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Publications of the Geological Society of London

The Geological Society of London, established in 1807 and the oldest geological society in the world, has published papers presented at its meetings variously as the Transactions, the Proceedings, the Quarterly Journal of the GS (QJGS) and the Journal of the GS.The publication of the Transactions began in 1811, now known as the first series. Due to delays in publishing, the first series was brought to an end in 1821 after the issue of 5 volumes in 7 parts, the last two volumes, IV and V, being published in two parts.

The second series of the Transactions began again in 1822 engaging an independent publisher. The irregular and occasional schedule continued to be a problem, causing significant delays in the publication of scientific papers. The Transactions were discontinued in 1856.

The Proceedings, from 1827 to 1971, generally, provided brief reports of the Society's meetings and abstracts of papers. For a brief period, 1843-45, to deal with delays and erratic issue of the Transactions, the Proceedings included selected papers in full with illustrations. This was a temporary solution and in 1845, the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society (QJGS) was initiated. It had a smaller octavo format, like the Proceedings. It moved from hand coloured engravings to colour printing and proved popular. It was not envisaged to discontinue the Transactions but to retain its large quarto format for papers that would benefit from it. However, by 1856 the Transactions ceased to be published.

QJGS was published continuously until the 1973, when it became the present Journal of the Geological Society, published six times a year. Colour printing of maps and sections had largely disappeared by the Second World War, so that late twentieth century maps in black and white or occasionally 3 colours were generally disappointing graphically.

The Transactions had never sold well because of their great expense. Apart from these contemporary commercial considerations, the Transactions were visually a model publication with lavishly produced engravings of fossils and hand coloured maps and sections. However, undistributed copies accumulated causing a space problem. In the 1840s, to remedy the situation, individual papers with illustrations were separately bound and sold. In 1848, remaining volumes were offered to members at half price. In 1851, the Society sold off the remainder to a book-dealer for £100, retaining just 50 copies of each issue. What became of the book-dealer's investment is not clear, but by mid-twentieth century, the 12 volumes of the Transactions had become greatly valued by geo-bibliophiles and geo-map collectors. Finally, in 1972, in a sale prior to an alteration of the Society's rooms in Burlington House, the remaining Transactions were snapped up. These were unbound volumes. (The Transactions had always been sold unbound, or paper-bound, so that purchasers could have them bound to suit their libraries.)

Transactions, first series

Transactions of the Geological Society, second series

Vol. 1 – 1811

Vol. 2 – 1814

Vol. 3 – 1816

Vol. 4 – 1817, in two parts

Vol. 5
– part 1 – 1819
– part 2 – 1821

Vol. 1
– part 1 - 1822
- part 2 - 1824

Vol. 2
– part 1 – 1826
- part 2 – 1827
– part 3 – 1828

Vol. 3
– part 1 – 1829
– part 2 – 1832
– part 3 – 1835

Vol. 4
– part 1 – 1835
– part 2 – 1836

Vol. 5
– part 1 – 1837
– part 2 – 1840
– part 3 – 1840

Vol. 6
– part 1 – 1841
– part 2 – 1842

Vol. 7
– part 1 – 1845
– part 2 – 1845
– part 3 – 1846
– part 4 – 1856

For more information, I recommend:

  1. Herries Davies, Gordon L., Whatever is Under the Earth: The Geological Society of London, 1807-2007, The Geological Society, London, 2007.

  2. Woodward, Horace B., The History of the Geological Society of London, The Geological Society, London, 1907.

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