Favourite Mineral Reads
Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.27.2013 | Filed under: Collectors

So many great mineral reads, so little time…
1. Top Reads
But… you’re stranded on a desert island… you have no way of recharging your music player so really how helpful is the game where we all come up with our ten favourite albums? On the other hand, on the island you have a safe place for books and the sun comes up every day so you have light to read. This is my list, and I’m sure it would accord with those of many collectors – these are high-quality, excellent reads and classics.
The Mineralogical Record
The Mineralogical Record features very high quality content and photography – the magazine and supplement publications are super. This publication is meant for mineral collectors, and adorns the bookshelves of most serious and advanced collectors. Whether you are a beginner or connoisseur, this is a great publication.
Lithographie LLC Publications
Lithographie publishes wonderful monographs and books – I recommend them all! Top quality publications, the initial ones were English language translations of the German language monograph series by Lapis, called extraLapis. The monographs are issued approximately twice a year and feature a theme – a particular mineral or minerals of a particular geographic region. They are wonderful reads, cover to cover, with excellent photography and high quality printing and binding. In addition to the monograph series, Lithographie has published books, including the awesome American Mineral Treasures and more recently Collecting Arizona.
Rocks and Minerals
Rocks and Minerals has been in publication since 1930 and is an amazing magazine, particularly for the breadth of topics covered, and range of information, even sometimes including articles on fossils. Written for mineral collectors, featuring authors from professional mineralogists to amateur collectors, it is very accessible for collectors of all levels.
Mineralogy for Amateurs
The classic by John Sinkankas, this is my favourite general introduction to minerals. Written for non-professionals with real interest in learning about minerals, this book explains the essential concepts in an engaging style. Because it was published in 1964 it isn’t always the easiest to find, but truly worth tracking down a copy.
Gem and Crystal Treasures
Probably the single mineral book I have read the most – I love this book. Another classic, written by Peter Bancroft, this is essentially a survey of the world’s great mineral localities, with history, photographs and specimen photographs. Of course this is similar in theme/subject to the articles in each issue of The Mineralogical Record, the Lithographie monographs, American Mineral Treasures, and many other fine books dedicated to geographic localities and other themes (this latter will have to be the subject of another post!). However, Gem and Crystal Treasures is essentially a survey course – minerals and their localities worldwide. Co-published by Western Enterprises and The Mineralogical Record in 1984.
2. Mineral Collecting and Building a Collection
About Mineral Collecting (2009) is a series of essays by long-time mineral dealer Rock Currier (also a manager of These essays were published in The Mineralogical Record over several issues, but also compiled into a single inexpensive soft-cover publication. It is impossible not to become engaged by the writing style. I think this is one of the best reads ever put together for mineral collectors! (I can’t recommend it highly enough.)
Jack Halpern wrote a great piece, “Criteria for Selecting Crystallized Mineral Specimens for a Display Collection”published in the March-April 2005 issue of The Mineralogical Record. One of my favourite articles on what makes a fine mineral specimen.
In the Introduction to The Smale Collection: Beauty in Natural Crystals, author Steve Smale describes his perspectives on the criteria that make a great mineral specimen. (Edited by Gloria Staebler and Gunther Neumeier, Published by Lithographie LLC). This book includes beautiful Jeff Scovil photographs of a remarkable collection, and in particular the author’s insight into the concept of “horizons” in viewing mineral specimens is great.
Another good read on mineral specimens for collections is Ikons: Classics and Contemporary Masterpieces (2007), supplement to The Mineralogical Record, by Wayne Thompson – in particular, the chapter entitled “Desirability Factors in Mineral Specimens.” Amazing publication with many insights and lots of photographs of world-class mineral specimens.
Long-time editor of the Mineralogical Record, Wendell Wilson, has written great pieces on this as well. “Connoisseurship in Mineral Collecting”, an essay in the January-February 1990 issue of The Mineralogical Record, is an excellent early article on the issue, which preceded many subsequent writings by others in the field. He also wrote “The Discerning Eye: What Makes a Mineral Collectible?”, an essay published in Bartsch, Joel A. and Wilson, Wendell E., Masterpieces of the Mineral World – Treasures from the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences (2004)  (Published by The Houston Museum of Natural Sciences and The Mineralogical Record.) This book is a remarkable publication with photographs of wonderful specimens from the museum’s collection.
3. Collections
Reading about – and frankly, just admiring and considering – the collections of others is one of the best ways to learn more about the world of minerals. Every collector has a style and taste a little different from the next, and each one can be instructive.
The F. John Barlow Mineral Collection (1996) shows a mineral collection that includes many world-class specimens, but also shows that extensive knowledge and an eye for good proportions and aesthetics can help build an outstanding collection comprised of many miniatures and smaller specimens as well as the large world class ones.
The Desmond Sacco Collection (2000) by Bruce Cairncross gives an insight into one of the world’s great mineral collections, this one focused on Southern Africa. Wonderful specimens and photographs.
4. Mineral Books by Geography/Locality
There are so many good ones – you add these and you’ll sink the island. Most are not small or lightweight. This category merits its own blog post in future.
5. Mineral Photography
My favourite read on mineral specimen photography is Jeff Scovil’s Photographing Minerals, Fossils & Lapidary Materials (1996). You may not have your photo equipment on the island, but you’ll know what to do when you get back.
6. Well…
…that’s my desert island list. I personally would recommend staying on the island long enough to enjoy reading them – just disable the GPS locator card and your smartphone for a bit. (Then you might consider coming back and picking back up where you left off collecting minerals…)