Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller

Remarks on Some Fossil Impressions in the Sandstone Rocks of the Connecticut River [THE SECOND EARLIEST AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHIC BOOK]

Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. First edition. Hardcover. Thin small quarto. 54pp. Period decorative blue cloth boards, with debossed blind-stamped motifs on the covers, and gilt lettering on the front. Photographic frontispiece (fold-out, measuring 8x9").

This historically significant work is considered only the second American publication to be photographically illustrated, and the first American scientific work to include a photograph. The frontispiece is a salt print photograph of fossilized dinosaur tracks, imprinted into the sandstone slab from the region of the Connecticut River. It is therefore also the case that this is very probably the first published photograph of a fossil. In the text the author states he is "indebted to photography for enabling us to represent the remarkable slab from Greenfield, and its numerous objects, in a small space, yet with perfect accuracy." The photo, which is often faint in most extant copies of the work, is credited to George M. Silsbee (1830-1900). The author, John C. Warren (1778-1856), was then serving as president of the Boston Society of Natural History, and had previously delivered much of the text included here during remarks to the society starting in late 1853.

Starting in 1802 the Connecticut River Valley increasingly became a hotbed for the discovery of evidence of prehistoric life, and one of the first remarkable areas of its kind in North America. The main portion of this text deals with the noted 1835 discovery of prehistoric tracks uncovered in the town of Greenfield, Massachusetts (along the Connecticut River), and its subsequent investigation by Amherst College geology professor Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864). Although Hitchcock and the author of these remarks John C. Warren rightly recognized these as the footprints of large prehistoric animals, most of Hitchcock's initial writings and this text referred to them as belonging to a form of large ancient bird. It was not until much later that they were recognized as the tracks of a species of bipedal therapod dinosaur Eubrontes (Eubrontes giganteus). The other side of the sandstone block (not shown) contains the track of the sauropod species Otozoum.

The first ten pages of this work are devoted to discussion of the recent discovery of the eggs of the species Aepyornis, a now extinct giant flightless bird endemic to Madagascar. This subject ties into the main subject of the piece due to the fact that the dinosaur tracks were believed, at the time of publication, to have been that of a giant bird. The work is illustrated with two additional engraved images, on p.5 (Aepyornis) and on p.53 (footprint of the Otozoum).

This work was published at a transitional time in the evolution of modern paleontology as a distinct science within the realm of natural history. Only some eleven yerars before this, pioneering British naturalist Sir Richard Owen first coined the term "dinosaur", and the term had not yet become ubiquitous. It would not be until four years after this book that William Parker Foulke's pivotal 1858 discovery of the Hadrosaurus unequivocally set the study of dinosaurs in North America into motion, and it would not be until 1859 that Darwin would publish "The Origin of Species", which changed biology and life sciences forever. This work is a fascinating and notable work in the early history of modern paleontology in North America.

Binding with some rubbing to extremities, including the front hinge of the spine. Spine sunned. Cover with some smudges. Gutter of interior front cover reinforced with japan tissue. Frontispiece photograph quite clean, but with a few small closed tears wear its bound in at the very edge. Text throughout quite clean, save for some very minor sporadic foxing and smudges. Binding in good+, interior in very good condition overall. Binding protected in modern mylar. Quite scarce. g+ to vg. Item #53165

Although this work displays Warren's deep passion for natural history, the author is however most noted as a pioneering surgeon and leading American medical professional. He served the first Dean of Harvard Medical School, founded the New England Journal of Medicine, served as the third president of the American Medical Association, and in 1846 performed the first successful public demonstration of surgical anesthesia.

Bibliographic References: Truthful Lens 181; Burns, "American Medical Publications with Photographs", p. 1250.

Price: $2,000.00

See all items in Science