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Rare book of the month

rARE bOOKSGeology by Arthur R. Dwerryhouse. 1919

“It is very strange, but nevertheless true, that most people are content to go on living in this world without attempting to find out anything about the world itself.” So begins Arthur Dwerryhouse’s Geology, part of the Romance of Reality series of titles published in the 1910s and 20s under the editorship of Ellison Hawks. The series covered different aspects of science and technology, and was “ostensibly written for adults, but some were pitched more at the level of the teenage reader.”1

Dwerryhouse (1867-1931) was well-known for his research into glaciation in northern England and Ireland, and this book contains a thorough chapter on ‘Glacier Action’, as well as covering all the basics of the science, from lead and gold mining to volcanoes and hot springs.

Given the author’s opening statement, the irony of Dwerryhouse’s book is that it distils this geological knowledge via an imaginary field trip through the mythical country of ‘Geologica’, taking in the towns of Lyell and Smithfield via the Hutton River. There are accounts of the geologists on this fantasy expedition sheltering from storms with a Troglodyte, conducting various experiments, gathering samples, and having humorous run-ins with local bureaucracy.

The conceit is wonderfully maintained by Dwerryhouse, and the book is a thorough and expert introduction to geology from an experienced academic who is clearly enjoying letting his hair down. It is unclear how popular the book was when first published, but it remained in print for many years and has recently been made available to new readers as print-on-demand (with a striking new cover) from Lightning Source UK.


  1. Peter J. Bowler Science for All: The Popularization of Science in Early Twentieth-Century (University of Chicago Press, 2009) p126
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