Mineralogy of Maine
Volume 1: Descriptive Mineralogy
418 p., 88 plates (99 color photos, 537 black-and-white photos)
Price (softcover): $20.00
(The following review was published in Rocks and Minerals Magazine, September/October 1995, p. 342-343.)
A new book upon a cherished mineralogical subject arouses the same anticipation that one experiences when first penetrating a pocket in a gem pegmatite: What will be found? -- gems or disappointment? I am happy to say that as readers sift through the rich contents of the book, they will find treasures galore!
Here at long last is the only truly comprehensive and reasonably complete assemblage of all the bits and pieces of fact and fancy that have grown up around Maine's mineral wealth. To be sure, smaller works and numerous articles on Maine minerals preceded the present book (as the authors gracefully and fully acknowledge), but these earlier works tended to be extremely brief or to explore only certain minerals or deposits to the exclusion of all the rest.
This book is primarily the work of King, who has spent most of his collecting career in Maine localities, with Foord providing the laboratory identifications that conferred the necessary authority to the entries. Evidence of King's devotion to Maine mineralogy can be gathered from the list of references, where his name appears no less than thirty times.
One of the most valuable features of the book is the highly interesting historical data and anecdotes that are frequently introduced to enliven the text; another is the careful sorting out of controversies surrounding false localities and misidentifications, with the aim of getting matters straight once and for all. Examples of the latter are the establishment of the exact place where beryllonite was found in Stoneham, the inexact chemical analyses of minerals in the nepheline-syenite boulders of the Litchfield locality, doubtful or unconfirmed corundum sources and "the Andover mystery," or Where did the spodumene reported from here really come from? (p.329). All these details suggest that King has spent a great deal of time reading the literature that bears upon Maine's minerals, but even so, one is not really prepared to expect the massive, and very accurate, 22-page list of references. This list by itself is one of the real gems of the book -- the place where future writers on Maine's minerals can turn to find conveniently assembled all the keys to their own research.
As to the work itself, the authors make clear that the subtitle, Descriptive Mineralogy, means just that -- the book makes no attempt to instruct readers in the fundamentals of mineralogical science, leaving that task to the textbooks already available. The entries, arranged alphabetically by species in most instances, contain no physical property data but do include the accepted chemical formula(s). In a few instances, chemical compositions are given in some detail, especially in connection with distinctions among varieties and species within groups. The largest foray into chemistry appears in the discussion of amphibole species (pp. 17-22) where the authors cite recent work on the "new nomenclature" of the amphiboles, with the recommendation that the vague term "hornblende" be discarded altogether. The rather over-detailed discussion was written "specifically for geologists who have chemical analyses of Maine amphiboles" and can be glossed over by the vast majority of readers without harm to their knowledge of Maine minerals.
The book begins with the title page announcing that this is Mineralogy of Maine, volume 1. Other volumes will follow, I am told by King, who expects volume 2, History of Mining, Gems, and Technical Papers, to appear in the fall of 1995. After the table of contents appears a dedication, with two portraits, to Richard Philip Hauck (b. 1935) of New Jersey who is best known for acquiring the New Jersey Zinc Company's mine property and installations at Ogdensburg, Sussex County, New Jersey, which he and his brother converted into an above- and below-ground mining museum. I applaud the dedication but strongly suggest that in future volumes of this series the authors receive equal recognition via portraiture and biographical sketches. Surely they deserve as much recognition as the dedicatee in this instance!
Next appear the introduction, acknowledgments, and, surprisingly, an essay entitled "The Value and Care of Collector-Quality Mineral Specimens." This essay seems to belong in a standard mineral magazine, unless the implication is that Maine minerals suffer an inordinate amount of damage from careless handling as compared with, say, New Hampshire specimens! Another section, initiating the text proper, explains the rationale used in presenting the information that follows, giving appropriate examples that draw attention to the special features of typography employed by the authors and designers to set off species, towns, and localities. The design is excellent, resulting in a text that is visually pleasing and easy to scan. The alphabetical arrangement largely prevails throughout the text with a few exceptions, one being the feldspars, which are not all distributed according to species. Readers must also be prepared to look up individual species of tourmaline (e.g. elbaite) rather than find them under a group section. However, all entries are carefully cross-indexed so that one is led quickly to the pertinent entry. Certain entries are given a question mark because all reported specimens are said to be doubtful, as explained in some detail under the name. Others, set in lowercase type, are cross-referenced. Accepted species are named in boldface capitals. Each name is followed by its chemical formula (as mentioned above) and localities, and then by descriptions of specimens from a number of places in the state: what the specimens look like, how big they are, and other details that are of great value to the collector who can then compare his own pieces with those described and visit a locality in the hope of finding a specimen superior to his own. These descriptions are the true heart of the book, and one may well imagine how colorful and evocative they are when the authors deal with the crystals of beryl, topaz, and tourmaline! I estimate that there are about eight hundred entries in the descriptive body of the book, many of course, being varietal names, synonyms, discarded names, and those that cannot be substantiated.
Throughout the text are crystal drawings of two kinds: reproductions of previously published drawings and an almost equal numer of drawings made especially for this work. Form letters appear on the appropriate faces. Photographs, taken mostly by King, appear only in the central section of 88 plates on 44 glossy leaves, of which plates 1-18 are in color. All plates contain numerous images with the result that there are hundreds of individual photographs, including many of micromount specimens. The book closes with the reference list, a list of towns and other political subdivisions (with two maps of townships), and the index to the minerals.
To sum up, Mineralogy of Maine is written by two authors who know their business. Furthermore it is the first complete study of all Maine minerals, and it is easy to read, well illustrated, and a bargain at forty dollars for the paperback version and only ten dollars more for the hardback book. These prices are far below what one would expect to pay for a similar work published in the regular commercial market.
Last updated on December 10, 2009