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Maps restored!

Geoscientist 17.3 March 2007

Mr Nigel Press and Dr Richard Fortey FRS (President) unveiled the restored Smith and Greenough geological maps at a reception at Burlington House on February 1. Nigel Press (NP Satellite Mapping) generously paid for the restoration and reframing of the Smith map, which now joins the similarly restored and reframed Greenough 1819 map at the foot of the refurbished East staircase of Burlington House. Mr Simon Winchester, whose book The Map that Changed the World brought the map to the attention of the wider public, was unfortunately unable to be present because of the BA cabin crew strike. He and Nigel Press also generously supported the reception. Prof. Hugh Torrens, world expert on William Smith's life and work, also spoke.

Richard Fortey said: "This copy of the William Smith 1815 map, as it is known, is a very late one in a series of these hand-coloured maps, which recent researches now suggest probably number over 200, and may even have exceeded 300. This copy, which from watermarks we believe to date from as late as 1828, was possibly the copy given to the Society in 1831, the year that the Society honoured Smith with the very first Wollaston Medal.

"The map was restored by Mr Graeme Gardner, and formerly hung where Simon Winchester’s book’s now famous opening pages describe it – just up there, in a frame of (until recently) uncertain vintage. In the process of removing this substantial piece of woodwork we did in fact discover that the map had hung in that position since we moved into this building in 1874, because behind it, the plaster still wore its original builders’ finish.

"Reframing the map and placing it here now means that many more people can see it – a consideration that became an issue from the day Winchester’s book The map that changed the world was published. The worldwide success of this title has brought hundreds and hundreds of people through our doors and, all these years later, they are still coming.

"Being able to hang the Smith map alongside the Greenough 1819 map, which formerly hung on the Courtyard staircase, not only allows us to see these two great works together but seems almost like an act of reconciliation. Though inevitably, relations between Smith and Greenough were never quite as acrimonious as legend would have us believe.

Mr Nigel Press (left) and Dr Richard Fortey FRS (President) unveiled the restored Smith and Greenough geological maps at a reception at Burlington House on February 1. "Feature articles in forthcoming issues of Geoscientist will deal with these aspects of Smith’s heritage. However, those who follow our monthly magazine will also be aware of another great project currently underway that will do much to put the real Smith in the position he so richly deserves in the international pantheon of science.

"I speak of course of the Scarborough Rotunda - a wonderful building conceived by Smith himself to hold and display his geological collection. Later this year the William Smith Museum will open its doors there, after years of fundraising and building work by the museum Trust, indefatigably led by Lord Derwent, who I am delighted to see here this evening.

Richard Fortey ended by thanking Nigel Press once again: "Nigel’s generous funding of the Smith map restoration and reframing has enabled us add a truly wonderful new element to the extensive refurbishment of Burlington House, the Society’s beautiful home in the heart of Mayfair."