Born in Scotland in 1792, Roderick Murchison was a man who left a remarkable scientific legacy. In the early 1800s, there was no recognised geological time-scale; no realisation that rocks of similar age could be correlated across continents. The vast expanse of geological time – the knowledge that the landscapes with which we are familiar were slowly formed over millennia – was only beginning to be fully understood. Identification and classification are the first steps to understanding, and Murchison, through extensive work in England and Wales, established the Silurian system; a classification of rocks laid down between approximately 450 and 415 million years ago. This was a major insight into our present understanding of geological time: grouping together rocks of similar age by identifying the fossils within them. He further extended this work and also established the Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian systems; a tremendous legacy of a lifetime's work.
Murchison suspected that these systems extended throughout northern Europe, so when the Czar invited him to make a geological map of Russia, he leapt at this opportunity to further his knowledge and his scientific career. In his scientific journals, he recorded his findings, published as Geology of Russia in Europe and the Ural Mountains in 1845. His private journals were where he recorded his thoughts and reflections on his travels; he also included lively accounts of life in St Petersburg and Moscow, meetings with the Czar and members of the Imperial Court, the logistical problems and hazards of travel through unmapped territory, and meetings with various ethnic groups such as the Cossacks and the Bashkiri. He kept these journals with the original idea of publishing them as a 'geological travelogue' on his return but never did. Murchison's Wanderings in Russia is that book.
The book relates the story behind the production of this map – the long field seasons in adverse conditions, the thousands of miles travelled, meeting new peoples for the first time and formulating theories in the field. It is a magnificent insight into the mind of a passionate, driven man and is fascinating from many angles – political, social, historical and geological.
The book is stunningly illustrated throughout with etchings of Russian scenes and contains a reproduction of Murchison's Geology of Russia map – colour-matched to the original, and at the same scale. His geological cross-sections are also included. All are in a bound box within the book.