Lawrence, Thomas (fl. circa 1664) Mercurius Centralis: or, a Discourse of Subterraneal Cockle, Muscle, and Oyster-shels. London: Printed by J[ohn] G[rismond] for J. Collins, and are to be sold at the Angel in Ivie-lane, 1664. First edition, 12mo, one of two variants printed in 1664, the other with R. Royston's name in the imprint, nonetheless inscribed on verso of imprimatur leaf, "ex dono Mr. Royston," rare, one U.S. copy at Folger; the Britwell Court copy, a note by Thomas Thorpe, bookseller, dated 1867, attributing the Royston inscription to the hand of John Milton (who, in 1664, and been blind for some years), bound in 18th century mottled calf, gilt-tooled spine, 4 7/8 x 2 3/4 in.
Lawrence tackles one of the questions that vexed many 17th-century scientists, naturalists, and philosophers: how to explain the existence and origin of ancient fossilized shells. Without knowledge of the exact age of the earth, and relying on religious works as the ultimate authority of all things ancient, it was difficult to square the existence of fossils with the biblical stories of creation and the flood.
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