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William Smith’s Geological Maps

Robert Macfarlane


Richly illustrated with highly detailed geological maps and cross-sections, tables of strata, contemporary illustrations and photographed fossil samples, this definitive and accessible reference showcases the revolutionary work of William Smith, son of a blacksmith and ‘father of English geology’

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This sumptuous and comprehensive evaluation showcases William Smith’s 1815 hand-coloured map, A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales, with part of Scotland, and illustrates the story of his career, from apprentice to fossil collector and from his 1799 geological map of Bath and table of strata to his detailed stratigraphical county maps.

The introduction places Smith’s work in the context of earlier, concurrent and subsequent ideas regarding the structure and natural processes of the earth. The book is then organized into four geographical sections, each beginning with four sheets from the 1815 strata map, accompanied by related geological cross sections and county maps (1819–24), and is followed by displays of Sowerby’s fossil illustrations (1816–19) organized by strata. Interleaved between the sections are essays by leading academics that explore the aims of Smith’s work, its application in the fields of mining, agriculture, cartography, fossil collecting and hydrology, and its influence on biostratigraphical theories and the science of geology. Concluding the volume are reflections on Smith’s later work as an itinerant geologist and surveyor, plagiarism by his rival – President of the Geological Society, George Bellas Greenough – receipt of the first Wollaston Medal in 1831 in recognition of his achievements, and the influence of his geological mapping and biostratigraphical theories on the sciences, culminating in the establishment of the modern geological timescale.

Winner of the 2021 Alice Award

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'Some books are beautiful, others are enlightening. STRATA is both ... It’s the best non-fiction book I’ve read in a long time'
Will Gompertz

'Will no doubt remain as a standard reference work for map collectors, map dealers, librarians and historians of science for many years to come, and will likely become a collector’s item in its own right'
International Map Collector’s Society

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 36.5 x 26.5 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Publication date: 22 October 2020

ISBN: 9780500252475

Contents List

Foreword by Robert Macfarlane • Introduction by Douglas Palmer • 1. Borders and the North. Fossils: London Clay to Greensand. i. Apprentice by Peter Wigley. • 2. Wales and Central England. Fossils: Brickearth to Clunch clay and Shale. ii. Mineral Prospector by Peter Wigley. iii. Field Work by Dave Williams • East Anglia and the South East. Fossils: Kelloways Stone to Fuller’s Earth Rock. iv. Cartographer by Tom Sharpe. v. Fossil Collector by Jill Darrell and Diana Clements. • The West. Fossils: Blue Marl to Redland Limestone. vi. Well Sinker by John Mather. vii. Mentor by John Henry. • Table detailing William Smith’s fossils featured as photographic plates in this book. Bibliography and Sources of illustrations. Index and Acknowledgments.

About the Author

Oxford University Museum of Natural History Museum holds an unrivalled William Smith collection, including not only his 1815 map and unpublished county maps but also his vast archive of diaries, letters, published works, charts and plans.

List of Contributors

Peter Wigley, Douglas Palmer, John Henry, Tom Sharpe, Jill Darrell, Diana Clements, John Mather, Dave Williams