Elizabeth (born in 1735) retired after the sale and died in 1816.

Reference:
COOPER, M.P. (2007) Robbing the Sparry Garniture: A 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record, Tucson, 358 p.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2014)
Mineralogical Record
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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Number of labels found: 2 | Labels being viewed: 1 to 2

The Mineralogical Record - Jacob Forster 67 x 78 mm; A handwritten label for a Forster specimen of galena. It reads in part: "Cubic galena in very elegant crystals ... It is a species newly discovered and of which there is not a great quantity. It is described for the first time in the catalog of Mr. Romé de l’Isle of the sale of Forster in 1780. No 927. ...From Derbyshire, on Calcite ... 1779"
The Mineralogical Record - Jacob Forster Another label in the same hand.
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