Once in a while a book comes along which you know will become a classic. But then it really should, as it comes about as a result of collaboration between a pair of authors who are at the top of their respective disciplines: but that in its own right is no guarantee of quality.
However here, Torsvik and Cocks have combined forces in apparent close harmony with their publisher and printer to present a thorough yet accessible evolution of the Earth. The quality of the full colour graphics, cartography and text is rare in a modern book of reasonable cost, indeed this sets a benchmark .
The authors introduce the volume with an explanation of the various techniques used to evaluate the position of the tectonic plates through time, with a discussion about the merits and uncertainties associated with the methods.
The core of the work consists of detailed maps for each era, period and epoch, accompanied by the evidence for the movement and history of each of the 926 tectonic units of the earth, and some of the biological and environmental indicators prevalent at the time. The last chapter briefly explores how paleoclimates have evolved, and the techniques used to decipher the signals in the rock.
This treatment successfully treads a difficult balance between just writing the plain detailed facts and painting an interesting geographical interpretation. The number of references has been carefully selected so that the work is not overwhelmed with too many academic citations, so the reader is allowed to enjoy the text; but we are given sufficient information to pursue the details further online, where access is also given to the Earth models.
I particularly liked the device of using a ‘time bar’ throughout text, to allow the reader to follow the various time steps and sequence of comparable events. This knits the whole story together in a very memorable way.
The evidence available for the whole globe remains patchy. However I can envisage that this work will stimulate effort on filling in the gaps in the details, and hence could be taken further and republished as an Atlas of Paleogeography, perhaps incorporating palaeobiology in its next edition, but that is no doubt some way off.
So, a really interesting book, very well presented which will stand the test of time. Thus the book will have a broad appeal amongst geologists at all levels of ability. I shall be taking my copy to the proverbial desert Island.
Reviewed by Arthur Tingley
EARTH HISTORY & PALAEOGEOGRAPHY by Trond H Torsvig and L Robin Cox 2016 Cambridge University Press. ISBN-13: 978-1107105324 Hardback. List Price: £44.99. W: