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May-June 2010

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Media Reviews: May/June 2010

Mythos Tucson, oder Warum zu einer Mineralienböse in die Wüste? (Tucson Myths, or Why Visit a Mineral Show in the Desert?) by Gerd M. Wiedenbeck. U/C-tec GmbH, Walldorf, Germany ( 352 pages; 2009; €75 plus shipping (hardbound).

I first encountered this book at the 2009 Munich Show, and I must say that I was immediately intrigued by the title. It is a large coffee-table-sized book, about 12.5 × 10 inches, hardbound, and 352 pages of high-quality paper, making it a heavy book as well. It boasts some 470 color photos, the bulk of which were taken by the author over a span of years from 1993 to 2009. It is, of course, in German, an unfortunate fact that will limit its appeal in the United States. At present there are no plans to produce an English edition.

Wiedenbeck is a geologist and a mineral collector. He is also an entertaining writer and a first-class photographer. This book is unlike anything that I have seen with regard to books written for the mineral collecting community. It is at the same time a travelogue, a diary, a photo album with commentary, and a remarkable account of what the Tucson experience is all about. After a relatively short introduction that includes an explanation of why Wiedenbeck undertook this enormous task, and some history of Tucson and the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the book then becomes a diary/travelogue covering Wiedenbeck's sixteen years of attending the show and exploring the western United States, including much of Arizona, as well as the surrounding states and one trip to Hawaii. Beginning with 1993, each year is a chapter, and each chapter features some of the things that characterized the show for that year plus the author's excursion to some part of the western United States. Included are mineral collecting experiences in several mines that are familiar to collectors, such as the Old Yuma, Washington Camp, the Morenci, the Rowley, the Red Cloud, the Kelly, and others.

A large number of the photographs were taken in places famous for their natural beauty, such as the Grand Canyon, Saguaro National Park, Monument Valley, Meteor Crater, Death Valley, Maui (Hawaii), Arches National Park, White Sands, and Zion National Park, among others. And I must say that these photos are first-class, very much like what one is accustomed to seeing in National Geographic magazine. The mineral-show photos are a curious mix of minerals and people, dinosaurs, motels, vendors, and amusing signs.

Even if you don't read German, this is a fun book to leaf through. With a German dictionary, one can easily manage the mostly short photo captions, and the photos are really what the book is all about. My German friends who are fluent with the language tell me that the editing is sloppy in places and some of the fundamental points of German grammar have been violated, but that, of course, is completely lost on me. One is always sorry that books are sometimes rushed into print to meet a certain deadline, thus omitting the final polishing that eliminates many of these problems. But one can also sympathize with Wiedenbeck who had been working on the book for some sixteen years and was eager to see it in print. I am sure the deadline in this case was the 2009 Munich Show, which occurred at the end of October.

John S. White
Stewartstown, Pennsylvania

Collector's Guide to the Vesuvianite Group by R. J. Lauf. Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310; 93 pages; 2009; $19.99 (softbound).

The vesuvianite group is a small group of minerals with only one not containing the vesuvianite name, and that is wiluite, a mineral I was completely unaware of until reading this book. The other three minerals in the group are vesuvianite, fluorvesuvianite, and manganvesuvianite. Robert Lauf does a good job of illustrating the group with colored photos of specimens that can generally still be obtained in the size and quality shown. A few are U.S. specimens, but many come from worldwide localities. It is pointed out that vesuvianite does have limited lapidary use—e.g., californite, a jade substitute that consists of vesuvianite and grossular. It also has faceting potential, but that is mostly restricted to specimens from Italy. Vesuvianite's somewhat complicated crystal structure is briefly well described, and numerous references are provided if more detailed information is desired. Overall, I found the book informative and well done and the best of the monographs in the series that I have read so far. As with the other books, it allows the person interested in a specific group of minerals to get the data desired without having to search through numerous mineralogy books or mineralogical journals. If this group of minerals is a specialty in your collection, the book is a must-have. I will certainly add it to our mineral society's library.

Arthur E. Smith
Houston, Texas

Collector's Guide to Fluorite by A. E. Pasto. Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310; 93 pages; 2009; $19.99 (softbound).

So far this is the only monograph in the series that is about a single mineral species, not a group. It has the same format as the other books and contains a lot of data on fluorite; plus it has a good bibliography for additional research. What this volume offers that the others do not is an extensive section on classic localities, extending from pages 35 to 88. They are arranged by country with each having a short description and many illustrations. This will certainly help collectors confirm specimen locations printed on their labels or possibly indicate that another location is a better match. It might not be the ultimate authority for changing a label, but it is a good place to start and then look to other sources for confirmation. I like this section; it should be of value to those specializing in fluorite, particularly if they are relatively new collectors; however, as one who has been collecting for more than fifty years, I also find it useful. Although the mineral photographs are not generally the highest quality, they are adequate, especially considering the book's modest cost. As with other monographs in this series, I recommend it to those with an interest in the subject mineral.

Arthur E. Smith
Houston, Texas

Collector's Guide to the Axinite Group by R. J. Lauf. Schiffer Publishing, 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310; 91 pages; 2009; $19.99 (softbound).

The axinite group consists of four mineral species: axinite-(Fe), axinite-(Mg), axinite-(Mn), and tinzenite. Although there are probably more than twenty-five localities for axinite in the United States, I am not aware that any of them are prolific or produce showy cabinet specimens. Thus, the book provides a great opportunity to learn about some interesting mineral species and their occurrences, chemistry, and characteristics and to view photos of representative specimens. The book is set up like the other monograph volumes, so just having all this data available for easy access in one place is a plus for the publication. Especially valuable for many collectors is the three-page listing of world localities for the mineral group, giving specific species that occur at each. This information is not readily available elsewhere and is useful for updating one's labels and specimen data programs—reason enough for buying the book. The price is very reasonable for a book that can make an important impact on one's collecting and collection.

Arthur E. Smith
Houston, Texas

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