Accession No


Brief Description

wooden geological models of sedimentary strata, in case and with book, by Thomas Sopwith, English, 1841 (c)


England; Newcastle [models made]; London [models sold]


Sopwith, Thomas [designer] Sopwith, John [potential maker, along with artisans under Sopwith’s command in Sopwith workshops]


earth sciences; demonstration

Earliest Date

Jan. 1, 1841

Latest Date

Dec. 31, 1841

Inscription Date


paper (card); metal (brass); wood


box closed: length 345 mm; width 270 mm; height 55 mm box open: length 345 mm; width 520 mm; height 55 mm

Special Collection


Transferred from the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, in 01/1971.



Description Notes

Wooden geological models of sedimentary strata, in case and with book, by Thomas Sopwith, English, c. 1841: “Sopwith’s Geological Models”.

Box file resembling a quarto volume, marked on the front and spine; containing 12 3-inch square topographical models of sedimentary strata, made from stained woods glued together and shaped and sectioned to illustrate various structural phenomena. Models numbered I-XII. Inside the file is a printed dedication to Professor Buckland dated 1-5-1841, and printed scales of yards and chains to the inch, and dealer’s label of James Tennant, Geologist, 149; Strand; London.

With copy of book: Thomas Sopwith, Description of a series of Geological Models (Newcastle on Tyne n.d.) [1841]

models are in good condition, box is in fair condition, book is in poor condition


James Hyslop; 'Thomas Sopwith's geological teaching models'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge; 2006:


The son of a builder and cabinet maker, Thomas Sopwith (1803–1879) started work as an apprentice to his father. After completing his apprenticeship, he changed career and became a surveyor. In 1834 Sopwith published ‘A Treatise on Isometrical Drawing’, which provided instruction on visualising and drawing techniques for geological and mining plans. These twelve wooden teaching models combined Sopwith’s cabinet-making background with his interest in geology. The different types of wood represent different geological formations, highlighting the orientation of mineral veins and coal seams under the ground. The models are based on measurements of mining districts from the North of England, and were marketed in sets of six or twelve, and in various sizes. The sets were manufactured to a very high standard in the Sopwith workshop run by Thomas’s nephew John. Constructed from 579 separate pieces of wood, they were laminated and joined together and the surfaces then carved by hand. Another set is held at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge, and other sets are extant in teaching and museum collections around the globe.
Created by: Allison Ksiazkiewicz on 24/02/2014


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