8 June 2015

A terra incognita of wonders


In his account of his first discovery of Devonian fishes in The Old Red Sandstone, Hugh Miller describes how he split open a calcareous nodule and found inside 'finely enamelled' fish scales. 'I wrought on each with the eagerness of a discoverer entering for the first time a terra incognita of wonders, Almost every fragment of clay, every splinter of limestone nodule contained its organism - scales, plates, bones, entire fish...I wrought on until the advancing tide came splashing over the nodules and a powerful August sun had risen towards the middle of the sky; and were I to sum up all my happier hours, the hour would not be forgotten in which I had sat down on a rounded boulder of granite by the edge of the sea, and spread out on the beach before me the spoils of the morning.'
A Land  Jacquetta Hawkes (1951)

The photograph of Hugh Miller was taken in 1843. The day he describes in this passage was in the summer of 1830.

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