Product has been added to the basket

Library and Information Services

'Strata Identified by Organized Fossils...', 1816-1819

Lower chalk stratum
  Greensand stratum
Typical fossils found in the Lower Chalk stratum   Typical fossils found in the Greensand stratum
 Click to enlarge

‘Strata Identified by Organized Fossils, containing prints on colored [sic] paper of the most characteristic specimens in each stratum’ (1816-1819), is one of two publications Smith produced as part catalogue/part explanation of his theories when he was forced to sell his collection to the British Museum between 1815-1818. 

Only four parts of the proposed seven of this publication were issued as although £100 of the £700 Smith received for his collection was allocated for arranging and cataloguing the specimens, each part was said to have cost £50 to produce alone. It was estimated that even if all 250 copies produced were sold, each part would have only yielded £93 15s, which did not include the expenses of publication or the bookseller’s charges.

Much of the cost would have been the unusual illustrated plates, engraved and hand coloured by the great natural history artist and mineralogist James Sowerby (1757-1822). These were printed on coloured paper intended to correlate with the hues used in Smith’s 1815 geological Map, although confusingly green is used to depict the Greensand stratum rather than the Chalk as appears on the Map. Images of all 19 illustrated plates can be found on our Picture Library.

The other ‘catalogue’ was the similarly sounding, ‘Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils, with reference to the specimens of the original geological collection in the British Museum: explaining their state of preservation and their use in identifying the British strata’ (1817). This publication is mostly text based, listing in greater detail the fossils to be found in each strata but does include a version of Smith’s ‘Geological Table of British Organized Fossils, which identify the course and continuity of the Strata in their order of superposition; as originally discovered by W Smith, Civil Engineer; with reference to his Geological Map of England and Wales’, [1817], a table which Smith revisited, revised and issued a number of times but which has its origins in his 1799 ‘Table of the strata in the vicinity of Bath’.

Table of colours - memoir
  Table of organised fossils 16a
  Table of organised fossils 16b
'Explanation of Colours on the Map of Strata...' (1815).    'Geological table of British Organized Fossils...', [1817], first version   'Geological table of British Organized Fossils...', [1817], second version
Click to enlarge

<<Aftermath of the Map

Geological sections>>