James Deane did not live to see this book, his masterpiece, published. He died on June 10, 1858, leaving illustrations and photographs but not a lot of text. His friends and colleagues at the Boston Society of Natural History, who had been supportive of the project from the start, decided to complete the writing, sell more subscriptions, and see the book through publication. The Smithsonian Institution had already paid for the production of the illustrations, but it seems they could not offer further support.
The co-founder of Little, Brown and Company, James Brown, had been a member of the BSNH and may have known Deane personally. Even though Brown had died a few years previously, the company took on publication of the book. Most of the writing was done by Thomas Bouvé, the BSNH's Curator of Geology, with help from Edward Hitchcock, Roswell Field, Augustus Gould, and others. The book is among the first in the country to use photographs as scientific illustration.