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Sciences of AntiquityRomantic Antiquarianism, Natural History, and Knowledge Work$
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Noah Heringman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556915

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556915.001.0001

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‘The Whole of This Coast Is Composed of Ruins’: Thomas Webster’s Fieldwork on the Isle of Wight

‘The Whole of This Coast Is Composed of Ruins’: Thomas Webster’s Fieldwork on the Isle of Wight

(p.281) 7 ‘The Whole of This Coast Is Composed of Ruins’: Thomas Webster’s Fieldwork on the Isle of Wight
Sciences of Antiquity

Noah Heringman

Oxford University Press

Thomas Webster, the first ‘professional geologist’, 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 Gothic architecture and picturesque landscape as with geology. This chapter 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, the image of ruins was essential for representing the historicity of geological phenomena. By attending to a new set of ancient ruins, this chapter shows how strongly the traditional language and research questions of antiquarianism continued to shape geology even as it became a professional specialization.

Keywords:   Description of the Isle of Wight, Englefield, Sir Henry, Geology, History of, Gothic architecture, Isle of Wight, Local history, Ruins, Webster, Thomas (1772–1844)

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