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William Smith's Fossils Reunited

Product Code: WSFR
Series: William Smith Map Prints and Publications
Author/Editor: Peter Wigley (editor) with Jill Darrell, Diana Clements and Hugh Torrens
Publication Date: 01 March 2019
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William Smith's Fossils Reunited: "Strata Identified by Organized Fossils" and "A Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils" by William Smith

Published by Halsgrove Publishing, 260x270mm, profusely illustrated in colour throughout.

William Smith is considered by many to be the Father of English Geology and is best remembered for his remarkable geological map of England and Wales, made in 1815.
From an early date, Smith recognized that many of the strata which he showed on his map were characterized by the fossils they contained. In 1816 he started a book called Strata Identified by Organized Fossils which, although unfinished, was a fundamental work in establishing the science of stratigraphy. In this book Smith figured fossils from each stratum. The fossil plates were exquisitely engraved by the renowned illustrator, naturalist and mineralogist, James Sowerby, from fossils provided by Smith.

Wm Smith Fossils Reunited sample pages

Although a brilliant geologist, Smith was an unlucky business man and because of his precarious financial position he was forced to sell his extensive fossil collection to the British Museum. In William Smith’s Fossils Reunited, the authors have included new photographs of fossils from Smith’s Collection, now housed at the Natural History Museum.These photographs have been arranged next to the original engravings, and in some cases, Smith’s sketches. Smith’s original texts for both Strata Identified and a later work Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils, which catalogued the fossils, have been reprinted within the book. As Smith roamed the English countryside collecting fossils he was careful to note the exact geographical location of each fossil and also the rock layer from which it came. In this book these locations are shown on copies of Smith’s own geological maps.

With a Foreword by Sir David Attenborough, William Smith’s Fossils Reunited is intended both for the William Smith enthusiast and also for those with a more general interest in the work of this remarkable pioneering geologist.The fossil illustrations and maps in this exquisite volume are aesthetically pleasing in their own right and demonstrate the extraordinary skill of early nineteenth-century engravers and map makers.

View other William Smith related titles

Type: Book
Ten Digit ISBN:
Thirteen Digit ISBN: 9780857043375
Publisher: Distributed by GSL
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 160
Weight: 1.5 kg




William Smith’s Fossils Reunited Introduction


Strata Identified by Organized Fossils

William Smith’s fossil collection and its sale to the British Museum

A Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils

Reprinting of Strata Identified by Organized Fossils

Strata Identified by Organized Fossils


Strata with Organized Fossils

London Clay


Upper Chalk

Lower or Hard Chalk

Class of Strata beneath the Chalk

Green or Chlorite Sand

Micaceous Brick Earth

Portland Stone

Oak Tree Clay

Coral Rag and Pisolite

Clunch Clay and Shale

Kelloways Stone

Corn brash

Forest Marble

Clay over the Upper Oolite

Upper Oolite or Calcareous Freestone

Fuller's Earth Rock

Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils (part I)



London Clay



Green Sand

Brick Earth

Portland Rock

Oaktree Clay

Coral Rag and Pisolite  

Clunch Clay and Shale

Kelloways Stone


Forest Marble          

Clay over the Upper Oolite  

Upper Oolite   

Fuller's Earth Rock  

Under Oolite         

Sand and Sandstone


Observations on Echini

Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils (part II)

Blue Marl


Redland Limestone   

Mountain Limestone

William Smith’s Maps and His Fossil Locations

Map 1

Map 2

Map 3

Map 4

Map 5

Map 6

Map 7

Map 8

Locality and location number listings (Numeric)


PLATE NOTES                                                    





Douglas Palmer

Whilst we might wonder why it has taken so long for William Smith’s historically important writings to become available again, we should just be very grateful that this has now happened with the publication of William Smith’s Fossils Reunited. In this the 250th anniversary of Smith’s birth and the bicentenary year of Smith’s annus horribilis—his incarceration for debt in 1819—his two most important works, Strata Identified by Organized Fossils and A Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils etc. have been republished together and with considerable ‘added value’. For the latter we have to thank the editor, Peter Wigley, his team and the publishers for a book with such high production values and reasonable price. A key element to the success of this new edition is the identification of Smith’s original fossils, and the updating of their taxonomy and excellent photographic reproduction by Jill Darell and Diana Clements of the Natural History Museum. The tragedy is that it took Smith’s financial difficulties, bankruptcy and sale of his fossil collection to the British Museum to ensure their long-term survival.

Whilst today we are used to high-quality and detailed images of fossils, the visual impact and verisimilitude of the 200-year-old, originally hand-coloured images is remarkable. Any geologist with some knowledge of English fossils can recognize them. Another tragedy for Smith was that relatively few copies of his works were sold and the series was never completed, consequently they did not become as widely known as they deserved to be.

As we can now appreciate, Smith was incredibly lucky to have met James Sowerby, his engraver, publisher and something of a kindred spirit. Sowerby certainly seems to have indulged some of Smith’s less-practical ideas, such as printing the fossil illustrations on paper coloured to match that of their stratigraphical unit as seen on his map. As a result, the definition and appearance of fossil printed on dark paper, such as the greenish-blue Greensand is not as good as those on paler coloured papers.

To fully appreciate William Smith’s Fossils Reunited you need to own a copy and browse the full extent and depth of its scholarship, which this short review has barely touched upon.

Jane Whaley

Through his work as a surveyor and his geological research, Smith travelled the length and breadth of England and Wales, gathering, describing and collating fossils. In 1816 he began Strata Identified by Organized Fossils, a book to be published as a series of pamphlets that explained the rocks of England and Wales from youngest to oldest. They were illustrated with exquisitely engraved images of the fossils found in each layer, drawn by renowned naturalist, mineralogist and illustrator, James Sowerby, from specimens provided by Smith. This was an important breakthrough: the first time anyone had tried to categorise strata through the use of fossils. Unfortunately, Smith never completed the project. Poor business decisions forced him into bankruptcy and in 1818 he sold his treasured collection of over 2,680 fossils to the newly formed British Museum providing them with a catalogue of his specimens, A Stratigraphical System of Organized Fossils.

Peter and his team of enthusiastic helpers digitised all the text of the unfinished book and of his fossil catalogue. They scanned the plates of illustrations and located and digitised notes for the unpublished part of the book, along with further original material, including comments and edits in Smith’s own hand. They then matched the illustrations to the original fossils in the Museum’s collection and photographed them. The book shows a scan of each page of the original publication on one side, with facing it the reconstruction of the same page with high-resolution photos of the fossils. Each page of Smith’s original book was colour-coded to agree with the strata colours he used in his map and this scheme has been followed in the book. It also includes copies of Smith’s maps annotated with the original locations of the fossils, which Smith had meticulously recorded.

Congratulations to the team who put together this superb book, and particularly to Peter Wigley, who conceived the idea and was the driving force behind it. It is not only beautiful to look at and a wonderful adornment to any coffee table, it should be of great interest to palaeontologists and to students of the history of geology. It is also a testament to the extraordinary skill of early 19th-century engravers and map makers – and to the genius of William Smith

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