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Media Reviews

The Gerhard Wagner Collection—Tourmalines & Fine Minerals Part 1 by James Walker, Mary Fong/Walker, Craig Kissick, and Jenny Milani with photographs by Mark Mauthner. Fine Minerals Auction Catalog for 7 June 2015. Heritage Auctions, Dallas, TX; www.HA.com. 294 pages; 2015; $50 (plus postage and handling) (softbound).

Rocks & Minerals does not often review media directly related to commercial mineral sales, but in this case, an exceptional book documenting the initial auction of an important mineral collection has been produced that itself will likely become a collector's item. It is the catalogue of the first segment of the sale of the Gerhard Wagner mineral collection by Heritage Auctions. The auction, which took place on 7 June of this year, clearly established the value of top-quality specimens, especially tourmaline, and although the bulk of the book is devoted to the first session of the auction, a few final 15 pages document through smaller photographs a second “Internet” session held the same day.

The book begins with a single-page invitation and prefatory note that is followed by a brief biographical sketch of Gerhard Wagner and how his mineral collection came to be. Next we find a useful table of contents for Session One—“A Mineralogical Spin Around the Globe.” The specimens are presented by locality in a somewhat geographically indirect path that takes us across the Atlantic Ocean twice. Nevertheless, once one sees the pattern of presentation, specimens from specific localities can be easily found. Specimen descriptions begin on page 10 and continue, hammering the reader with one fantastic photograph after another, through page 277. Short though informative and interesting introductions are given for certain localities that range from entire countries, such as Vietnam, to provinces and states, such as the gem-producing regions of Brazil. At least one photograph is given for each mineral (some of the more dramatic specimens could even be viewed online prior to the auction in 360-degree videos by Bryan Swoboda). Descriptive text accompanying each specimen includes locality data; unusual features of the specimens from that site; detailed characteristics of the specimen, paying particular attention to color, transparency, damage, repairs and the like; and overall dimensions in the English and metric systems. If the specimen was featured in the earlier book on tourmalines in the same collection by Fong/Walker, Neumeier, and Walker (2015), this is also mentioned. Finally, the minimum starting bid and the expected price range are given.

Although the strength of the collection is its seemingly endless supply of fine tourmalines, there are sections in which only other species are shown, giving readers a chance to catch their breath. For example, only non-tourmalines are seen in sections on China, India, Canada, and most of Europe (only two tourmalines are shown from Elba), for example. There is an interesting cerussite from Iran, several fine pyromorphites from the Bunker Hill mine in Idaho, a few Sweet Home mine rhodochrosites, and even a California gold or two. Still, the tourmalines prevail. Wagner's love for them is clear. His suite of Pederneira mine, Brazil, tourmalines is exceptional and occupies a full 19 pages. Tourmaline and related minerals from Afghan localities are similarly featured in a 32-page section. The overused expression “eye candy” certainly comes to mind the moment the book is opened.

This is an auction catalogue worth having, particularly in the sense of historical specimen documentation through the exceptional photographic skills of Mark Mauthner. The paper, cover, and binding are of high quality. The editorial quality is good, although terms such as pristine seem to be overused, as the photographs clearly speak to the quality of each piece. This is, however, offset by the correct use of the dramatic ally descriptive and important term Wilber with respect to lots 73057 and 73280, for example. We understand that this was the first formal printed application of this word to specific mineral specimens, and this fact alone drove the bidding for these lots far higher than anticipated. After all, how many can claim to have a specimen with a “published” Wilber. We also discovered that there is some mysterious need to describe crystal dimensions to the nearest 100th of an inch, as seen on page 171. We are not dealing with micromounts here. Finally, there is clearly no reason to name specimens, particularly if they don't look like what they are being named. They are not mimetoliths but are simply very fine mineral specimens. Although the authors surely have been compensated for their efforts here, it is obvious that this catalogue is more than just the result of a 9-to-5 job. The love of the specimens is apparent, and to that end they have produced a fine book that raises the bar for future auctions and for their competitors. For additional Mauthner photographs of these and other tourmalines from the Wagner collection, please refer to the book by Fong/Walker, Neumeier, and Walker (2015) that is also reviewed in this column.

REFERENCE

Fong/Walker, M., G. Neumeier, and J. Walker. 2015. The world of tourmaline—The Gerhard Wagner collection. Dallas, TX: Ivy Press.

 

The World of Tourmaline—The Gerhard Wagner Collection edited by Mary Fong/Walker, Gunther Neumeier, and Jim Walker with photography by Mark Mauthner. Dallas, TX: Ivy Press. 264 pages; 2015; $50 (plus shipping and handling) (hardbound).

This colorful book is the precursor to the auction sale catalogue of the Gerhard Wagner mineral collection, one that is particularly deep with respect to worldwide tourmalines (see review of the catalogue accompanying this review). It is an interesting presentation because the text is given in English and German in parallel arrangement. The German translations are by Günther Neumeier and Fabian Wildfang. In addition to brief text accompanying the specimen photographs, there are short introductory essay-like sections by Daniel Trinchillo, Federico Pezzotta, Jim Walker, and Mary Fong/Walker.

The book begins with a preface by Wagner himself, followed by separate discussions of the collection by Trinchillo and Pezzotta. The introductory material closes with a nice historical perspective of the collector and the building of his collection by Walker and Fong/Walker. The meat of the book begins on page 18 and continues through page 261. Here we are presented with 379 color photographs of Wagner's finest tourmalines as seen through the unblushing photographic eye of Mark Mauthner. Some specimens are illustrated twice—front and back, arranged differently, or with close-ups of significant areas of large specimens. There is little text, with only the fundamental locality data and specimen dimensions given for most pieces. The presentation is alphabetical by country of specimen origin, beginning with a section on Afghanistan in which Dara-I-Pech and Paprok are featured. Brazil is next and presents nine districts or mines that include Barra de Salinas, Brumado, Cruzeiro, Jonas, Pederneira, Sapo, and so on, in all consuming 112 pages with the Pederneira mine alone representing 50 of these. A short section on Italy (Elba) follows. Next Madagascar, Mozambique, and Mexico appear followed by Myanmar, Namibia, and Pakistan. The last chapters are Russia, the United States (featuring mostly Himalaya mine specimens), and Vietnam. There is a final page of miscellaneous occurrences that include Argentina and Nepal. The book closes with acknowledgments of mineral dealers and friends who were instrumental in helping to develop the collection. There is a final note on photographic lighting and faithful image reproduction.

The strength of the book is, of course, its vibrant photography. The color, perfection, and overall aesthetics of each specimen require no written description or elaboration. Although there could be a wider representation of localities or even a greater variation of specimens for some locales, one must remember that this book provides us with a view of a collection assembled by one person acting quietly over a significantly long period of time. It does present a fair picture of the world of tourmaline from the mineral specimen perspective and to that end certainly fulfills the promise of its title. The presentation is good with few editorial glitches, high-quality paper, and tight binding. The book is certainly recommended to anyone with an interest in tourmaline and the desire to see just what sort of collection could be assembled through patience, friendships, and a moderate budget.

 

Namibia Minerals and Localities by Ludi von Bezing, Rainer Bode, and Steffen Jahn in collaboration with Peter Lyckberg, Olaf and Ulrike Medenbach, Gerhard Niedermayr, Ernst A. Schnaitmann, and Gabi Schneider. Bode Verlag, Salzhemmendorf, Germany; www.bodeverlag.de/shop. 608 pages; 2014; €78 (plus postage) (hardbound).

Seven years later, the wait is over! In 2007 Rainer Bode produced the book on minerals from Namibia that sold out almost overnight, leaving many people without a copy. This edition fills the much-needed gap. At the outset, I have to declare a conflict of interest, to a small degree at least, because some of my mineral photos are featured in this latest edition. I will, therefore, not allow this to cloud my unbiased and impartial review!

Observant readers will note that the front cover of the book (see cover image above) has a cryptic, small green “1” after the subtitle. This tells you that this is the first of two Bode books on Namibia, and the second one is in the pipeline. This first book features the mineral localities of note in Namibia, and the forthcoming volume will be the “A–Z” of minerals from this country. So the two books will be companion volumes, which makes sense because the first (2007) edition was a heavy tome indeed, 4.17 kilograms, containing both localities and the alphabetical list of minerals in a single volume. Even so the current edition weighs 3.13 kilograms.

The book features at least thirty-four localities, noting that the Kaokoland and the Karibib-Usakos region contain several localities collectively, so individually there are some forty sites. There is no messing about here with introductory chapters on Namibia, its history, geography, statistics, and so on. A one-page table of contents is followed by a one-page foreword by Dr. Erika Krűger Stiftung (she and well-known Namibian collector Heini Soltau, from Lűderitz, are both thanked for generous sponsorship of the book), and then it's page 1, straight into the first locality, Abenab, and 558 pages later, ending with the Van der Plas mine. There is more, however, in the form of a chapter on small-scale mining in Erongo at the end of the book, and several pages of advertisements, an index, and photo credits and acknowledgement pages, collectively bringing the book to a final tally of 608 pages. It is full-color throughout and printed on high-gloss paper, rendering the quality of all the photographs exceptionally sharp, and all are very high quality, as we have come to expect from Bode Verlag. One appealing design aspect is that on pages where there are only mineral specimen photographs and accompanying captions (i.e., no columns of text), and there are hundreds of these pages, the background page is black. So the images are all framed by a dramatic black surround, and the caption font is gold-colored, which lends a certain gravitas to the book. The quality of the mineral and locality pictures is outstanding. Only 10 percent of the photographs used in the first Namibia book are repeated here, so most are new. Many of the mineral photos are full-page or half- to three-quarter-page in size.

The format of each featured locality follows a tried and tested formula: an overview of the location and geology, previous work and field photographs, sometimes black-and-white historical pictures (where applicable), and then a descriptive alphabetical list of the minerals found at the deposit, with some pictures included here. These A–Z mineral lists contain a wealth of information such as when the species was first found, associated minerals, different varieties of the same species from different eras, and, where applicable, references to the scientific and collector literature should one wish to learn more. What I like is that each locality has a small inset map showing its location in Namibia. Furthermore, unlike the first Namibia book that had multiple reference lists after each region, there is one composite reference list at the end of the book making it much easier to find sources of information.

The more well-known localities understandably get more attention. As a random selection, these are statistics on a few of the featured deposits: Abenab (2 pages), 3 photos; Aris (23 pages), 33 photos; Rosh Pinah (10 pages), 18 photos; Tsumeb (158 pages), 265 mineral photos plus 43 historical photos; and Erongo (133 pages), 237 mineral photos, 26 locality photos. For completeness, here is the full list of featured localities: Abenab, Aris, Berg Aukas, Brandberg, Cape Cross, Christoph mine, Erongo, Gamsberg, Giftkuppe, Goanikontes, Goboboseb, Guchab, deposits in the Kaokoveld, Karibib-Usakos district, Kombat, Krantzberg, Marienfluss, Mesopatamie 504, Namib Lead mine, Okandawai, Okatumba, Okoruso, Omaue, Onderra, Ondundu, Onganja, Orange River, Otjitheka, Rosh Pinah, Skorpion mine, Spitzkoppe, Tsumeb, Tubussis, Van der Plas mine, and small-scale mining in Namibia, plus references, index, photo credits, and acknowledgments. In addition, a DVD is included titled Small Miner in Namibia: A Documentary about the Hohenstein. This feature details the small-scale miners who dig for minerals in the Erongo region.

What is important is that the book presents information that is up-to-date, at least until mid-2014. For example, the section on the Aris phonolites and associated microminerals has probably the best available information at present, with a host of recently described minerals and photos featured. For the first time, major specimens of fluorapatite have been found in Namibia. In 2013, beautiful lilac to dark purple crystals to 5 cm were collected on the farm Okatjimukuju in the Karibib-Usakos area. These are featured in several photos on pages 250–254. These have to be the best-of-species to-date to emerge from Namibia. Coincidentally, all these specimens are accredited to Lűderitz collector Heini Soltau, although some appear to have been sold since. Still in the same geographic region, there are eight pages of pictures of sliced tourmaline that show beautiful internal color zoning reminiscent of specimens from Madagascar. For a few decades, the Okoruso mine has produced quality fluorite specimens with the most “common” color being green with internal blue/lilac zoning. There are now a host of different color variations from the mine, and these are lavishly illustrated with back lighting to show the internal color zoning. In addition, blue euhedral celestine, collected in 2013, is also featured for the first time for this locality. These are but a few highlights in this formidable book.

If one wants to quibble, there are a few editorial mistakes with incorrect spelling of English words here and there, possibly due to translation from German to English, but these have little impact on the book overall. (One error that I actually enjoy is my own photograph of local South African collector Desmond Sacco's spectacular Rosh Pinah baryte [fig. 1, page 347] that is incorrectly accredited to my collection. We live in hope!) Content-wise, quality-wise, this is the best contemporary reference book for Namibian minerals available at present. Like the first Bode Verlag Namibia book, I predict this one could sell out very quickly, so if you are even remotely interested in this southern African country and its splendid minerals, get your copy now before it's too late.

 

Minerals of Ohio, 2nd edition, by Ernest H. Carlson. Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey Bulletin 69, Columbus, OH; www.geosurvey.ohiodnr.gov. 290 pages; 2015; $30 (plus shipping and handling) (hardbound).

This beautifully bound, large-format book joins the family of U.S. state mineralogies as a significant and welcome addition. Minerals of Ohio is authoritative, understandable, and affordable; it is a publication that belongs in every Ohio public and university library and among the possessions of any serious mineral enthusiast or professional.

This second edition documents representative occurrences of fifty-five mineral species, series, or groups that form well-crystallized material and are not described exclusively from soils, drill cores, or Ohio's extensive continental glacial deposits. Ohio mineral localities from meteorites, efflorescences derived from oxidized sulfide minerals, and pneumatolytic precipitates from the fumes escaping from burning oil shale are included and contribute to this work's thoroughness.

Minerals of Ohio is the magnum opus of a scholar and teacher for whom finding and understanding how minerals form was a lifelong quest shared with his students and also the broader public through this and other publications. The final editorial and production phases of this second edition were accomplished by a team of talented volunteers (listed in the editor's preface) who shared the late Prof. Ernest H. Carlson's enthusiasm for the subject and who chose to express their appreciation for his life's work by finishing his final professional contribution.

Systematic compilations of scientific observations, including this one, sometimes enable the productive uses of the natural resources upon which our industrial and agricultural economies have been and continue to be based. They can also stimulate curiosity and display some of the natural beauty in the world. Second editions of scientific works become necessary when continuing new understandings and discoveries (thirteen additional mineral species confirmed in Ohio since the first edition) justify revision. A wide range of mineral enthusiasts, naturalists, and scientists will find this work useful and should be indebted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological Survey and its partners (donor organizations and individuals) for the high quality of the intellectual content, paper, binding, and color reproduction throughout this volume. The most obvious improvements in this revised edition include redesigned page and table layouts, an easily readable typeface, and very effective use of bold font and color to highlight subsections. In particular, the decision to start the summary of representative known localities for each mineral at the top of a page and to use a bold blue heading for each mineral's section makes Appendix A (“Catalog of Mineral Localities”) very user-friendly. Other color illustrations (maps and tables) are equally effective and complement the occasional line drawings.

Written in a style that a generally educated, non-specialist can understand, Minerals of Ohio provides a summary of historic and the most current information about mineral occurrences in Ohio and a gateway to the broader scientific literature (15 pages of cited references include entries through 2014). The definitions of most technical terms appear in the text as they are used, which makes this work truly accessible to the intended wide audience. Four summaries that were retained from the first edition provide effective descriptions of the general geology of Ohio, current scientific understanding of how the minerals formed, strategies for mineral identification based on their physical properties, and the essential diagnostic properties of all of the minerals included in this revised edition. Chapter 5 describes twelve field trips to easily accessible mineral collecting sites in Ohio and includes annotated color topographic maps of each site. The useful list of Ohio organizations that support mineral enthusiasts has been updated.

The presence of high-quality color photographs for all minerals illustrated gives the book an aesthetic quality in addition to its practical use as an excellent visual resource, particularly for the localities that produce minerals with distinctive habits and/or colors. Forty-two of these photographs are located conveniently near their respective mineral descriptions, which are arranged alphabetically by species and then subdivided by county (Appendix A—“Catalog of Mineral Localities”). Chapter 2 also contains superb color photographs of common Ohio minerals (barite, calcite, celestine, dolomite, fluorite, galena, gypsum, marcasite, pyrite, quartz, and sphalerite). Unfortunately, these photographs must be found by thumbing through the chapter or by reading the titles of figures in the table of contents because the index and Appendix A do not contain any references to them. An unfortunate omission from this revision are photographs of the beautiful iridescent fluorite specimens that had been included in the first edition (e.g., Gibsonburg in Sandusky County and Tiffin in Seneca County).

The second edition of Minerals of Ohio is truly a work done well, a fitting tribute to the author, and a valuable resource for Ohio mineral enthusiasts and professionals.

 

Ohio Rocks! A Guide to Geologic Sites in the Buckeye State by Albert B. Dickas. Mountain Press, PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806; www.mountain-press.com. 133 pages; 2014; $18 (softbound).

This is a fun book. After a very brief (and with somewhat purple prose) description of the geologic history of Ohio, Albert B. Dickas gets down to business describing individual sites.

He discusses fifty in all arranged by physiographic regions of the state, starting with the till plains in the west, then the lake plains in the north, and the Appalachian Plateau in the east. The descriptions are short—each can be read in about a minute and a half—and are accompanied by one or more photos and a short list of references, usually two or three per site. Many have a small map that makes the site easy to find.

The usual suspects are here: Old Man's Cave (site 44), the glacial grooves at Kellys Island (site 23), Ohio Caverns (site 8), Clifton Gorge (site 13), and Flint Ridge (site 39). Others are less well-known, such as Miami Bluffs (site 16), Ritchie Ledges (site 30), and the Puskarich Coal Museum (site 36).

At some sites there is not much to see (e.g., site 3, where there is just a plaque marking the drilling of the first oil and gas well in that area, or site 4, a plaque commemorating the first offshore well at Grand Lake St. Marys), or even nothing at all (Bellefontaine Outlier, site 5). Some sites have little of geological interest, such as site 7, the Lockington Locks on the Miami and Erie Canal.

Some of Dickas's prose can be misleading, such as when he writes, “The sun rose the first day of the Cambrian Period, 541 million years ago, on a world geography in disarray” (page 3), or “As the sun dawned on the first week of the Late Ordovician Period …” (page 44). Such writing implies geological periods started on one particular day, like a new workweek. Although geologists will realize that this is poetic license, nongeologists might not. Sometimes the writing verges on the just plain silly, as when Dickas suggests that one reason for the demise of the large Devonian placoderm Dunkleosteus was indigestion (page 56).

If not taken too seriously, this is a book for anyone with an interest in geology, whether they live in Ohio or are just passing through.

 

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