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Abstract

Thomas Webster published his earliest geological observations by commission in Sir Henry Englefield’s Description of the Isle of Wight (1816), a work concerned as much with historic architecture and picturesque landscape as with geology. This paper shows how Englefield’s broad three-part agenda fostered the development of Webster’s specifically geological competence and sensibility. As a professional draftsman and architect, Webster was especially well equipped to translate Englefield’s architectural and picturesque idiom into a more geological register. Their collaboration also illustrates how well the style and content of local history – a traditional literary and learned genre – could be applied to geology. For Webster in particular, the image of ruins was essential for representing the historicity of geological phenomena. This paper adduces close readings of numerous passages from Englefield and Webster’s work to show how strongly the traditional language and research questions of antiquarianism continued to shape geology even as it became a professional specialization.

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