Du Toit, Alexander L. | Our Wandering Continents

  • First edition, first impression, an attractive copy in the rare dust jacket. Our Wandering Continents presented some of the most important geological evidence for the theory of continental drift and included the first proposal of the existence of the supercontinents Laurasia and Gondwana. From the library of prominent Northwestern University ornithologist Albert Wolfson (d. 2002), with his ownership stamp and signature. Wolfson specialised in migration, making important advances in our understanding of how birds prepare for and time their migrations. Of relevance for this copy, he developed a theory of migration based on the movements of the continents over geological time. Wolfson was awarded the Brewster Memorial Medal of the American Ornithologist’s Union, one of the highest honours in the field (Chicago Tribune obituary, February 21st, 2002).

    South African researcher Alexander Du Toit (1878-1948), known to his contemporaries as "the world's greatest field geologist" (LeGrand, Drifting Continents and Shifting Theories, p. 82), was the leading supporter of Alfred Wegener, who had first advanced the theory of continental drift in 1912. Du Toit collected a vast body of evidence for drift as he mapped strata over large tracts of South Africa between 1903 and 1920, and he became the leading authority on the Karroo region, whose anomalies he believed were explained by continental movement. Du Toit traveled to Australia and South America in 1914 and 1923 to test this hypothesis, comparing strata and fossils between the regions.

    "Using Drift, the directions of ice flow deduced from the Dwyka Tillite in South Africa and Australia could be harmonised with those reported for India and South America. Glossopteris and other fossils could be matched up with those in other southern continents... Drift offered an elegant solution to problems he had identified, especially those associated with the great southern glaciation" (LeGrand, p. 82). Du Tuoit eventually determined that the Karroo region extended across all of the southern continents, leading him to reformulate Wegener's theory - instead of one previous supercontinent, Pangea, he postulated that there had been two, Gondwana in the south and Laurasia in the North (we now know that both men were partially correct, as Pangea split into these two supercontinents). Though continental drift was not fully embraced by the scientific community until the 1950s, Du Toit's work made crucial contributions to our current understanding of the Earth's history.
  • ...An Hypothesis of Continental Drifting. With 48 Diagrams. Edinburgh & London: Oliver and Boyd, 1937.

    Octavo. Original red cloth, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. 2 Folding plates, illustrations throughout the text. 1 leaf of integral ads at rear. Ownership signatures of Albert Wolfson on the front free endpaper and page 101, ownership ink stamp of the same on the title. Small pencilled note to the verso of the jacket. Edge of upper board bumped also affecting the dust jacket, spine rolled, cloth and contents fresh. An excellent copy in the jacket that is toned along the spine panel and lower panel, and a little rubbed with a small chip from the head of the spine panel.