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W S Symonds (1864): Old Bones or notes for young naturalists on vertebrate animals, their fossil predecessors and allies

Old BonesOld Bones, or, Notes for Young Naturalists, on vertebrate animals, their fossil predecessors and allies by W.S. Symonds (1864)

The children’s educational textbook has a long history. Arguably originating as far back as Ancient Greece, it proliferated with the invention of the printing press, and became widespread in the 19th Century through compulsory education in Europe. Though aimed at the older student, W.S. Symonds’ Old Bones, or, Notes for Young Naturalists (1864), is an early example of a geological textbook, complete with numerous drawings, and divided into easily digestible and often entertaining chapters on Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Fishes. The book also has an interesting angle on educational pursuits as best removed from the classroom; in its preface, Symonds writes, ‘I publish it in the hope that it may prove useful to the Student, when he has the opportunity of visiting any of our various Museums or Zoological gardens, as I believe that the knowledge acquired from books becomes far more practical when impressed upon the mind by a careful examination of the works of Nature’.

Symonds (1818-1887), who also wrote a companion volume, Old Stones (1880), was an admirable early advocate of engaging young people in geology, a tradition continued by such titles as Every Boy’s Book of Geology (1920), part of that popular series, and Solving Earth’s Mysteries, or, Geology for boys and girls (1946), both also held in the Society’s collection.

The Library operates a sponsorship scheme to help preserve and restore its rare books. For more information, contact Michael McKimm in the library, or see the Sponsor A Book page on the Society’s website.