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Fossils of West Virginia

Fossils of West Virginia, (2 volume set)
Vol 1: Invertebrates & Vertebrates, 400 pages
Vol 2: Plant life & Paleobotany, 338 pages
By Hassan Amjad M.D. F.L.S.
Copyrighted 2006

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - March 16, 2015

Fossils of West Virginia is a monumental work that examines the fossil record of West Virginia. Written by Dr. Hassan Amjad, this work is divided into two volumes. The first volume is devoted to the animal kingdom, notably invertebrates & vertebrates fossils, and the second volume covers plant fossils & paleobotany. Amjad concentrates upon commonly found fossils in West Virginia. Throughout these two volumes, the text is informative, authoritative, and accessible. As important, the text is enhanced by the inclusion of more than 1,000 color and black & white illustrations and plates.

Volume One: This remarkable series begins at the beginning by discussing what fossils are and how they are formed, and why the study of paleontology is important. This is followed by a brief overview of the history of the earth, and an explanation of how fossils are classified. The text then moves on to the study of the fossilized remains of invertebrates, such as Brachiopods and Sponges. Also included is a section on fossilized vertebrates commonly found in West Virginia, along with discussions on microfossils, pseudofossils, conodonts (eel like creatures), trace fossils, and much more. Volume two of this remarkable set deals with coal age paleobotany, plant fossils, plant classification, and the geology of petroleum, to name but a few topics.

Combined, these two volumes represent the most comprehensive overview of the fossils commonly found in West Virginia, as well as a few less common types. Pictures or illustrations of the fossils are included, as well as some illustrations of how the fossils might have looked when they roamed, swam, or grew in West Virginia. In the process of providing this overview of the fossil record, Amjad also offers an insightful introduction to the geologic history of West Virginia.

To my understanding, Fossils of West Virginia is the only comprehensive book on fossils in the state that has ever been written. The closest book to Amjad's is William H. Gillespie's book, Plant Fossils of West Virginia, which was reissued by the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey in 1978. While an excellent book, it does not cover the full of extent of the fossil record in West Virginia, and while well illustrated, it lacks the phenomenal and extensive photos found in Amjad's work. While copies of Plant Fossils of West Virginia are still available, the book is out-of-print, and it has not updated for a long time.

Fossils of West Virginia is an obvious labor of love, and its creation must have taken years of painstaking work. The end result is a priceless resource for anyone interested in fossils, fossil collecting, natural science, and geology. Much of the material in this book, while focused on West Virginia, is also applicable to areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and other nearby states that share the same geologic history as West Virginia. The information will also prove useful to anyone, worldwide, with an interest in the fossil record of the planet.

When buying a copy of Fossils of West Virginia you have three options. A full color print edition is available, as well as a black & white edition. Both of these are on the expensive side. Over US$ 200, for the two-volume color edition, and over fifty dollars for the black and white edition. If you can afford the color edition, go for it. I've not seen the black and white edition, but a goodly portion of the value of this book is found in the color pictures which make up the bulk of the illustrations, and when shown in black and white it might be hard to identify specific features of the fossils.

There is however, a third option that is both affordable - and in color. Amjad has released this book on CD. The files on the CD are in a PDF format that can be opened in any PDF reader, and they are in full color! There is one file for each volume of the book. The files are fully searchable, and each file contains the full text and illustrations found in the corresponding volume of the print edition. Best of all, the print size can be easily enlarged, if so desired. I don't know how readily available this CD edition is. However, I was able to purchase a copy from the Prehistoric Planet Store, and they are still offering all three editions of the book. The Prehistoric Planet Store is a West Virginia company that sells not only books, but also fossils, fossil replicas, and much more. (I am not affiliated with this company in any way, other than being a former customer.) I've also seen the CD edition listed on eBay.

Fossils of West Virginia will enthrall anyone with an interest in fossils and West Virginia's past, including academics, collectors, scientist, and general readers. It well deserves a place in both public and private libraries and it will make a delightful gift for budding palaeontologists of all ages.

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