STRATA: William Smith’s Geological Maps

We were delighted to receive this wonderful hardback volume for Christmas; published in autumn 2020, by the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

In August 1815, William Smith (1769-1839) published what is acknowledged as ‘the first geological map of a country ever produced’. Although there were ‘geological’ maps in existence before this, these invariably only identified rocks by types and are therefore more accurately described as ‘mineralogical’ maps. Smith’s innovation was to attempt to classify rocks according to age and manner of deposition – that is stratigraphically.

This stunning and comprehensive large format hardback showcases 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. 

Even the enclosed book mark is beautifully illustrated, and the volume is opened with a thought-provoking and ever-eloquent Foreword, by Robert Macfarlane, with whom we had the pleasure of collaborating on a literature fundraising project, #RockIsToMountain with ‘The Lost Words’, in 2018. 

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