This book looks the business at first glance but has little if any practical use. Like most guides which pretend to cover all or a large part of the world's shells, it leaves out far too many species to be useful for identification purposes. Worse still, it is selective in a bizarre way. Only 3 species of cockles for the whole world, and 5 of Venus shell? That wouldn't even cover North Wales. Instead, there are dozens of examples of certain favoured types, such as 29 species of tropical tritons and 34 entire pages devoted to a single genus of cowries! But even that doesn't mean you can identify the one in your collection, as the illustrations seem to be have been photocopied a few times then scanned in to a computer at low resolution before enlarging again, to make sure they are totally fuzzy! Well, that's what they look like, and the 'artist' gets scarcely a mention so maybe the publishers weren't too impressed with the results either. (200 of the 1200 species described are not illustrated at all.) So, it's not a coffee table book either.
The descriptions are mostly clear in themselves, once you have swallowed all the jargon (explained in a glossary), but do not always match the illustrations, especially as regards colours.
I tested this book by buying a bag of assorted tropical shells such as you get in trinket shops in seaside towns everywhere these days. I couldn't identify a single one to the species level. And as for European shells, forget it, they aren't in this book!
Amazon say that the book was published in 2004 but I suspect its origins go back much further as there is an almost identical title by the same author, this time crediting the illustrator, listed as 1975. Maybe that's where they photocopied the illustrations from. Anyway, the author recommends collecting shells by turning stones over to find live specimens and boiling them to get the 'contents' out. There is no indication of which molluscan species included might be expected to tolerate this kind of depradation, and no doubt many of the selection in this book - apparently based on what happened to be available in the author's own collection rather than any rational sampling of the world's seashells - have in fact become endangered by these kind of practices, which I had thought went out with the Victorians. Perhaps it is fortunate that little mention is made of likely habitats in which to find the molluscs either. The whole thing is extraordinary, coming from a well known imprint such as Philip's.