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Good Reads  Palaeontology  Palaeozoology & Extinctions

Travels with Trilobites Adventures in the Paleozoic

By: Andy Secher(Author), Niles Eldredge(Foreword By), Mark A Norell(Foreword By), Kirk Johnson(Foreword By)
376 pages, 298 colour photos
Travels with Trilobites provides an enthusiastic collector's perspective on trilobite fossils.
Travels with Trilobites
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  • Travels with Trilobites ISBN: 9780231200967 Hardback Aug 2022 In stock
Price: £29.99
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About this book

Trilobites were some of the most successful and versatile organisms ever to exist. Among the earliest forms of complex animal life, these hard-shelled marine invertebrates inhabited the primal seas of the Paleozoic Era. Their march through evolutionary time began in the Lower Cambrian, some 521 million years ago, and lasted until their demise at the end of the Permian, more than 250 million years later. During this vast stretch of planetary history, these adaptable animals filled virtually every available undersea niche, evolving into more than 25,000 scientifically recognized species.

In Travels with Trilobites, Andy Secher invites readers to come along in search of the fossilized remains of these ancient arthropods. He explores breathtaking palaeontological hot spots around the world – including Alnif, Morocco, on the edge of the Sahara Desert; the Sakha Republic, deep in the Siberian wilderness; and Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia – and offers a behind-the-scenes look at museums, fossil shows, and life on the collectors' circuit. The book features hundreds of photographs of unique specimens drawn from Secher's private collection, showcasing stunning fossil finds that highlight the diversity, complexity, and beauty of trilobites. Entertaining and informative, Travels with Trilobites combines key scientific information about these captivating creatures with wry, colourful observations and inside stories from one of the world's most prolific collectors.


On the Space-Time Road with Trilobites, by Niles Eldredge
Our Planet’s Memory, by Kirk Johnson
The Collector’s Gene, by Mark Norell
1. Cambrian Period: 541–485 Million Years Ago
2. Ordovician Period: 485–444 Million Years Ago
3. Silurian Period: 444–419 Million Years Ago
4. Devonian Period: 419–359 Million Years Ago
5. Carboniferous/Permian Periods: 359–252 Million Years Ago
6. Trilobite Thoughts and Observations
Final Thought

Customer Reviews (1)

  • An enthusiastic collector's perspective on trilobite fossils
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 28 Sep 2022 Written for Hardback

    Given my academic background, I often overlook the fact that fossils are not just objects of scientific study, but also sought-after collectables. While the previously reviewed Trilobite! by Richard Fortey focused on the former aspect, Travels with Trilobites combines an enthusiastic insider's perspective of the world of trilobite collectors with photography of his extensive collection. This, then, is the second of a two-part dive into the world of that most enigmatic extinct creature: the trilobite.

    Fossil collectors come from all walks of life. Andy Secher previously edited the hard rock magazine Hit Parader but later in life collecting trilobite fossils became his main passion and he is now a field associate in palaeontology with the AMNH. Having amassed over 4000 fossils, he ranks as one of the world's most prolific collectors. As the three forewords reveal, he is keen to share his collection with the wider world. He has provided the AMNH with important specimens for study and display, and co-edits their trilobite website which laid the groundwork for this book.

    Secher is straightforward about the book's aim: this is "a package of pure Paleozoic infotainment" (p. xxix) that takes the reader on a journey around the world to some of the most important fossil localities. The book is organised chronologically, with five chapters for the six geological periods making up the Palaeozoic Era, 541–252 million years ago. Each chapter contains multiple self-contained sections, which introduces some repetition but means the book can be read in any order.

    The biology and palaeontology of trilobites are covered in short essays that are sprinkled throughout the book in no particular order and without an overarching narrative. This covers such diverse topics as their unique calcite eyes and the spines that were only properly revealed when preparation techniques improved. It covers behaviours for which we have fossil evidence (moulting and enrollment) and those for which we can only speculate (feeding behaviour or terrestrial locomotion on tidal flats). And there is of course their part in the Cambrian Explosion,plate tectonics, and punctuated equilibrium. For those new to trilobites, there is interesting information here, though having read Fortey's book I found only a few new ideas. The book furthermore includes no references, though given the book's stated aim and the author's background, you could argue there is no reason to expect them.

    Instead, the backbone of this book is the essays that introduce you to key fossil locations. This is where Secher shines and gives insider stories and insights by himself and other seasoned collectors. He introduces famous locations such as the Canadian Burgess Shale and the Chinese Chengjiang Biota, and lesser-known ones: Australia's Emu Bay Shale which sits between the previous two in age, Portugal's Valongo Formation that has yielded giant trilobites, or Quebec's hard-to-reach Anticosti Island. He takes you to hotspots in Russia and Morocco and describes in detail how local collectors go about unearthing fossils. With Secher hailing from the US, plenty of North American locations get a good look-in. For some quarries, such as the Walcott/Rust Quarry in New York where the legendary Charles Doolittle Walcott dug for fossils, he can tell the full history from 1860 to now. Elsewhere he introduces you to some of today's veterans, such as Bob Carroll, who single-handedly put Oklahoma's Haragan Formation on the map and is legendary for his fossil preparation skills.

    It is clear that the book benefits from the chronological structure Secher has imposed upon himself because the moment it disappears the book meanders somewhat. The final chapter is aptly called "Trilobite Thoughts and Observations" with various musings on collectors and collecting. He ponders how to find trilobites, how to value them, and how to curate your collection. He describes the bazaar atmosphere of fossil shows, celebrates the work of fossil preparators, lists the museums with the best trilobite collections, and talks of colour patterns, deep time, and the role of trilobites in history. And though he touches on sore points such as legislation banning export of fossils or the problem of fossil forgery in Morocco and Russia, I found such sections somewhat superficial. Many important topics are briefly introduced, but none are exhaustively or objectively analysed. With 17 topics over 70 pages, this chapter could have been edited for length and focus. Or the best topics could have been incorporated in the first five chapters instead, where e.g. forgery is already mentioned.

    The essays are livened up by some 300 colour photos, primarily of specimens from Secher's own collection. These are intended to show the incredible diversity of trilobite form. Though Secher has attempted to tie them to the subjects and locations discussed, many noteworthy pictures were left while compiling the book. He has cleverly resorted to including a photo gallery at the end of each chapter to accommodate these. Now, Secher's collection and the selected specimens are jaw-dropping. My mental image of what a trilobite can look like has been completely scrambled and reset. However, this is let down somewhat by the quality of the photos, which is a shame as the book's large format clearly suggests this is a book to be enjoyed for its visual content. I am not talking about the 18 photos in chapter six that are visibly pixelated: this looks like an honest if embarrassing mistake. Instead, many images of especially smaller fossils look somewhat blurry. Since no photographer is mentioned or credited anywhere, I can only assume these are Secher's own photos. My guess is that he made close-up photos using digital zoom, which simply crops and upscales the photo and is unsuitable for print reproduction at large sizes. The book would have benefited from the involvement of a professional (macro)photographer, ideally someone familiar with focus stacking to let the pictures of three-dimensionally preserved fossils pop (these are now also partially out of focus).

    Some of you might wonder how, this book compares to the The Trilobite Book from 2014 that had a similar approach though was organised geographically. Having leafed through it, the quality of the photography is noticeably better. Especially if you already have that book, you might want to first peruse a copy of Travels with Trilobites in a bookshop to make up your mind. I enjoyed Secher's enthusiasm and the perspective he provides into a world I was not familiar with. Even so, I could not help but feel that some opportunities were missed to really make this book shine.
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Andy Secher is a field associate in palaeontology at the American Museum of Natural History and coeditor of the museum’s trilobite website. His private collection comprises more than 4,000 trilobite fossils. He was for many years the editor of the rock-and-roll magazine Hit Parader.

By: Andy Secher(Author), Niles Eldredge(Foreword By), Mark A Norell(Foreword By), Kirk Johnson(Foreword By)
376 pages, 298 colour photos
Travels with Trilobites provides an enthusiastic collector's perspective on trilobite fossils.
Media reviews

"Andy Secher's Travels with Trilobites chronicles one of Earth's earliest and most important groups of animals, the trilobites, and the people obsessed with their fossilized remains. The thousands of known trilobite species tell a harrowing tale of a group trying to outrun extinction across vast chunks of deep time. Secher combines stunning photography and his distinctive style into a fascinating look behind the curtain of a little known cultural phenomenon.
– Markus J. Martin, trilobite researcher

"Andy Secher's passionate paean to his beloved trilobites is a visually stunning voyage of discovery – a fossil feast for the eyes and fodder for the inquiring mind! Like the best of journeys, this one wanders in leisurely fashion, taking in the spectacular sights and leading us down fascinating narrative side roads to reveal the secrets of these long-vanished denizens of ancient seas. Take the trip [...] and be prepared to join the ranks of those of us already under the spell of trilobite-o-philia!"
– Dave Rudkin, assistant curator of invertebrate paleontology (retired), Royal Ontario Museum

"One of the world's foremost trilobite collectors shares not only the tales of these gorgeous and stunningly diverse animals but also the eye-opening inside stories of how and where their fossils have been found, prepared, collected (both publicly and privately), bought, sold, and even faked. Plentiful photographs capture the dazzling array of trilobite forms, while Secher's warm writing reveals the reasons, from scholarly to aesthetic, why so many of us have fallen in love with these lost creatures. Prepare to be swept up in his obsession."
– D. Allan Drummond, paleoartist and associate professor, University of Chicago

"Natural history nuts will gain a new appreciation for these prehistoric creatures thanks to this awe-inspiring survey."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"This book [is] a valuable resource for both scientists and collectors."
Trilobite Tales, Western Interior Paleontological Society

"[Travels with Trilobites: Adventures in the Paleozoic] showcases Secher's passion for paleontology in this account of trilobites – one of the most evolutionarily successful species to have lived on Earth."
Publishers Weekly

"This is a very well written, illustrated, and researched book. It is easy enough for all to understand but also detailed enough for those who already have an interest in trilobites."
Evilcyclist's Bookshelf

"Secher provides an impressive tour of locations around the world where one can find the fossilized remains of these creatures, delves into what scientists know about trilobite biology – including molting, reproduction, locomotion, and vision – illustrating his musings with outstanding photographs from his personal collection of over 4,000 fossils."
Trilobite Tales, R. Gary Raham

"Travels with Trilobites would make a perfect coffee table book. [...] Andy Secher's book is a love letter to trilobites. Secher showcases the treasures of his own collection, and the photographs are truly impressive. Secher clearly loves trilobites in all their sizes and forms. His admiration for these unique, long-gone creatures, as well as his collecting zeal, are really contagious. So, if Secher's true purpose was to unleash a growing horde of trilobite lovers upon the world, he actually has a pretty good chance of succeeding. Count me in!"
Re-Enchantment of the World

"A must have for anyone with an interest in trilobites!"
Birdbooker Report blog

"What a fantastic book! [A] superbly illustrated guide to all things Trilobita!"
Everything Dinosaur

"Fascinating, informative, enhanced throughout with magnificent photographic imagery."
Midwest Book Review

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