Skip Navigation

January-February 2015

ResizeResize Text: Original Large XLarge

Media Reviews

Mineralogische Sammlung Deutschland: Das Krügerhaus in Freiberg (A German Mineral Collection: The Krügerhaus in Freiberg), Krüger-Stiftung edition. Bode Verlag; 280 pages; 2012; €19.80 plus shipping (softbound in slipcase).

This lavishly illustrated book with German text describes the mineral collection in the Krügerhaus Museum in Freiberg, Germany. The museum's holdings center around the Pohl-Ströher collection but include specimens on loan or donated by the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, by the university foundation's German mineral collection, and by private individuals. The book is a special volume published to commemorate the opening of the museum.

The book is divided into six chapters, each a separate essay of sorts and authored by one or more experts. These include such well-known authorities as Dr. Uwe Richter on historical aspects of the site and Birgit Seidel on site renovation. Jürgen Voigt's essay follows with a very well-illustrated survey of the house's restoration and the museum's construction. There follows a 2-page chronology of the history of the Krügerhaus beginning with 25 March 1510, moving through various changes in ownership and occupation, and ending with the museum's planning, construction, and opening details up to 20 October 2012. Next, Prof. Gerhard Heide and Dina D. Sperl discuss museum and collection specifics and some of the more interesting matters related to displays. Friederike Meyer follows with a description of display specifics, integrating an interview with architects Martin Fröhlich and Robert Zeimer. The section is complete with floorplans and an interesting several pages on the wonderful crystal-model display.

Finally we arrive at what for the collector is the meat of the book, a 170-page presentation of the finest of German minerals and their occurrences by Rainer Bode and Dr. Steffen Jahn. The chapter is arranged by mineral locality, beginning appropriately with Freiberg. Exceptional silver species are illustrated, many by full-page photographs. Schneeberg is next, followed by Schlema-Alberoda, again with exceptional specimens used to illustrate this lesser-known locality. The uranium minerals of the Johanngeorgenstadt section consumes the next several pages and is followed by Annaberg and Marienberg. Zschopan pyromorphite and Pöhla barite are illustrated in the following several pages. Exceptional cassiterites are shown next in sections covering Zinnwald and Ehrenfriedersdorf. Further on there are photographs of an outstanding crocoite from Callenberg and a very aesthetic galena from Ramsbeck. The minerals of Siegerland are well illustrated and include several wonderful Herdorf rhodochrosite specimens. Toward the end of the chapter, fine Braubach and Bad Ems pyromorphites are shown as well as an unusual cerussite from the latter locality. In short, no significant German specimen-producing locality has been left out, and this chapter alone serves as a fine summary of the country's specimen-producing heritage.

The book closes with brief biographies of the chapter authors and several pages of acknowledgments. Mineralogische Sammlung Deutschland is well arranged with a thoughtful layout, abundant relevant illustrations including rare historical texts and maps, and generally brief but useful text. The production is of the usual high standard expected of Bode Verlag with sharp, crisp printing on high-quality stock. For those not reading German, the very large number of photographs alone make the book well worth its price, particularly for collectors not contemplating a visit to this fine modern museum. It is highly recommended for one's mineralogical library.

Contes à Cristaux: Memoires d'un Cristallier Savoisien (Tales of Crystals: Memoirs of a Savoyard Crystal Collector) by Claude Julien Ducarre, Les Éditions du Piat, Saint-Julien-du-Pinet, France. 144 pages; 2013; €24.21 (softbound).

This is an interesting, and in some ways captivating, book but one that may have to be occasionally taken with a grain of caution. To begin with, both the preface (by Roger de Ascenção Guedes, editor-in-chief of the magazine Le Règne Minéral) and the twenty-three Contes (Tales) are written in what one might say is somewhere between colloquial and flamboyant French. In other words, they are not the typical, straightforwardly descriptive, clearly laid-out expositions of localities or collecting trips that one might expect from a book on minerals. As the preface notes, the book is “très original, riche de sens et souvent poetique” (very original, rich in meaning, and often poetic). It continues: “Une sélection de souvenirs qu'il a voulu revêtir d'un peu de fantasie et d'imagination, afin de ne pas tomber dans le piège ‘des gens qui se prennent un peu trop au sérieux’” (A selection of memories which he wished to be touched with a bit of fantasy and imagination, so as not to fall into the trap of ‘people who take themselves a little too seriously’). The preface also emphasizes that the book is intended for a very wide audience, including young people.

Claude Julien Ducarre, having reached eighty-five years of age, decided that he should sketch out these stories partly, one supposes, as an autobiographical exercise, partly as a catalogue of the fabulous minerals of his native Savoy, partly as an illustration of the wildlife of the regions in which he has collected, and partly for the entertainment of his readers. In his professional life, he is a doctor of ophthalmology, but in his, one might say adventurous life, he has been one of the great mountaineer collectors. English doesn't really have a word properly descriptive of this activity. The French term “cristallier” used in the book doesn't do it justice either. Perhaps the best term is the German “Strahler.” Most of us will recognize a Strahler as the indefatigable collector, clinging to cliff faces, scaling icy peaks, and braving yawning chasms in search of his treasures. Ducarre appears to fit the description well. The Haute-Savoie (High Savoy) department in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, abutting as it does on both Switzerland and Italy, gave him plenty of opportunity to do just that. The photograph on page 75 of booted feet emerging from a cleft in a cliff face attests to his daring. Here, he amassed a huge collection of specimens, often of museum quality. He also took excellent photographs, many of which adorn the book. Interestingly, his subjects were just as likely to be the landscapes, mountains, animals, or people he met along the way as well as localities. On many of his trips, he was accompanied by his wife, Jeanine, an accomplished artist in watercolors, whose works also illuminate the text.

The “Tales” themselves are relatively short, each illustrating a particular trip or mineral, some very fanciful and some simple expositions. For example, the story illustrated by the boots, above, has the major title “Découvertes” (Discoveries), but the full title, including subtitle says: “Discoveries: Here we are no longer in the tale, but the exact truth without embellishment.” It is a factual story about the discovery of axinite in the rugged region known as Les Aiguilles de L'Argentière (the Needles of Argentière), but the full title gives one the impression that some of the other stories are not without embellishment. He does seem to run into a remarkable number of cows (plus the occasional bull), and one story, titled “La Vache et l'Améthyste” (The Cow and the Amethyst) describes how his wife, looking for amethyst at the base of a cliff, was almost flattened by a cow falling from the heights above. A sketch by the author (clear, but not as good as his wife's) illustrating a cow in free fall from a 10-meter cliff, accompanies the story. She found no amethyst, but they did get the farmer to call the butcher before the meat spoiled.

There is no question that Ducarre has accomplished a great deal in his collecting life. Among the stories are also visits to Brazil, Stromboli, Iceland, Algeria, and Nepal. He has certainly paid his dues and has the specimens to prove it. Additionally, at the end of the text is a list of the minerals mentioned in the text, with excellent photographs of each, taken by photographer L. D. Bayle. A short bibliography, particularly of Ducarre's works, adds to the whole.

The book is an interesting read and contains much valuable information, but as the preface indicates, there is a fair bit of embellishment and the “poetic” throughout. A good illustration of that is given in one of his Brazilian stories in which he describes “un oeil trainant sur les fesses dorées des jolies cariocas ornées d'un mince triangle de tissu bariolé, somnolentes sur le sable chaud” (an eye cast on the golden buttocks of the beautiful Cariocas, adorned with a thin triangle of multicolored fabric, somnolent on the warm sand). Okay—he's eighty-five, but he is a Frenchman.

I do have a couple of quibbles with the book. First, there is no table of contents (well, there is, but it's on the inside of the last page and pretty much useless unless you think to look there first). Secondly, there is a little too much of the “poetic” for those for whom French is not their native tongue. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish fact from fantasy (I suspect that most of it is fact, but there is considerable hyperbole in the way it is expressed). Nonetheless, it is a good exposition, particularly of the minerals of the high Alps, and those who have an interest in the mineralogy of that region will find it worthwhile.

Siegerland & Westerwald: Bergbaugeschichte—Mineralienschätze—Fundorte (Siegerland & Westerwald: Mining History—Mineral Treasures—Localities) by Rolfe Golze, Markus Heinrich, Stefan Hucko, and Norbert Stötzel. Krüger-Stiftung edition, Bode Verlag; 800 pages; 2013; € 78.00 (hardcover).

This is a book that mineral collectors should find attractive—after all, it weighs 4 kilograms, and about two-thirds of that is probably high-grade kaolinite. The book does have a few idiosyncrasies. First, it is in an odd format of 24 × 28.5 cm (roughly 9.5 × 11 inches). That doesn't make it look mal-proportioned, but it does make it stick out on a shelf. Secondly, the title page doesn't appear until page 11, and the publication data are on page 800. Thirdly, the pages before the title page are full-page photographs of minerals, mines, and miners. The pictures are gorgeous and very interesting, but the question is: Why are they before the title page? Their presence tends to throw the reader a little off-stride at the beginning, and one really needs to be on-stride to challenge this book; it is massive.

There is one striking omission. There is no map that says “This is Germany, and here are the Siegerland and Westerwald.” There are maps, but they are all small geological or locality maps. Of course, the book is for a German audience, and Germans know where the Siegerland and Westerwald are. Other folks don't. There ought to be a large orientation map. The Siegerland is an area in North Rhine–Westphalia, centered on the town of Siegen, east of Cologne. The Westerwald lies south of there, toward Koblenz, and the mines described are in the region between two tiny villages: Müsen in the Siegerland and Willroth in Westerwald. The villages are only 65 kilometers (40 miles) apart in a straight line, and the mines do stretch beyond, but not by much. Still, the mineral output from that area has been immense.

Although there is evidence of mining in the region from the time of the Celts (ca. 500 BC), the book celebrates the 700th anniversary of the Grube Stahlberg in Müsen, first mentioned on 4 May 1313, as Steinberge zu Muzen. Steinberge is “stone mountains” in German, but the later Stahlberg is “steel mountain.” The pit was in operation in 1313 and remained so until 31 March 1931. The mine owes its reputation to the size and quality of the orebody, a very pure and manganese-rich siderite of great value to the steel industry.

But the anniversary of one mine, spectacular though it be, is nothing compared to the massive production of the entire district. That's why the book has 800 pages, although 600 had been planned. Besides the preface and foreword, it is divided into eleven sections, the first three of which cover the early history of the area, the story of the the Siegerland Mining Company, a discussion of the geology of the region, and the formation of the orebodies, all in 36 pages.

Section four (14 pages), brings to light some of the classic mineral specimens recovered from the area: rhodochrosite, malachite, goethite, limonite, bournonite, millerite, pyromorphite, siegenite, dufrénite, barite, lepidocrocite, and, of course, siderite. One classic mineral that was very unpopular was quartz. Quartz veins running through the siderite made it unusable and could close a mine.

The 584 pages of section five, titled simply Die Mineralfundstellen (The Mineral Localities), are an exhaustive description of the mines, their history, and their products. They are also an introduction to those minerals that may not be accounted among the “classics” of section four, but they are just as attractive to collectors. Here is leadhillite, coronadite, delafossite, cinnabar, mimetite, pyrargyrite, polybasite, fletcherite, carollite, among others, and silver in lacey dendritic fans and great chunks. Some chunks, as ancient legend has it, were so great that in the Grube Gonderbach, one was carved into a silver chair to honor the reigning prince.

The section is packed with historical photographs, charts, mine diagrams, and beautiful shots of the minerals found there. Of course, many of the mines are no longer to be found—most of the mines closed a long time ago and are now represented by locked adit gates or simple wooded knolls.

Section six is titled “Minerals of the Volcanic Rocks in the Siegerland-Wied Ore Region.” There were two volcanic phases that left basalt and zeolite minerals. Those merit 12 pages, of which 7.5 are devoted to the minerals and 4.5 to a bibliography of Siegerland and Westerwald. Why there, I cannot fathom. As I said, the book is idiosyncratic.

Section seven is 90 pages of collections and collectors associated with the area.

Section eight contains reminiscences of H. G. Koch, a journalist, book author, and collector of the region, again with a large attached bibliography.

Section nine is a list of the minerals of the region; section ten a list of the mines, collections, and historical places; and section eleven an index. Oddly, between sections ten and eleven are a number of pages of commercial advertising.

The book represents an enormous amount of work. The body of information is staggering and well beyond addressing in a review such as this. It is a “must have” for those with mineral interests in the region. A caution is that the language may cause difficulty. There are mining-related terms that do not appear in standard dictionaries. Be prepared to make yourself work.


In this Issue

Taylor & Francis Group

Privacy Policy

© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group · 530 Walnut Street, Suite 850, Philadelphia, PA · 19106