William Smith, an English surveyor and geologist, was born Mar. 23, 1769. An elaborate system of canals was being laid out in the British Isles at the end of the 18th century, and as Smith surveyed canal routes, he became intimately familiar with the rock strata on the surface of much of England. He compiled this knowledge into a geological map that was published in 1815 as A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales. It is one of the great landmarks of geological mapping. Each rock layer, such as London Clay or Green Sand, was indicated by a specific color; and the color was applied by hand after printing. The Delineation was printed in 15 sections; they were sometimes assembled into a map; more commonly, as in our copy, the sections were bound as separate sheets into a large folio volume.

The images above show the region around Bath and Wiltshire (second image); a detail of that section (first image); the region around Derbyshire and the midlands (third image), with a detail of that section (fourth image); a section across all of England that appears as a detail on one of the maps (fifth image); and the engraved title page to the work (sixth image).

We displayed the Derbyshire section of the Smith map in our 2004 exhibition, Vulcan’s Forge and Fingal’s Cave, which is available online.

Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City