Lyme Regis, Dorset
June 17, 1918
Subject: Mary Anning’s discoveries
It is hoped that you are not being disturbed, but the undersigned needs to talk with you about something regarding the discoveries of Mary Anning, which have just recently come to the undersigned’s attention.
Firstly, the undersigned would like to discuss the discovery made by her elder brother, Joseph, with you. It is remarkable that he managed to unearth something so rare, and so unknown to our scientists. The discovery that he has made was, if it can be recalled correctly, an enormous head of a fossilized creature, four feet long, the jaws filled with sharp, interlocking teeth, and eye sockets that were very large, holding one complete eyeball and one broken one. Joseph required the help of a few men to completely take the head out of the sand, so it was certainly heavy. He was fully intending to show this discovery to Mary, but the mudslide made it harder for him to do so. However, after quite a great deal of months, Mary was able to make quite a great deal of discoveries related to this skeletal head. Unearthed around 1811, this specimen was buried in the “Jurassic Coast,” which is the south coast of England, and was the first discovery ever made of a prehistoric creature, so it is believed that it should be brought to the Museum for display. If the museum does this, not only will they encourage palaeontologists to be more ambitious in their exploits, but they would also serve as an inspiration to all those smart, young children living in the world today, considering the current conditions of our country, which are indeed very war-stricken.
Of course, Joseph is not the only one who made a discovery, as Mary also made one herself, though it was after nearly a year had elapsed. Her discovery was, quite possibly, more influential to science, as it was that of an entire skeleton, about seventeen feet long. It started with vertebrae, approximately three inches wide, and she then uncovered ribs (some still connected to the vertebrae) buried underneath all the limestone. It, like with Joseph, took Mary the help of some men to uncover the rest of the skeleton, and they managed to uncover a backbone of sixty vertebrae. On one side, it looked like a fish with a very long tail, while on the other, its shape was harder to discern, considering that that the ribs were forced down upon the vertebrae. As soon as the skeleton was completely uncovered, word-of-mouth spread quickly through the town, and Mary was offered twenty-three pounds for this fossil, enough to feed the family for over six months. After the exhibition of the head discovered by Joseph, It is implored of the addressee that the skeleton discovered by Mary should be exhibited next, because it was influential in developing palaeontology beyond how it started. It was a discovery for its time, and is, equally so, a discovery for the current times.
As the addressee can gather, the undersigned feels strongly about the relics being brought to the Museum, and there are several reasons why; firstly, these exhibitions have had a big impact on science today, so it is to be believed as best, for the sake of the people of the city, to exhibit these in the city’s very own Natural History Museum. Secondly, look at all these children, some who have suffered from the war, and some who want to pursue big things in science. These exhibitions might allow them to learn things about palaeontology, and also serve as escapism from their current sufferings; it may set them on the path to making similar discoveries themselves. Lastly, we need to preserve these fossils from those far too willing to steal them, and those who have such hatred for science that they will destroy them. All of these reasons are strong enough for the undersigned to urge you to take these in quickly. Administer them into the Museum. Guard them. They represent palaeontology, all it ever was, and all it ever will be. The undersigned is a dying man, dear addressee, and is, along with that, also a palaeontologist, which is why there is such a strong concern present for these skeletal pieces being preserved. It is hoped that the enormity and brevity of the task is duly comprehended.
And, so, the undersigned ends this letter with a hope that you stay in good health, and a hope that you may oblige to the undersigned’s wishes.