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“A young girl, kneeling, directed to the right, leaning on a milk-pail and looking downwards at a snail crawling over ashes on a ledge; in front of her, a dog leans on the pail on its paws, landscape with a cow in the distance; artists’ names and publication details in scratched lettering”. This is the description of this print in mezzotint which was made in 1783 by James Northcote. A curator’s commentary is added “On the morning of the 1st of May, it is customary in some places, for the girls to go out to the fields blindfolded, and to grope amongst the dewy grass for a snail or slug, which, when found, is placed on a surface covered with flour or ashes, and is then supposed to crawl out the initials of the future lover’s name. The finding of the snail, as in the above case, is a good omen, for it shows that the lover will have a house of his own, a consideration not to be overlooked” [1].


The snail is sinistral, its shell ornamented with a spiral band along the suture and the periphery. The animal has two long tentacles. It is possibly modelled after a Helicella itala (Linnaeus, 1758) specimen (this is, however, a dextral species [2]).


[1] BML, inv. [PD] 1888.0716.368. http://to.ly/zGdd.
[2] Naggs, F., Preece, R.C., Anderson, R., Peiris, A., Taylor, H. & White, T.S., 2014. An illustrated guide to the land snails of the British Isles. Conchological Society / Malacological Society Publication, SRP Ltd, Exeter.