Telling the Story of Life Twice: Henry Knipe and the Versification of Natural History

The History of Life, sometimes called the Evolutionary Epic , is a genre straddling science and literature that came into being in the middle of the nineteenth century as a way of presenting a synthesizing overview of the findings of the new discipline of palæontology. Although the palæontologists themselves usually concentrated in their writings on the meticulous description of a specific kind of fossil remains or a particular find, there was clearly space for more general accounts that would attempt to encapsulate 'the story as a whole’, summarising the entire 'History of Life’ from its first foundations to the present day. It would be an extraordinary but purely factual history, a veritable Bildundsroman with Life itself as the hero.