Standing on the shoulders of giants or Ammonite literature

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Just a small selection of ammonite literature I´m using to write this book

When you start collecting ammonites seriously, you want to know what you have found. Most collectors early in their collecting life begin by picking up everything that looks like a fossil (just as I did) . Only later, when your drawers start to overflow up or simply because you are interested in one type of fossil more than in others, specialization will happen.
Chances are that for identifying your finds you´ve had one or more of the more general fossil books which cover everything from foraminifera to dinosaurs and mammals. For every fossil group these naturally can only show the most common representatives of that group – when you specialize, you will very soon get to the limits of these books, even for a fossil group such as ammonites, with a lot of very common representatives.

Now palaeontology is a science with hundreds of years of history and many palaeontologists specialized on ammonites and published their works about them.
A brief snip from my literature index, in my view with particular importance to the liassic ammonites in Yorkshire, Britain and elsewhere :
Ammonite literature

A brief snip from my ammonite literature index, spanning approximately 6000 pages

This constitutes an estimated 6000 pages of some rather specialized books and papers.
I have them all in my library and have read through many, but not all of them, some are just ad-hoc reference. But this is something only somebody as crazy as I am will do. You will have trouble getting access to many of these books and papers since many are out of print for a long time or in a pay-per-view internet library. For some you will have to pay collector´s prizes if you wanted a printed book, like the very popular Lias SCHLEGELMILCH that sometimes costs more on eBay now than what you had to pay after it was freshly published.
I think this is in the process of change at the moment as Open Access (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access ) gradually becomes more accepted and more and more journals open up their back volumes to public access in the form of pdf files. Some scientists even publish a pdf copy of every paper they can scan on their own server – though there still may be copyright issues with newer publications on there (that´s why I won´t put the link on here).

As you can see in some of the titles, these monographs tend to be very specialized as well, only covering e.g. one family of ammonites, one specific stratigraphy, one location. These are publications that have been made with the scientist in mind, everything is as reproducible as possible, and in many cases statistical studies have been made to verify population boundaries as for example in HOWARTH´s Hildoceratidae monograph – I´m deeply awed by these works and not always completely without regrets of having chosen another profession. But this is not for everyone…
All this taken together amounts to one of the reasons I´m writing this book : I get a feeling that something “in between” is needed, something bridging the gap
between the specialist paper and the amateur collector that allows to get a decent overview of the Yorkshire ammonites without reading tons of papers.
And who knows how this project might turn out : Nowadays it´s just a difference of a few mouse clicks (OK a bit more)  and you publish your paper as a real paper book, an e-book  or an open access pdf file… although I must admit a real paper book is my absolute favourite option of these.
AndyS
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: