Bob's Rock Shop Book Review
Reviewer: Tim Jokela Jr.

Dana's New Mineralogy
Eighth Edition

By Richard V. Gaines, H. Catherine W. Skinner, Eugene E. Foord, Brian Mason, and Abraham Rosenzweig

Dana's New Mineralogy, Eighth Edition, by Richard V. Gaines, H. Catherine W. Skinner, Eugene E. Foord, Brian Mason, and Abraham Rosenzweig. Published 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158-0012. Hardcover, 1,819 pages, no photographs but a few crystal drawings, $250 - 300 US (prepublication discounting accounts for inexact price).

This is the latest and most comprehensive installment in the series begun by James Dwight Dana in 1837. It begins with a brief history of the book, a very nice definition of what a mineral is (bones 'n teeth are in, Laurium slag minerals are out) and an explanation of the format in which the minerals are presented. This takes up only some 40 pages, with the rest of the book dedicated to describing the roughly 3800 known species. The minerals are placed into the standard couple of dozen classes - the elements, oxides, carbonates, etc.; for speedy reference to a particular species the mineral names are indexed in the back both alphabetically and by their Dana numbers.

The standard amount of information is given on each species, like chemistry, crystallography, etc.; also provided is name derivation (interestingly enough recently addressed in an entirely separate brand new book, Encyclopecia of Mineral Names by Blackburn and Dennen). The quantity of information on each species varies from a mere three lines for the rarities up to thirteen full pages in the case of quartz.

The beauty of the classic Dana arrangement by classes, as opposed to alphabetical order, is the grouping of similar minerals; for example when you look up an aluminum-bearing carbonate, the other aluminum-bearing carbonates are right next to it. The compact size, only 24x16 cm, is also nice, a great improvement over monstrously unwieldy predecessors like the Encyclopedia of Minerals. For those who want a real feel for the immense scope of mineralogy, this is it.

The only flaws in the book are the occasionally inadequate locality data (missing, surprisingly, things like the fantastic sincosite locality in South Dakota, and the Brazilian source for fine ushkovite crystals) and the egregious price, which, though held to be reasonable by those familiar with the publishing industry, makes the book simply unobtainable for the vast majority of collectors and strongly calls into question the utility of publishing it. If it were printed in gold leaf, hand painted by Swedish monks, and bound with genuine Saskatchewan sealskin, the price would be reasonable; alas it is not.


Book and CD Review Index

Table of Contents

bkeller@rockhounds.com