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Your favorite mineralogy books

Posted by Frank K. Mazdab  
Frank K. Mazdab December 04, 2018 02:10AM
Since on another thread a student asked for opinions on textbook editions for her mineralogy class, and several posters (including myself) chimed in not only on the original topic but with opinions on supplementary texts, I thought it'd be fun, and perhaps informative, to start a thread about everyone's favorite mineralogy books, and why.

To make it more interesting, I'd like to offer three categories... any or all:

1) your favorite introductory textbook for a high school or college level course (if you've taken a formal geology or mineralogy class... or even taught one);
2) your favorite field guide;
3) your favorite advanced or specialty text (this could be one of the advanced systematic mineralogy books, or something like a locality or species book, or even something else?)

So, my personal answers (and some of these are a bit of a repeat of what I wrote in the other thread, so my apologies for that):

1) I don't really like any of the intro level mineralogy books. I think I'd like to write my own, but I suspect it would be hard to break through the glut of books already out there. I envision a book with more integration of crystal chemistry, math, geochemistry and petrology, and with more application to economic geology, gemology and environmental science. One day... perhaps.

2) My absolute favorite field guide is Charles Sorrell's A Guide to Field Identification Rocks and Minerals. What I like about it is that for the first 80 pages or so, it's pretty hard core science introduced in a surprisingly accessible format. And a lot of rare minerals are included because they are chemically and structurally related to something common... for example, about half the galena page is about galena, but the second half of the page includes clausthalite and altaite (because Se and Te are similar to S), and oldhamite (because CaS is also structurally the same). There aren't any photos, but the color drawings are good and strangely resembled some of my own samples in my early collection. For a book with photos, Simon & Schuster's field guide was probably my second favorite... it must have been an Italian publication because for a general field guide, Italian localities were notably over-represented.

3) Honestly, these days I use mindat more than most of my advanced books for looking up info on rare minerals, and supplement that with optical and chemical data from the Handbook of Mineralogy series (now online on the MSA website). DHZ's multi-volume series is excellent (but a bit dated) for common silicates, but will set you back ~$2000 if you buy the whole set (ouch!). I still use my Dana's 8th edition extensively, especially for information on minor element substitutions in rarer minerals, despite the book being quite expensive and almost obnoxiously riddled with errors.

Those are my favorites (and why)... so what are yours?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/04/2018 02:11AM by Frank K. Mazdab.
Keith Compton December 04, 2018 02:52AM

I don't have any favourite mineralogy/geology books. The closest to being favourite is whatever is the latest that I am reading. Currently they are Minerals of the English Midlands and Precious Opal from Dubnik.
I have added around 70 books this year so it is hard to have a single fav.

I'll prepare a couple of reviews shortly.
Doug Daniels December 04, 2018 03:11AM
I wouldn't say this is a favorite, but much more realistic for beginners: The good old Golden Guide to Rocks and Minerals. Yes, written in the 50's. No photographs, just watercolors of specimens. Yet those watercolors depicted specimens you'd be most likely to find on your own (that is, they had rough edges, chips, were cleaved - in other words, not the perfect photos we tend to get in the more recent books.
Frank K. Mazdab December 04, 2018 03:24AM
Doug, I agree with you about those old books written probably mostly with kids in mind. The books with close-up color photos of sharp lustrous crystals may have wowed me, but admittedly there was always something comforting about knowing those watercolor illustrations looked more like the specimens I had in my early collection. In a couple of cases, I'd almost swear my specimen was the model for the drawing!
Erin Delventhal December 04, 2018 03:55AM
Sinkankas’ Mineralogy has always amazed me for covering topics in a way that anyone can make sense of them.
Dana Slaughter December 04, 2018 05:18AM
Erin, I agree completely and it is my favorite. His descriptions of the minerals found at localities is really catered to the collecting community as well--it is not just a dry run of localities where any particular mineral has been found in some abundance.
Branko Rieck December 04, 2018 11:42AM
I think I must have been 13 or 14 years old, with 2 years of amateur mineralogy courses by Dr. Karl “Charly” Becherer (bechererite) under my pelt when I got “Klockmann’s Lehrbuch der Mineralogie” for Christmas. This was – on retrospect – what set me on my path to mineralogy for good. I was lucky enough to have parents that helped me with whatever I lacked in basics (I learned trigonometric functions with my fathers help to understand the interpretation of powder diffraction films). So, I devoured this book and forgot the mischief boys at that age usually come up with to the great relief of my parents. And for quick reference, I still turn to this book even today. I know, this is not what you would typically expect as an introductory work, but I am still grateful that Charly Becherer recommended this book to my parents (behind my back, to ensure the surprise).
As for the more specialized book, I also do not have to think twice: Paul Ramdohr’s “Die Erzminerale und ihre Verwachsungen”. This one I got when I had finished my first turn at the army upon entering university for my first term of mineralogy.
And for a field guide, I love the one I am currently writing about “The Mines and Minerals of Lavrion” as a series of Mindat articles. Having stopped collecting anything other than Lavrion, this is the way to go.


Christian Auer December 04, 2018 02:53PM
Had several depending on my interests (which have been changing from time to time).
Right now its "Das Buch vom Tauerngold" by Paar/Günther/Gruber, a classic for Austrian Alpine gold regions. A lifetime isnt enough if you want to see all places that are decribed there.
Mark Heintzelman December 04, 2018 05:58PM
I'd have to admit, that more recently the best volumes seem to be the ones now independently published and dedicated to specific regional mines and mineralogy. Apart from classic historical volumes like Dana's 6th, they are the only ones I tend to purchase and use on a regular basis, beyond regularly published journals (i.e. American Mineralogist).

No doubt many of us have a wistful appreciation for the 1957 Simon & Schuster, Golden Guide to Rocks and Minerals. More often than not, it was the book that first curated our interest in mineralogy. I've always loved those illustrations as well, over other volumes providing photographic examples. I have actually taken some minor pains over the years to acquire actual samples of many of the minerals from localities displayed in those images. Maybe someday I'll make an effort to actually complete that task.

The York Co. Rutile pictured in this volume was actually from a long since lost locality, which peaked the interest of Lawrence H. Conklin. Long story short, it lead to the locations rediscovery and recovery of this and many other new specimens.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/04/2018 06:15PM by Mark Heintzelman.
André Heyninck December 05, 2018 03:36PM
The books that are interesting to me are first and foremost "Les mineraux de Belgique". Belgium is my homeland. There were also the "Ou trouver les mineraux d'Auvergne" books. They showed me the way to collect minerals in France. The book by Hans-Jurgen Wilke with the title "The minerals and sites of Sweden" and the book "Langban, the mines, their minerals geology and explorers" helped me to collect minerals in Sweden. In 1984 I started collecting minerals without any knowledge of geology or mineralogy but books contributed to give me knowledge of to build a collection.
Richard L Murphy December 06, 2018 03:19AM
Can you be more specific (ISBN) on the Sorrell book? I find several books by him with titles close to the one you mentioned. Any particular edition you recommend?
Frank K. Mazdab December 06, 2018 03:32AM
Hi Richard,

The ISBN numbers are:

ISBN 10: 0307136612
ISBN 13: 9780307136619

I think I have the first edition (my copy is at school today, so I can only go by the online cover illustration), and the illustrations are color drawings and not photos. I don't know if later editions retain the excellent text, so I'd probably suggest the first edition to be safe. A used copy should be just a few dollars.
Paul Brandes December 06, 2018 03:59AM
I'm not sure I can pick a "favourite" mineral book as all of them have their merits as well as their drawbacks. That's why to me, having several different books of varying education levels I can look though for clarification is very beneficial.
Wayne Corwin December 06, 2018 04:21AM
I like the books with dirty pictures!

Those are the books I've used the most out in the field with my dirty hands and dirty rocks.
Eric D. Fritzsch December 06, 2018 02:13PM
For (1) college entry or high school level mineralogy book I agree with many peoples opinion that Sinkankas' Mineralogy is an excellent book. It is a shame that it is out of print and hard to find. I keep hearing rumors of a forth-coming revision.

For (2) field guides I think many are the same and follow the same formula. Once you have one field guide you pretty much have them all. Pough's Field Guide is very popular and perhaps one of the better ones out there. For younger readers, I really like Zimm's Field Guide. It is not text or fact heavy and the specimens look more like what one would find in the field rather than a museum or collection. Zimm has a little over 100 species in his little pocket sized book and a well-rounded collection should have about 90% of these species.

For (3) advanced books, The Encyclopedia of Minerals (Roberts, Rapp, Weber and second version Campbell) was really an awesome book in it's day. Mindat is basically the electronic (and expanded) version of the Encyclopedia of Minerals. I often wonder what Bill Roberts would have thought of Mindat.

A fourth (4) category would be the "coffee-table book" which is lots of pictures and general discussion about minerals. Desautels' The Mineral Kingdom is an interesting read and forward thinking in it's day. I also really like Robinson's Minerals which can be purchased used for a few dollars on used book websites (a heck of a bargain).

Locality and regional guides are some of the most common used books in my library. Good magazines such as the Mineralogical Record and Rocks & Minerals are invaluable to any mineralogical library. I'd also like to make a shout out for Moore's Compendium which is unique in its approach and discussion about the topic of mineralogical discovery. I find Moore's book very fascinating when reviewing particular specimens.

You really can't have a mineral collection without mineral books, otherwise they are just shiny objects.
Robert Rothenberg December 06, 2018 02:32PM
In my early collecrting days I knew I wanted to focus on (sorry, bad pun) micromounts but had little idea about how to do it. I found some help at the annual Baltimore Symposium, but my "bible" became Milton Speckels' "The complete guide to micromounts.'"

Jamison K. Brizendine December 06, 2018 04:15PM
With all the great suggestions for literature, it’s a bit surprising Mindat doesn’t have a “book review” section…

1.) Textbook: Everyone has recommended a mineralogy textbook, but nobody has mentioned an introductory geology textbook on the high school level. The book I used for teaching and recommend is Essentials of Geology by Stephen Marshak, which is now in its fifth edition.

2.) Field Guide Book: I used Minerals of the World by Ole Johnson in the past. This one is good for a mineralogy student as it covers the basic minerals that most students will encounter in the class.

3.) Favorite advanced text: Almost impossible to give a straightforward answer, because I own so many of them. So here are five on the top of my head:

a.) David London, 2008, Pegmatites
b.) Waldemar Lindgren, 1933, Mineral Deposits, Fourth edition
c.) Jan Bernard, Jaroslav Hyrsl, 2015, Minerals and their Localities, Third edition
d.) Lawrence Robb, 2005, Introduction to Ore Forming Processes
e.) W. A. Deer et al., 1992, An Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals, Second Edition

4.) Favorite “Coffee-Table” Book: Again so many good choices, but here are a few on my table:

a.) Georg Gebhard, 1998, Tsumeb II
b.) Gloria Staebler et al., 2008, American Mineral Treasures
c.) Eddy Van Der Meerche, 2014, Crystal Forms of Fluorite
d.) R.F. Symes and B. Young, 2008, Minerals of Northern England
e.) Bill Atkinson et al., 2004, Within the Stone

5.) Favorite “Elementary School” Book: "Mineral" related books for elementary school kids. I own both of these:

a.) Jon Morgan Dey, 2007, Agate: What Good is a Moose?
b.) Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian, 1998, Snowflake Bentley (1999 Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner for best picture book)

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/06/2018 04:18PM by Jamison K. Brizendine.
Johannes Swarts (2) December 06, 2018 04:18PM

Books - one of my favorite topics!

The Sinkankas book - still have mine from college - late 1970s. I have nearly every species listed in the appendix.
Pough's field guide - have the copy I bought when I was about 14 years old - nearly 50 years ago. Tattered, but still usable.
Early Dana - can't recall which edition, but late 19th century (I'm not sitting in my lab/library at the moment).
Desautel's Mineral Kingdom.
De Re Metallica - Agricola; translated into English by Herbert Hoover. Yes, the president, who was also a mining engineer.
Any of the Fleischer handbooks
Mines Known as Palermo - a true labor of love, and a lovely book. All mineral pictures are watercolors by Fred Wilda.

Frank K. Mazdab December 06, 2018 08:13PM
Hi Jamison,

great additional categories!

To contribute to one of your new categories: Not really a coffee-table book, but the World Treasury of Minerals in Color was an early photo book I had with full-page (in many cases) color photographs of minerals from the Sorbonne collection. OMG! For a 1976 book, the photos were stunning and easily of Min Rec quality. As I kid, I sooo wanted that collection! OK, who am I kidding... even as an adult, I still sooo want that collection!
Dana Morong December 06, 2018 09:23PM
What we need is a sort of update to an article published in Mineralogical Record, January-February 1978, v.9, n.1, pp. 5-13: The Collector's Library, edited by W. E. Wilson, with suggestions and comments by many, including dozens of books, and some very good comments.
Although I have dozens of books (on minerals, geology, chemistry, and such), so many that I don't even know how many, a list of recommended books would be too long, and as some of the best have already been mentioned, I'll just add a few that may not be strictly in the line of freshman mineralogy course-books, but are interesting anyhow.
Mineralogy: An Illustrated Exploration of the Dynamic World of Minerals and their Properties, by George W. Robinson (photography by Jeffrey Scovil), 1944. This is so much more than a 'coffee-table' book, as it has discussion on various types of rocks that contain minerals, and on formation, chemical alteration, recrystallization, and much more, really quite fascinating and educational.
Minerals of Cornwall and Devon, by P.G. Embrey & R.F. Symes, 1987 (even though I've never been there; I live in N.H., northeastern USA, I still like great regional mineralogies).
The Restless Earth, by Nigel Calder, 1972 (plate tectonics)
The Architecture of Molecules, by Linus Pauling & Roger Hayward, 1964.
And (among many other books) what was mentioned in that article in 1978, a Times Atlas of the World, 1994 (this is too big and heavy for a regular bookshelf so it sits on another furniture, along with other outsized books on top of it).
W. Richard Gunter December 06, 2018 09:29PM
I was gifted the Dana 7th Edition V. I, II and III early in my collecting career (1975) and I still use them on a fairly regular basis, especially for the older localities. I have 2 editions of the Pough Guide that is not as useful for localities anymore but has plenty of "what does this mineral look like" paragraphs that are often missing from descriptions these days.
Doug Daniels December 07, 2018 03:08AM
Gotta agree with Gunter. Some of the older pubs are a bit useless now for localities, but for things to look for. As in Pough's wonderful book. Mine is over 40 years old now, but I still consult it to comment (occasionally) here. Also have the Dana vols I, II, and III (vol. III, not so much).... yep, consult them too.

Also have DeSautles's "Mineral Kingdom". Great book. Remember my dad buying it for me in 1969 (1970? my mind is petrifying). Was looking thru it with my young brother shortly afterwards. We came to the page with a Los Lamentos wulfenite (kinda cubic, nice orange-red color) - he looked at it and said "That's a juicy one." (If you have a copy,,, look for it....)

The newer books are great, but......

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 12/07/2018 04:20AM by Doug Daniels.
cascaillou December 08, 2018 12:20AM
Photoatlas of Inclusions in Gemstones (in 3 volumes)

Despite gemstones oriented, these books are definitely mineralogically relevant. Must have litterature.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/20/2018 02:15PM by cascaillou.
Dana Morong December 08, 2018 08:27PM
More favorite books:
– Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals, by Frederick H. Pough (any edition).
– Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Rocks & Minerals, edited by Martin Prinz, George Harlow and Joseph Peters, 1977, 1978 (photos opposite text; also, for a brief guidebook, a fairly decent treatment of rocks).
– Mineralogy for Amateurs, by John Sinkankas, 1964 (sometimes just titled “Mineralogy”).
– Oddities of the Mineral World, by William B. Sanborn, 1976.
– Dana’s System of Mineralogy, 7th edition, 3 volumes (does not include silicates other than plain silica, or SiO2 minerals, such as quartz, opal, but is still useful)
– A Textbook of Mineralogy, 4th edition by E.S. Dana & W.E. Ford, 1932 (dated but sometimes useful; I have several other Dana books, but not going to list them here)
– Quartz Family Minerals: A Handbook for the Mineral Collector, by H.C. Dake, Frank L. Fleener, & Ben Hur Wilson, 1938. (old classic).
– Field Collecting Gemstones and Minerals, John Sinkankas, 1988 (a later title for Prospecting for Gemstones and Minerals, 1970).
– Mineralogy of Rare Elements, edited by K.A. Vlasov, translated from Russian, 1966 (Volume II of Geochemistry and Mineralogy of Rare Elements and Genetic Types of Their Deposits). (includes minerals of elements such as Li, Be, Rb, Cs, ... many of rare pegmatite species).
– Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals, by Deer, Howie, & Zussman, 1966.
– Mining Lore: An Illustrated Composition and Documentary Compilation with Emphasis on the Spirit and History of Mining, by Wolfgang Paul, 1970.
– Crystallography and Crystal Chemistry: An Introduction, by F. Donald Bloss, 1971 (tops for crystallography and though I may not understand all, still a fascinating reference).
– Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks Under the Microscope: Classification, Textures, Microstructures and Mineral Preferred Orientations, by David Shelley, 1993 (petrology, useful in looking up terms and concepts encountered in reading).
– Dictionary of Geological Terms, by American Geological Institute (though dated, this covers much, useful for quick reference; if I don’t find it there, I resort to internet, copy and save).

These are only a few of the many books I use, and I am not going to list locality guidebooks, nor regional mineralogies, as there are many, particularly good ones of the latter. A favoring of certain topographical and geographical references often depends on one’s own location, preferences and interests.
Richard L Murphy December 15, 2018 01:09PM
Thanks. With the ISBN I think I got the right book from Amazon. Thanks for the helpful opinion!
Frank K. Mazdab December 15, 2018 07:13PM
No worries, Richard.

After you've received it and had an opportunity to look through it, I (the thread) would be keen to hear your opinion of it.

It's also the only "field guide"-type book I recommend to my students, in part because of its surprisingly strong emphasis on crystal chemistry and structure woven throughout the book, but also because although its illustration are of high quality (and look like samples they might find themselves), with drawings rather than photographs students are less likely to waste time trying to perfectly match the illustrations to the materials they see in class. This latter concern is a perennial problem in introductory mineralogy and petrology classes... if the sample doesn't look exactly like the photograph, then clearly they can't be the same thing... right?? :-)
Herwig Pelckmans January 08, 2019 12:58PM

In your third category, one of the books I really like is
"Minerals with a French Connection" by François Fontan and Robert F. Martin.
The Canadian Mineralogist, Special Publication 13, 2017
A few pages of this book are online at:

My detailed review of this book was published in Mineral News exactly a year ago (Vol. 34 no. 1, January 2018).
It can now also be read here:

In short: a very nice book on all the minerals that have a type locality in France or were named after French citizens.
With lots of well researched information not found in standard reference books.
Very well done and well worth its money IMHO. You would wish for such a book for every country!

Cheers, Herwig
MKA (Min. Soc. Antwerp, Belgium)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/2019 03:49PM by Herwig Pelckmans.
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