A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900]

Author: Bernardus Varenius  | Date: 1734

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From Geographia generalis, translated by Dugdale as A Compleat System of General Geography, London, 1734.

GEOGRAPHY is that part of mixed Mathematics, which explains the State of the Earth, and of it’s Parts, depending on Quantity, viz. it’s Figure, Place, Magnitude, and Motion, with the Celestial Appearances, &c. . . .

We call that Universal [general] Geography which considers the whole Earth in general, and explains it’s Properties without regard to particular Countries. . . .


Of the Changes on the Terraqueous Globe, viz. of Water into Land or Land into Water

Proposition I. To enquire how much of the Surface of the terraqueous Globe, the Earth and Water severally take up. IT is impossible to know this accurately, because we are ignorant of the Situation of the Earth and Ocean, about the North and South Pole, and because their Superficies are terminated by irregular and crooked Lines, not easily computed or measured. But so far as we can guess, from a bare Inspection of the Globe, it seems that the Superficies of the Earth and Water are nearly equal; each taking up half of the Globe’s Surface.

Proposition II. The Surfaces of the Earth and Waters, are not always equally extended, but sometimes more, and sometimes less; and what the one loses the other gains. THE Sea frequently breaks in upon the Land in several Places and overflows it, or wastes it by degrees, and washes it away; by which means it’s Superficies is enlarged to the bigness of the Plane of Earth it overflows. But the greatest that we know of have made no sensible Alteration in the Surface of Globe, tho’ it is possible that, some Time or other, there will happen such as may. . . .


Proposition V. Rivers leave their Shores (or part of their Chanels) dry, and form new Parcels of Ground in many Places. 1. IF their Water bring down a great deal of Earth, Sand, and Gravel out of the high Places, and leave it upon the low, in process of Time these will become as high as the other, from whence the Water flows: Or when they leave this filth in a certain Place on one side of the Chanel, it hems in and raises Part of the Chanel which becomes dry Land.

2. IF a River take another Course, made by Art, or Nature, or some violent Cause, as the Wind, or an Inundation, it leaves it’s former Chanel dry.


Proposition IX. The Ocean in some Places forsakes the Shores, so that it becomes dry Land where it was formerly Sea. THIS is caused by these Means: 1. If the Force of the Waves dashing against the Shore, be broken by Cliffs, Shoals, or Rocks, scattered here and there, under Water, the earthy Matter contained in the Water, as Slime, Mud, &c. is made to subside, and increase the Height of the Sand-Banks, whereby the Violence of the Ocean is more and more resisted, which makes it yield more Sediment; so that at length the Sand-Banks, being raised to a great Height and Bulk, entirely exclude the Ocean and becomes dry Land. 2. It contributes much to heightning the Shores if they be sandy and rocky, for when the Sea dashing against them, and withdrawing, carries little or nothing away from them, but every Time it approaches them it brings Dregs and Sediment, whereby they are increased in the Manner aforesaid. 3. If some neighbouring Shore consist of light, mouldring, porous Earth, which is easily washed away by the Flux of the Sea, it is mixed with the Water, and left upon some other adjacent Shore that is harder; besides, when the Sea encroaches upon one Shore, it relinquishes another not far off. 4. Large Rivers bring down vast Quantities of Sand and Gravel to their Mouths, (where they exonerate themselves into the Sea) and leave it there, partly because the Chanel is wider and shallower, and partly because the Sea resists their motion; but this is chiefly observed in Countries, whose Rivers annually overflow their Banks. 5. If frequent winds blow from the Sea to the Shorewards, and the Shore itself be rocky or of rough Earth without Sand, it gathers Slime and Mud, and becomes higher. 6. If the Tide flow quick, and without great Force, but ebb slowly, it brings a great deal of Matter to the Shore, but carries none away. 7. If the Shore descend obliquely into the Sea for a great Way, the Force of the Waves are broke and lessened by Degrees, and the Sea leaves it’s Filth and Slmie upon it.


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Chicago: Bernardus Varenius, "The First Physical Geography," A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900], trans. Dugdale in A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900], ed. Kirtley F. Mather and Shirley L. Mason (New York: Hafner Publishing Company, 1939), 24–26. Original Sources, accessed January 16, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBKCL817LMT1GC9.

MLA: Varenius, Bernardus. "The First Physical Geography." A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900], translted by Dugdale, in A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900], edited by Kirtley F. Mather and Shirley L. Mason, New York, Hafner Publishing Company, 1939, pp. 24–26. Original Sources. 16 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBKCL817LMT1GC9.

Harvard: Varenius, B, 'The First Physical Geography' in A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900], trans. . cited in 1939, A Source Book in Geology [1400-1900], ed. , Hafner Publishing Company, New York, pp.24–26. Original Sources, retrieved 16 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PBKCL817LMT1GC9.