A rock is a book, according to one of our favorite authors, John McPhee. True enough, rocks have layers of meaning like pages in a book. Maybe it’s because we love the written word, or maybe it’s because we always wished we had grown up to be a field geologist chipping away at sedimentary strata — either way, here are a few passages that have always appealed to our naturalist/explorer bent:
This boulder seemed like a curious volume, regularly paged, with a few extracts from older works. Bacon tells us that ‘some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.’ Of the last honour I think the boulder fully worthy.
— Sir Archibald Geikie
The Story of a Boulder, or Gleanings from the Notebook of a Field Geologist (1858)
Rocks are records of events that took place at the time they were formed. They are books. They have a different vocabulary, a different alphabet, but you learn how to read them. — John McPhee
For a billion years the patient earth amassed documents and inscribed them with signs and pictures which lay unnoticed and unused. Today, at last, they are waking up, because man has come to rouse them. Stones have begun to speak, because an ear is there to hear them. — Hans Cloos
Conversation with the Earth (1954)
Image above: A postage stamp issued jointly by Greenland and Finland (October 2008), in honor of Nordic explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiold and his expeditions to Greenland (1870-1883). The stamp was designed and engraved by Norwegian artist Martin Morck.
The Grand Canyon at the Foot of the Toroweap, Looking East by William Henry Holmes, 1882