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Title [unknown]; Author [unknown]; Date [unknown]...


Title: [Unknown], Author: [Unknown], Date: [Unknown]

Geoscientist 20.02 March 2011

This month, a mystery. Recently found in the Library’s collection is a fragment of a larger work, written in German, describing the landforms of a number of European regions, ranging from Germany and Switzerland to England, alongside a series of colourfully drawn views and sections of mountains. Yet we have been unable to identify it, since there is no title page and it has lost its spine.

There are certain clues. We can confirm that it is pre-1874 as it has the Library’s stamp from when the Society was housed in Somerset House; but it could actually be much earlier - the latest date of the citations noted on the first page of the section we hold is 1825. And we know that a distinctive watermark, that of J. Whatman, an English printer who designed a new type of paper favoured by Audubon, Napoleon and Queen Victoria, among others, is in fact a forgery (due to a thick downward cross-bar on the letter A). Such dropped cross-bars, however, were in fact prevalent in German watermarks in the 19th Century.

And so we are none the wiser. One thought was that it could be related to Heinrich von Dechen’s 1839 map Geognostische Übersichts-karte von Deutschland, Frankreich, England und den angrenzenden Laendern due to the relatively unusual combination of European and English geology, but there is no more solid suggestion of a link. It is rare for books to conceal their true identities in this way: if any Geoscientist readers can aid us in its unmasking, we would love to hear your suggestions. Samples of text and further pictures can be provided on request.
  • 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: