THE BRIDGEWATER TREATISE OF WILLIAM AND MARY MORELAND BUCKLAND
The Bridgewater Treatises were published at a time (1833-1840) when geology was becoming professionalized, yet, particularly in Britain, natural theology remained a respectable intellectual thread independent of biblical geology. Moreover, treatise authors such as William Whewell (Astronomy and General Physics) took it upon themselves for the series to write educational, professional and (especially in Bucklands’ case) data-rich treatises. The series altogether was highly successful; by the time Bucklands’ was produced, 5000 copies of the two-volume treatise were printed and sold out, later reprinted as well as translated. The first volume comprises text primarily organized as in historical geology, the second a compendium of wonderful illustrations, primarily of organic beings.
The role Mary Moreland Buckland played in generating the treatise is in part documented by her children’s recollections, but also we know that she maintained a lifelong practice of fossil collection, curation and illustration; she also collaborated with her daughter on phytological research. Before meeting William Buckland, Mary Moreland already was practicing paleontology and had illustrated fossils for Georges Cuvier and William Conybeare. Buckland first sought out Miss Moreland for these reasons, and indeed their honeymoon became a grand geological tour of Europe.
Bucklands’ popular Bridgewater treatise served different roles for different groups (J. Topham, 1998 Isis). While it helped to keep geology moving out of the biblical realm without offending powerful clerics, it was also a widely read work by paleontologists, geologists, and the educated public. For Earth historians, it was an important reference work, particularly for its copious documentation and illustration of fossils in a context of time.