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Atlas of Colorado

November 30, 2001

I’m reading a book with an unconventional typography, and I’m not sure I like it. Change is hard, they say, although it’s not so hard if it’s an improvement.

In the case of typesetting, the paragraph indentation has a long history of great utility. The designers of this book were a bit too clever, though, in using the proofreader’s paragraph mark [?] instead of the indent to begin every paragraph in the book. It is distracting, if not irritating.

But on to the book: “Ferdinand V. Hayden: entrepreneur of science,” by James G. Cassidy. It is about a man who probably cared little about such trifling matters as typography. He had larger concerns, such as surveying the American West.

This period of Great Surveys, during the 1860s and 1870s, completed the exploration and mapping of the continental United States. These surveys were named after their leaders: the King, Powell, Wheeler, or Hayden Surveys.

Hayden surveyed most of Colorado and Wyoming and parts of New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. These surveys produced, among other publications, the well-known “Atlas of Colorado.” The title page more fully reads “Geological and geographical atlas of Colorado and portions of adjacent territories by F. V. Hayden, U.S. Geologist in Charge.”

I know this because I’m looking at the title page right now. The library owns two of these atlases, dated 1877 and 1881. They’re neat. Nineteenth-century American science and exploration was neat.

In this column, we met another notable person from that time–the scientist Joseph Leidy. Hayden was one of Leidy’s principal suppliers of fossils and geological specimens from the American West.

Many scientists and leaders of the day thought Hayden should have been the first director of the United States Geological Survey, but you might guess that money, powermongers, and the politics of disinformation won out, and not without the help of one John Wesley Powell.

But the “Atlas of Colorado” was completed by then. It is available for inspection at the library, but by request only. It no longer resides in the atlas case. An unfortunate design flaw in the case permitted the large books to be damaged upon removal.

They have been lovingly repaired by Mary Kunard. She and her husband Ed Rogers run a very appealing business from Chaffee County. They trade in old geology books. It’s a niche market, for sure, but it covers the entire world.

Ed retired from a career as a geologist, and thus the expertise to compete in this niche. He knows what geologists need and want, knows what’s valuable. Mary maintains a wonderful workshop in which to repair and conserve the old books and other materials they acquire.

Let me say right now: No, Mary does not do family bibles. She is too busy with their business to open shop here. But she has, when time permitted, graciously helped the library with some difficult repairs.

Most recently, when even their unique business paused after the September 11 attacks, Mary spent an afternoon with me repairing a box of books and showing me materials and techniques she uses.

Ed and Mary love their work. It’s not just the “freedom” of self-employment. Like many self-employed people, they’re probably less “free,” but they are engaged everyday in pursuits that satisfy them, that require and reward their expertise, and that connect them with a wide world.

Purveyors–indeed, saviors–of old geology books. There’s another career your guidance counselor never told you about.

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