200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 35: “Cope's Bible ”

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photo of librarian holding Cope's publication
Librarian Elena Sisti holds one of the Ewell Sale Stewart Library & Archives' copies of Edward Drinker Cope's The Vertebrata of the Tertiary Formations of the West.

Cope's Bible

It's a foot thick and weighs in at 15 pounds. There are more than a thousand pages, more than a hundred illustrations, and accounts for about 350 fossil species of mammals and reptiles from the Bridger Basin in Wyoming, the John Day Fossil Beds of Oregon, the Puerco of New Mexico, and the White River Badlands of South Dakota.  Its author, Academy scientist Edward Drinker Cope, described The Vertebrata of the Tertiary Formations of the West as "the big book I have been at work on for ten years."

The size and expense of the book stunned the man responsible for publishing it, John Wesley Powell. An ally of Cope's arch rival, Othniel C. Marsh, Powell was the director of the United States Geologic Survey, a position formerly occupied by Cope's ally Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden. Powell was obligated to publish the book, which was one many volumes in the survey's report, but he obviously didn’t relish the task. Moreover, Cope was slated to write two more volumes.

They were never published.

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