JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
There was an unexpected sighting in a book I was reading just now, found in a gift (from Philippa Rowlands, coming all the way from Australia) of W.H. Davenport Adams' The Wonders of the Underground World, Described and Illustrated, printed in London in 1878. Having been born underground in Germany, and having a lifelong pull towards submarines, tunnels, caves, mining, burial practices, and so on, the Adams book from Philippa was a very appropriate gift.
In the very opening pages I found two things that have drawn me into the book. (Well, truth be told, I liked it instantly because of the Victorian publisher's binding, which is nicely detailed.) The first bit was the very sedate view of our carboniferous period, from 300-350 million years ago. In the bottom right was the surprise--a land octopus. Perhaps there are other 19th c examples, and this probably will just display what I don't know, but spotting the octopus was a wonderful citing for me. The earliest octopod comes from this period, the pohlsepia (named for its discovered, James Pohl), of which there is evidently only one piece of fossil evidence, and that was very recent, so there's no wonder, really, how the octopus is on land in this relatively early attempt to deal with the carboniferous.
Here's the image, left (full scale) and right (detail):
[Interesting site for fossil octopods: https://www.tonmo.com/community/pages/fossil-octopuses/]
The other enjoyable thing in these early pages was the question "Is Man a Fossil?", which is a question that is unique to Google:
These are some of the reasons why it is so interesting to read older books like these, seeing how the author posed questions, and seeing how those questions come through to a modern reader, whether they were the original intention of the question or a new one created by changes in the knowledge base.
(By the way, the author, W.H. Davenport Adams, was a very busy guy in his time, writing in a lot of different venues, across many different disciplines, not the least of which was annotating a collected Shakespeare. Impressive.)