PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Jamie OsbornIn conversation with Sasha Dugdale
(PN Review 240)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Sasha Dugdale On Vision Yehuda Amichai's Blessing Chris Miller on Alvin Feinman Rebecca Watts Blue Period and other poems Patrick McGuinness's Mother as Spy

This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Pictures from a Library

Pictures from the Rylands Library
41: ‘Mementos of a Curiosity’: The Fossil Poetry of Mary Anning
Stella Halkyard
Section of the Coast of Dorset

ACCORDING TO Carlo Ginzburg, ‘the hunter was the first ‘to tell a story’, because ‘he alone is able to read, in the silent, nearly imperceptible tracks left by his prey, a coherent sequence of events’.  But hunter-storytellers are often times as likely to be ‘she’ as ‘he’. And sometimes it is hunter herself who is the story, as in the example of Mary Anning, told here.

Born in 1799, Mary Anning’s reputation as a finder of fossils earned her the title of the Princess of Palaeontology. As a small child she and her brother Joseph would accompany their father Richard on his expeditions along the friable Jurassic coastline. At this time tourism was booming in the town of Lyme in Dorset and visitors clamoured for specimens of ‘serpents’ (ammonites), ‘fish-lizards’ (ichthyosaurs) and other ‘valuable relics of a former world’ (George Cumberland) as souvenirs of their stay. The fossil-hunting forays of the Annings, when they were ‘at the continual risk of being crushed by the hanging cliffs of Lyme’ (Cumberland), were carried out to supplement their impoverished income. They also fuelled Mary’s imagination as she underwent her apprenticeship, geological hammer in hand, to become the means by which her family earned a living after her father’s early death in 1810.

Mary was in the right place at the right time. Her discoveries coincided with the emergence of the new science of geology as its empirical focus on the study of rocks began to challenge prevailing ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image