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July-August 2015

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Media Reviews

Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species by Malcolm E. Back. The Mineralogical Record, PO Box 30730, Tucson, AZ 85751; www.mineralogicalrecord.com. 420 pages; 2014; $34 (spiral bound).

The eleventh edition of Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species 2014 was introduced early in 2014 coincident with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. A lot has taken place in the world of mineralogical science since the last edition appeared in 2008. Each revision of this now standard work is an enormous task, and Malcolm E. Back is to be commended, as are the many people who helped along the way. The book begins with a preface in which many of these individuals are formally acknowledged. A short introduction follows in which some nomenclature ground rules are set out and abbreviations and symbols discussed. There is also an alphabetical table listing the naturally occurring elements and their mostly correct abbreviations. Because references are given for essentially every mineral covered in the body of the text, they are abbreviated therein, and a table of references and their abbreviations close out the introduction.

The alphabetical presentation of minerals begins on the first page with abelsonite and ends on page 311 with zykaite. For each species listed, the currently accepted chemical formula, the type locality, the most important references, and its mineral group, if any, are given. Once the minerals have been dispensed with, what can possibly occupy another 108 or so pages? Unfortunately our world has gotten complicated. Formal mineral groups were introduced in the 2008 edition of this Glossary. This was a useful and convenient way to pigeonhole major groups of similar minerals, and all was well. Then in 2009 a standardized hierarchal system of formal mineral grouping was proposed (Mills et al. 2009), and although their work is internally consistent, things are now far more complicated for the collector This new system has been incorporated in this latest version of the Glossary as an expansion of the original attempt to formalize mineral groups. For example, the first group is the Adelite-Descloizite Group. Most collectors have a conichalcite specimen, pleasingly green and likely from Mexico. You will be happy to learn that this mineral belongs to the Adelite Subgroup of the Adelite-Descloizite Group. I know nothing of adelite, nor would I have recognized the obvious link to my conichalcite specimen had I not been writing this review. There are one hundred pages of supergroups, groups, and subgroups. Tourmaline is the name of a supergroup now and clearly should have never been linked to a mere species. What could the earlier classic mineralogists have been thinking? The first group in the Tourmaline Supergroup is the X-site Calcic Group. Please note that feruvite is the first species listed in Calcic Subgroup 1. I will understand if most readers stop here so that they can rush to their mineral cabinet to begin correcting the labels in their tourmaline drawer. You will be pleased to learn that there are tourmaline subgroups given for which there are no known species, Vacant Subgroup 3, for example. The point is, there has emerged a clear place where science and hobby must diverge. The collector will rarely if ever need this group information, and though interesting, it will be lost on most readers. For the scientist this is important stuff, but I suspect that most purchasers of the Glossary will be collectors who want to know whether or not a species is valid and if so, what its composition is and where to learn more about it.

But there is more. Wouldn't you know that not all minerals can be appropriately organized into groups. Enter the pesky sulfosalts. The final ten pages of the Glossary contain a section titled “Sulfosalt Systematics.” Here the rather pedestrian confusion generated by groupings is pushed aside in lieu of yet another effort at organization in which we deal with such things as atomic ratios, the first of which includes sulfosalts in which the atomic ratio of cation to chalcogen is 1. Contained within are single types, isotype series, and everyday isotypes. There are some familiar minerals here such as lorandite and emplectite, but is this level of information and categorization important to the casual reader or the average collector?

All complications aside, the new Glossary is a massive work that is an indispensable reference for any serious mineralogist or mineral collector. Of course, it is not without fault. Australian mineralogist Peter Bayliss has carefully critiqued the finished product and found more than three hundred suggested changes that range from correcting the chemical symbol for argon and modifying the spelling of aluminum to aluminium to issues with references. When you consider that there are at least three trillion items that could be examined in the text, a mere three hundred gripe points suggest a near-perfect Glossary. Although I hope to never have to again open the Glossary past page 311, I consider this book a must-have for everyone with a serious interest in mineralogy.

REFERENCE

Mills, S. J., F. Hatert, E. H. Nickel, and G. Ferraris. 2009. The standardization of mineral group hierarchies: Application to recent nomenclature proposals. European Journal of Mineralogy 21: 1073–80.       

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