King, Clarence, Arnold Hague & Samuel Emmons; Descriptive Geology. Volume 2, Report of the Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel. Washington DC, GPO, 1877.

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King, Clarence, Arnold Hague & Samuel Emmons;  Descriptive Geology. Volume 2, Report of the Geological Exploration of the 40th Parallel. Washington DC, GPO, 1877. Large quarto, pp. xi, 890, frontispiece, 25 plates.


The volume is complete and in the original green cloth with gilt spine titles. The volume is tight and clean with minor wear to corners and edges which has been professionally restored. The text and all plates are clean and bright. In very good condition.


Clarence King (1842-1901) is well known for his organization of one of the principal post–Civil War geological surveys of the American West, the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. The fact that, at the age of 25, he was given complete command of a five-year mapping project from the Sierra Nevada across the Rocky Mountains attests to a remarkably charismatic personality. The survey volumes, Descriptive Geology by Arnold Hague & Samuel Emmons and Clarence King’s Systematic Geology, rank as two of the great scientific works of the late nineteenth century. 

King was educated at the newly established Sheffield Scientific School at Yale. He excelled in geology under Professors George Brush and James D. Dana and was graduated in 1862 in the first Sheffield class. During the winter following his graduation, he attended lectures in glaciology by Louis Agassiz at Harvard. In1863 King joined Josiah Whitney’s geological exploration of California. During three years with Whitney, he made many first ascents of Sierra peaks and he named summits such as “Dana,” “Brewer,” “Lyell,” and “Whitney,” as well as “King.” These experiences are discussed in King’s Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. 

With endorsements provided by Brewer, Dana and Agassiz, King then convinced Congress to fund geologic mapping of some 100,000 square miles of the southwest, with King being in charge. The survey field work was begun in 1867 and was completed in 1872.

King arranged that Mining Industry (v. 3, 1870) appear first in order to demonstrate the benefit of his survey to the mining community. Descriptive Geology (v. 2, 1877) and King’s Systematic Geology (v. 1, 1878) appeared shortly thereafter. King had persuaded the world leader in the new petrographic study of rocks, Ferdinand Zirkel, to prepare Microscopical Petrography (v. 6, 1876). Other volumes reviewed aspects of paleontology, botany, and ornithology.

The Descriptive Geology volume provides some of the first accurate descriptions of the geology of the Rocky Mountains, Green River Basin, Utah Basin, Nevada Plateau, and Nevada Basin.