I have learned to like amber and this certainly isn’t the first book on the subject I have reviewed. I make no apologies – it’s a fascinating subject. However, if you like fossils in amber, you should definitely get this book. But, if you don’t like creepy-crawlies, perhaps you shouldn’t – as it’s the pictures that make it a resounding success.
The Caithness area of Scotland is important for its geology, but is also well known for its palaeontology. The Caithness Flagstones are famous for fossil fish and the Helmsdale Fault for the Helmsdale Boulder Beds deposit, beside an active submarine fault scarp. The area even once had its own ‘gold rush’ and you can still try your luck at panning there today at Kildonan.
Once upon a time, I would have said that the only reason to buy this sort of guide is to look at the (black and white) photos of dinosaurs and their bones, and learn about the terrestrial life of what is now the Isle of Wight. However, this is obviously wrong. Of course it is possible for amateurs, as well as professionals, to find dinosaur bones on the beaches of the island.
When the long awaited PalAss guide to Wealden fossil flora and fauna finally arrived, it was apparent that it was a magnificent tome. It is, by far, the most ambitious and complete of their guides, covering various vertebrate groups, together with invertebrates, plants and stratigraphical descriptions of what can be found on the coast and in the quarries of southern England and the Isle of Wight.
The Scottish Borders region is famed for their frontier history, and attendant myths and ballads. This book is concerned with their more ancient geological history, which is revealed by its rocks. These indicate that the area was once on the edge of a huge ocean – the Iapetus – which met its end between the inexorable crush of tectonic plates.
There are many good guides the geology of the Lake District and this is no exception. It is an illustrated guide to the region’s rocks and an introduction to the common rock types to be found, largely through the use of colour photographs. It also explains how they fit in with the Lake District’s geological history.
There are several good books on the fossils of the Gault Clay and, by extension, Folkestone. However, this little guide has an advantage over the others that I have looked at.
Anglesey contains a fascinating variety of rock types and geological structures, best exposed in a magnificent coastline. The bedrockgeology of Anglesey comprises a complex collage of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks that were formed between 300 and 650 million years ago.
Roderick Impey Murchison must have been a remarkable man. The son of a Scottish landowner, he was one of the first people to rigorously use the principles of stratigraphy discovered by William Smith, which put him in a position to erect the Silurian system and to name about 123myrs of geological time.
There is very little on the fossils of the UK Permian, so this guide was a welcome addition, when it was published in 1988. This was the third of 1988, Palass’s guides to (usually) UK fossils, which the professional and amateur can use to identify and learn about the fossils they have found or want to find.
It might come as a surprise to the vast majority of the UK population (and probably anyone reading this elsewhere), but this country is a great place for dinosaurs. In fact, it is one of the most important places for Lower Cretaceous dinosaurs, whose remains have been found on the Isle of Wight and in the Weald. A possible Triassic dinosaur has also been found in Morayshire, Scotland, and there are plenty more from the entire length of the Jurassic.
Fossils of the Oxford Clay was the fourth published guide by PalAss and covers the eponymous Jurassic Oxford Clay, which has been the major source of brick clay in the UK, notwithstanding the closures of clay pits in the Peterborough area over the years since this was published.
The first ever fossils I collected were from the spoils tips of the two coal mines in Aberdare, South Wales. Alas, these and most other such spoil tips have been landscaped and covered over. Clearly this was both inevitable and desirable after the closure the UK coal industry, but it is a shame for those of us who love Carboniferous Coal Measures plant fossils.
The author, John L Morton, certainly came to popular geological publishing by an interesting and circuitous route. Trained as a pilot, became the district commissioner for scouts in Horsham and, on retirement, studied a BSc in, among other things, geology. In 2001, on the strength of this book on William Smith, he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society.
I like the GA guides. They are excellent resources for amateurs and professional geologists alike. I frequently browse mine, planning geological trips I will probably never take, because I live in geological unexciting London. Therefore, imagine how pleased I was to receive a GA guide to the Great Metropolis to review.
Most PalAss guides, making up its wonderful library of guides to fossils, are about UK fossils. This is the only one that concentrates solely on non-UK geological formations. It is about two formations found in northeast Brazil and so is a complete departure from the usual format.
In this book, you will travel back millions of years in time, as though a time-traveller, to join wildlife safaris and visit ancient environments teeming with life. As the fossils come alive, you will experience and understand the fauna, flora and landscapes seen at localities in the geological past of Scotland.
I have a soft spot for PalAss guides and have reviewed several in the past. As a collector myself, the amount of information about the relevant fossils is second to none, with black and white photos and descriptions of virtually everything the amateur or professional palaeontologist might need.
Like others in the series, Fossils of the Gault Clay has the usual excellent black and white photographs of beautifully prepared specimens. Each chapter is authored by a specialist in the relevant subject, containing an introduction, followed by detailed systematic descriptions of each specimen.
The Pentland Hills in Scotland yield a large number of Silurian marine fossils. Although theys are only found within a small area of the Pentland Hills, the formations are extremely rich in fossils.
Dorling Kindersley is well-known for producing popular reference media for beginners and enthusiasts. Its Eyewitness Guides to fossils and rocks and minerals, for example, along with their later addition, the Eyewitness Handbook of fossils, certainly makes a useful starting point for anyone new to geology or palaeontology.
This is a lovely book – a glorious mixture of a beautiful coffee-table book and an academic treatise of the highest quality. But why microfossils? What is it about them that can create such strong feelings?
Increasingly nowadays, the London Clay Formation is becoming a favourite hunting ground for fossils and several good books have been written about it. This guide, written by eminent plant palaeobotanist, Margaret Collinson was the first published by PalAss in its library of guides to (usually) UK fossils for professionals and amateurs.
Just a couple of days before the Covid-19 lockdown, I was with friends at Tidmoor Point collecting wonderful pyrite ammonites from the Oxford Clay with this excellent guide to the South Dorset Coast. The South Dorset Coast runs from the West Fleet (of Chesil Beach fame) to and including the Isle of Portland.
Dean Lomax, sometime author of articles in Deposits magazine, is certainly making a name for himself, and has been now for many years. For instance, in January 2022, he was on television explaining about a remarkable find at Rutland Water Nature Reserve. And now he continues his admirable efforts for popularise his chosen academic subject – palaeontology – in this fascinating book about the fossilisation of behaviour.