Hugh Miller, The Old Red Sandstone; or, New Walks in an Old Field

Ralph James O'Connor (Editor), Michael A. Taylor (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportScholarly Edition


The Old Red Sandstone is a forgotten classic of English and Scottish literature, one of the first bestsellers of science writing, and probably the best-loved book on fossils ever written. Published in 1841, when many believed the earth to be just a few thousand years old, it revealed how immeasurably ancient their planet was, and inspired ordinary people to explore that lost past. Its author was Hugh Miller: self-educated stonemason, crusading editor and social campaigner, and champion of palaeontology hailed by Victorian titans of science and literature.

Written in chatty, lyrical and vivid prose, Miller’s book was both a working man’s memoir of joyful fossil-hunting in Scotland’s countryside and a psychedelic plunge into deep time and its weird fishy denizens, with folklore, local history and Enlightenment cosmology thrown into the mix. One contemporary called it ‘the most fascinating book ever written on a geological subject – [it] contains the history of a powerful mind, as well as that of a geological epoch’.

This is the first new edition of The Old Red Sandstone for 100 years. Volume 2 reprints the original, now rare, first edition in facsimile with notes and glossary. A full-length companion critical study in Volume 1 explores how Miller wrote his book, its literary strategies, why it was so important and what real-life readers made of it. This edition also includes a foreword by novelist and poet James Robertson and a contribution by Andrew J. Ross, Principal
Curator of Palaeobiology, National Museums Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherNational Museums Scotland Publishing
Number of pages624
ISBN (Print)9781910682258
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

This output is a contribution to history of science and cultural history as well as to the study of English literature.


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