Allen Lane goes back 500 million years

Rights - NonFiction Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Latest acquisition, Yesterday’s Worlds by Thomas Halliday, 'is an imaginative and lyrical geological history of the world'


Laura Stickney, publisher at Penguin Press, has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in Yesterday’s Worlds: Travels in Earth’s Extinct Ecosystems, by Thomas Halliday, a 29-year old, award-winning palaeontologist.

Stickney acquired rights, for publication by Allen Lane (May 2021 likely), from Catherine Clarke at Felicity Bryan Associates. Separately US rights were sold to Hilary Redmon at Random House, and Canadian rights to Nick Garrison at Penguin Canada, both in pre-empts.

According to the acquisition statement: 'Yesterday’s Worlds is an imaginative and lyrical geological history of the world, which journeys backwards in time and across all seven continents to the dawn of multicellular life over 550 million years ago, providing insight into the past as well as the future of our planet. In each chapter Halliday immerses the reader in one of the Earth's major now-extinct ecosystems, from a Jurassic-era 7,000-km long glass reef to the polar rainforests of Antarctica during the Eocene, deftly describing the terrain and the strange, and occasionally familiar, creatures that inhabit it.'

Halliday is an Early Career Fellow at the Department of Earth Sciences of the University of Birmingham, and a Scientific Associate of the School of Life Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London. His PhD thesis at UCL on the evolution of mammals in the aftermath of the last mass extinction event won the Linnaean Society Medal for the best thesis in the biological sciences in the UK.

Stickney said: "We are thrilled to bring the exceptionally talented Thomas Halliday onto our list at Allen Lane and hope he is an author we will publish for a long time. It’s hard to believe that Thomas hasn’t actually travelled to the extinct landscapes in this book, since his descriptions of the flora, fauna and terrain in each chapter are so vivid and transporting, even as the world becomes less and less familiar as we travel deeper into the past.

"What I find remarkable is that Yesterday’s Worlds is a work of tremendous imagination and yet it is all completely grounded in the fossil record. The book’s time scale also transforms our perspective on our place on this planet at a moment when so many of our natural ecosystems are under threat."

Clarke said: "I knew as soon as I began reading Thomas’s material that he was a rare and precious find: somebody who could conjure scenes of wonder from the complexities of scientific discovery about life in our planet’s ancient past and give us a deeper understanding of its profound changes over time. I am delighted his book will join the excellent Allen Lane list."

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