HENRY DE LA BECHE’S “GREAT BOOK” CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE OBSERVATION OF GEOLOGY: SECTIONS AND VIEWS, AND A GEOLOGICAL MANUAL
De la Beche wrote Sections and Views for his colleagues with the purpose of providing detailed field observations. He specifically stated, “It would be much more desirable that facts should be placed in the foreground and theories in the distance” since the contemporary theories often rested on little supporting evidence. In Sections and Views, De la Beche constructed 40 plates, with accurate, unexaggerated portrayal of geological information.
In the 1830s, both a literate middle class and advances in printing techniques emerged in Britain. Within this context, De la Beche authored texts for the general public. His first general geology text, A Geological Manual, was his most successful. First printed in 1831, the text was published in three English editions, and translated into French and German. This book was more prolifically illustrated than its contemporary texts; the 1833 French edition also included the first vignette reconstructions of ancient life. Well-regarded by contemporary geologists, A Geological Manual still serves to thoroughly document the research practices and the existing geology base during the Golden Age of Geology. As De la Beche predicted, the observations and geological facts recorded in his texts continue to hold relevance for modern geologists and historians.