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September-October 2016

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Media Reviews

A Catalogue of the Minerals of Tasmania by R. S. Bottrill and W. E. Baker; Tasmanian Geological Survey Bulletin 73. Available through the Tasmanian Department of Infrastructure, Energy, and Resources, 254 pages; 2008; $49.50 (softbound).

We seldom review a publication almost a decade after it first appears, but this apparently new printing of a seldom-seen book is certainly worthy of note. It contains a “catalogue” or description of all minerals known to occur in Tasmania complete with many color photographs, maps, appendices, and descriptive information. It is extremely useful to those interested in geographic mineralogy and represents a standard that all such publications should strive to achieve.

The book begins with a table of contents followed by acknowledgments and a detailed introduction. Next come short sections on “The Geology of Tasmania” (complete with a full-page color geologic map) and “Mining in Tasmania.” There follows a section devoted to William Petterd who assembled the first Tasmanian mineral catalogues. On page 12 one finds a very interesting section on fossicking areas that include those areas formally set aside for the recreational collecting of minerals and lapidary materials—a wonderful idea that should be adopted by other governments.

The meat of the book, the alphabetical description of minerals, begins on page 13 and ends on page 195. Each mineral is listed along with its chemical formula and crystal system. This is followed by a brief description of its general appearance and mode of occurrence with specific localities then described in ways clearly appropriate for both mineralogists and collectors. There are 314 color photographs of minerals, each carefully chosen to illustrate specific characteristics of Tasmanian occurrences, particularly those that have produced good specimens. As one might imagine, the section on crocoite is a colorful and important contribution in itself. More interestingly, however, the number of species occurring in good to excellent specimens is surprising and worth careful consideration, as there is much information here that will be new to most collectors. In addition, the better known Tasmanian occurrences, such as Magnet mine, Mount Bishoff, Mount Lyell, and Heazlewood, are treated in detail with references to their mineralogy scattered throughout. For example, Magnet mine minerals are mentioned on no less than 63 pages and Mount Bishoff on 82. The collective impact of the data presented for these oft-mentioned localities is significant and very useful.

The book closes with 10 pages of references followed by six very informative appendices. The first is a relatively long glossary of geological, mineralogical, and other technical terms and abbreviations. The second is a list of chemical elements and important anion groups along with a formal listing of minerals. Appendix 3 is a short discussion of what were then recent changes to mineral nomenclature. This is followed by an important section on collecting safety. Appendix 5 presents a listing of mineral photographs that documents the mineral name and occurrence followed by its size, the photographer, and the specimen's owner. I found this to be most useful and a convenient way to gather together a great deal of illustration data in a concise way. Appendix 6 is a tabulation of geographic location data for mineral occurrences with appropriate location maps. These are referenced to grids on standard Tasmanian topographic maps and should prove useful to the field collector or exploration geologist. Each location is also keyed to the page numbers where they appear in the book.

Again, this geographic mineralogy sets a standard for those that will follow. It is well edited, the binding, although the book is softbound, is tight, and the paper of high quality. The mineral photographs are uniformly quite good and the information almost overwhelming. I strongly recommend it to any collector interested in minerals occurring in those faraway places that may never get closer than in a book such as this.       

Mineral Collections in Hong Kong edited by Elissa Sz, Trudy Kwong, Lai Siu Kwong, and Sam Yung. Mineralogical Society of Hong Kong. 91 pages; 2016; HK $200 (hardbound).

This rather short, photograph-dominated book is clearly a takeoff on the Mineralogical Record series of special publications devoted to regional mineral collectors and their favorite personal specimens. It contains 18 chapters or sections beginning with a 1-page introduction by Dr. Petra Bach of the Department of Earth Sciences in the University of Hong Kong. All but one of the following chapters feature individual collectors who vary from those with essentially dealer status, such as Sam Yung, to Trudy Kwong, a geologist who retains only self- collected specimens of both rocks and minerals. Each of these sections has the short obligatory introduction to the collector (including a photograph), their reasons for collecting, and their particular specializations. In addition to the generally competition-quality specimens of Sam Yung, excellent specimens are also featured from the collection of Marco Au, a gentleman with a perfect last name should he begin to specialize in gold.

One chapter is devoted to specimens in the Stephen Hui Geological Museum at the University of Hong Kong. The core of the collection is that of the late Dr. Stephen Hui, Hong Kong's first mineral-collecting mining engineer and geologist. The museum, which opened in 2009, houses a collection that in its entirety contains about ten thousand specimens grouped into four subcollections. The display collection contains about sixteen hundred specimens, approximately one thousand of which are considered to be “world-class.” The museum, which is curated by Dr. Petra Bach, is located in the James Lee Science Building, G/F & 1/F, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, should the lucky reader visiting the area wish to spend a few hours examining its fine suite of both regional and worldwide specimens.

As with any book of this type, the quality of specimens illustrated and the photographs themselves vary considerably in quality. Photographs by Jeff Scovil, Yasu Okazaki, Peter S. K. Ng, Reema Kui, S. K. Lai, and others are featured. Color reproduction is good but certainly not perfect. The text is generally good, but there are a number of editorial glitches, such as serially repeated sentences. These criticisms aside, the book is of value in that it introduces the reader quickly to the mineral collecting fraternity in Hong Kong; the depth, orientation, and quality of their collections; and the Stephen Hui Museum. It certainly offers an excellent expansion of our knowledge of regional collectors and their collections and is worth a spot on our bookshelves.       

The Mineralogy of Texas by Arthur Edward Smith Jr. 221 pages; 2016; $25.50 (softbound, black and white).

The Mineralogy of Texas is a long-needed, no frills compilation of all known mineral species that occur in Texas and their dominant localities. It is a work that was begun many years ago by Arthur Edward Smith Jr. and remained unfinished at the time of his death in 2009. Smith had a positive influence on many collectors, not the least of whom was Mark Jacobson who through the years has become an acknowledged pegmatite expert. The job of editing, correcting, and ultimately readying the manuscript for publication was undertaken and successfully completed by Jacobson only a few short months ago, and to both him and the Smith family we owe much, for this powerfully informative volume would not exist were it not for their cooperative effort.

The book begins with a detailed foreword by Jacobson. It contains an interesting description of Smith's distrust of data gathered from the Internet and his insistence on using only hard-copy references, leaving one to wonder if his feelings would have remained the same today. In addition, there is an informative description of Smith's collecting habits and the diversity of his Texas collection as well as its ultimate disposition at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois). The foreword is followed by a short biography and photograph of Smith and a table of contents that includes an alphabetical listing of all minerals covered in the book. The list begins with acanthite and 9 pages later ends with zoisite. The book closes with more than 20 pages of references and additional information about Smith and his collection. The final page is a small black-and-white map showing the surface geology of Texas.

The systematic compilation of mineral data focuses entirely on localities. Each species begins with its name and formula. There is none of the additional introductory material covering physical and chemical properties so prevalent in other state mineralogies. Information can be as brief as that given for thenardite, for example, where only a locality in Lynn County is given (and this based only on a single reference), to relatively common Texas minerals such as sulfur that not surprisingly consumes 5 pages and twenty-five counties. Well-known Texas favorites such as topaz are treated with more dignity—both simple geology and the history of occurrences are described. Other well-known localities such as the Llano County pegmatites, especially the now-inaccessible Barringer Hill deposit, are covered in detail. Garnet-group species are treated individually if identification has been determined, and for those without speciation, a separate section titled “Garnet Group (undetermined species)” is included. As one thumbs through these several hundred pages, the striking diversity of Texas's geology is clear and its highly varied mineralogy the obvious result.

The book is illustrated with several dozen black-and-white photographs of Texas specimens. In addition, there is a map depicting the location of Texas's major Gulf Coast salt domes, the source of a number of rare and unusual minerals. The text is well edited and the writing sharp and concise. The book is a must-have for anyone interested in geographic mineralogy, and it is highly recommended.       

Minerals of Georgia: Their Properties and Occurrences by Robert B. Cook and Julian C. Gray, edited by Jose Santamaria. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia. 326 pages; 2015; $32.95 (flexibound).

The first edition of Minerals of Georgia was written by Robert B. Cook and published in 1978 by the Georgia Geological Survey as Bulletin 92. This second edition, more than a decade in the making, represents a massive updating and expansion of the book. The project was organized through Tellus Museum, and a large effort was made to solicit regional collectors for new and detailed information on countless occurrences throughout the state. The result is a comprehensive and tightly knit treatment that will be the definitive reference for decades to come.

The book begins with about 20 pages of introductory material, briefly describing the large-scale geological provinces of the state, comprising crystalline rocks of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont provinces, and Paleozoic sediments of the Cumberland Plateau, Valley and Ridge, and Coastal Plain provinces. Photos of a few representative specimens from each province help to provide context to the discussion. This is followed by two detailed, well-illustrated reports on Georgia's mineralogical crown jewels: Graves Mountain and the amethyst occurrences in Towns, Morgan, and Wilkes counties.

The remainder of the book is devoted to the descriptive entries for some two hundred minerals, mineral groups, and families, illustrated here and there with small but generally excellent color photos. Each entry has a summary of the chemistry, crystallography, physical properties, and habit, followed by detailed information on occurrences, organized by county.

Meteorites are given 7 pages, including a tabular summary, four very good photos, and then a substantive paragraph on each of the twenty-five known meteorites. Note that meteorites are treated under “Iron (Meteoritic)”; although purists might quibble that the chondrites rest uncomfortably there, it is a good, compact summary of the group. A reader looking for meteorites in the index will be directed to the right pages, so there is little chance of confusion.

For full disclosure, I was one of several people who did peer reviews of the manuscript at the publisher's request. In going through the manuscript, the stunning amount of information and meticulousness of the presentation were obvious. As an author myself, I can think of no book project that would be less fun to write, and the entire mineral community owes the authors and editor a debt of gratitude for taking on this project and doing it so well.

At 6 × 9 inches, the book is a convenient size, beautifully printed and bound, and quite readable, despite the small font. Mineral collectors, geologists, and academics working on Georgia minerals should definitely have this fine book in their library (or backpack).       

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