James Hall, like other authors and editors of 19th-century American state and federal surveys, learned first hand that publishing illustrations was time-consuming, frustrating and expensive. But illustrations were indispensible, providing the graphic communication of morphology that justified the author's taxonomic decisions. That essential information, however, passed through the hands of an illustrator and either an engraver or lithographer before it reached the scientific audience that would test and judge it. Artists and printers, therefore, needed close supervision; plates required careful proofing and sometimes cancellation. Hall, like his colleagues, vastly underestimated the time and expense that his project would entail.

The plates illustrating the Palaeontology reflected changes occurring in American science and printing. Over the decades spanned by the publication, picture printing techniques changed from craft to industry, and converted from engraving to lithography; so did the New York survey. Meanwhile, the scientific profession developed illustration conventions to which publications with professional intent increasingly conformed. These conventions combined standards of "accuracy" with issues of style to reflect both scientific activity and its social context. The early illustrations drawn by Mrs. Hall were no less "accurate" although clearly less polished than the collaborations between R.P. Whitfield and F.J. Swinton, or the later work of J.H. Emerton and E. Emmons, Jr. The artists and printers of the Palaeontology plates emulated and contributed to the emerging national style of zoological and paleontological illustration, and thus helped consolidate the "look" of American science.

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