WHAT is beneath our feet? Another world, actually “We stand atop a vast, invisible dominion of soil and rock, rifts and mines, chambers, veins, minerals and groundwater,” author Robert Macfarlane points out. This description come from his foreword to Strata, a new book that examines and reproduces the historic map created in 1815 by William Smith; Britain’s first geological map.

The official title of Smith’s map is as follows: “Sheets I-II, A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland; Exhibiting the collieries and mines, the marshes and the fen lands originally overflowed by the sea and the varieties of soil according to the variations in the substrata, illustrated by the most descriptive names by W. Smith. William Smith, 1815.” Above is his delineation of the Firth of Clyde.

What is this? A glimpse of the very foundation of the world.

STRATA: William Smith’s Geological Maps is published by Thames & Hudson at £50 © University of Oxford, Museum of Natural History.