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Monday, 27 June 2011

An earlier Dorset

The picture on the left, entitled Duria Antiquior or "an earlier Dorset", dates from 1830 and was one of the first attempts to depict Jurassic creatures such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs as they were when they were alive, rather than as fossilized skeletal remains. The picture was drawn by Henry de la Beche (1796 - 1855) who, as well as being an amateur artist, was one of the leading geologists of the first half of the nineteenth century. He had lithographs made of Duria Antiquior, which were sold to raise money for Mary Anning and her family in Lyme Regis.

De la Beche spent much of his childhood travelling, but when he was sixteen his mother settled in Lyme Regis. He explored the geology of Lyme with Mary Anning, and wrote several articles on the area. In 1835 he founded the Geological Survey of Great Britain.

There are a number of exhibits in Lyme Regis Museum relating to Henry de la Beche, including the charming little drawing reproduced below, dated 23 March 1815 and entitled "French People at Lyme". The picture shows a group of visitors who would have come to Lyme by boat and landed at the Cobb.
Lyme Regis Museum is grateful to the Department of Geology at the National Museum of Wales for permission to use Duria Antiquior, and to the British Geological Survey for "French People at Lyme".

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