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Isaiah Deck
(1792-1853)

Isaiah Deck was born in Cambridgeshire, England in 1792, probably to a German family. In 1825 he established himself in Cambridge on Trumpington Street as a pharmaceutical chemist and mineral dealer, and around 1830 moved to new quarters at 9 King's Parade. In 1843 he also opened a chemists' shop at 6 Victoria Terrace in Leamington Spa. It was run by his son, also Isaiah, and closed in 1848. The elder Deck's publications include an undated 12-page Catalogue of geological specimens arranged according to Werner, and two mineral catalogs, one dated 1826 and the other undated. He advertised that he could "supply every choice and rare specimen, of any size and denomination, with its locality, at reasonable prices." In 1834 he was hired to arrange the huge mineral collection of Sir John St Aubyn (1758-1839). The collection was split into four portions: two small ones for St. Aubyn's wife and daughter, a larger one for the Devonport Museum (the remains of which are now in the Plymouth Museum), and the remainder was auctioned, although Deck bought back a substantial portion of the lots himself. He also supplied equipment from hammers to goniometers and "Foreign and English insects," and is known for perfecting a method for casting replicas of fossils.

Isaiah Deck was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society in 1838 and donated a few specimens to the society's collections in 1839. There are also Deck specimens in the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge, the Yorkshire Museum, York (fossils and casts donated 1837-44) and in the collections of the British Geological Survey at Keyworth. His catalogues were printed by his brother Robert Deck of Harwich. Another relative was probably the G. Deck of Harwich whose collection of Crag fossils is in the Norwich Castle museum. His son, also Isaiah, traveled to Egypt in search of emeralds in the 1850's, and there conceived an incredible plan to satisfy America's desperate shortage of rags for paper-making by shipping tons of Egyptian mummies across the Atlantic for making paper pulp from their linen wrappings (he published a paper on it in 1855). It seems that this was duly done on an experimental scale, and one newspaper (the Syracuse Sentinel) is said to have printed an edition or two on recycled mummy cloth. Unfortunately no copies of the papers have survived to confirm this.

Reference:
COOPER, M.P. (2006) Robbing the Sparry Garniture; A 200-Year History of British Mineral Dealers. Mineralogical Record (in press).
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2017)
Mineralogical Record
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