Dana’s New Mineralogy. – Review

Dana’s New Mineralogy. – Review – book reviews

Joel E. Arem

Dana’s New Mineralogy, 8th ed., by Richard V. Gaines, H. Catherine W. Skinner, Eugene E. Foord, Brian Mason, and Abraham Rosenzweig. John Wiley & Sons, New York. 1,819 pages; 1997; $250 (hardbound).

The name “Dana” is well known to every serious collector of minerals and student of mineralogy. The first edition of the System of Mineralogy by James D. Dana was the first science book published (1837) by Wiley and began a long series of editions that have become the cornerstone reference works for all mineralogists. The Dana System was significant in that it presented an orderly classification of all known minerals (352 in the first edition that can be correlated with species that we know today); the approach was comparable to that used by Linnaeus for cataloguing biological entities. This type of classification had already been introduced by Friedrich Mohs (Treatise on Mineralogy, English translation, 1825); but Dana’s work, which included U.S. locality information, was the first systematic classification to get widespread attention.

Revision of the System of Mineralogy was continued by James Dana’s son, Edward Salisbury, and a sixth edition appeared in 1892. This massive book was accurate, comprehensive, and detailed, but it was obvious within two decades that further revisions were needed. These revisions were undertaken at Harvard University by Charles Palache, Harry Berman, and Clifford Frondel.

The Second World War interrupted this effort, and the first volume of the seventh edition (Elements, Sulfides, Sulfosalts, and Oxides) did not appear until 1944. Volume two (Halogenides and All Oxysalts Except Silicates) was completed in 1951, and volume 3 (Silica Minerals) was produced in 1962 by Frondel (Berman had been killed in the war, and Palache had retired). By this time the format established by the seventh edition had become so detailed and complex that nobody stepped forward to tackle the silicates, and the Dana System remained incomplete. Other reference works filled the gap, including the massive compilation on rock-forming minerals by Deere, Howie, and Zussman (1962-63); mineralogy texts by Correns, Kostov, Povarennykh, and others; specialized works on specific mineral groups (feldspars, amphiboles, etc.); and the Textbook of Mineralogy (first edition, 1877; fourth edition, 1932) prepared by E. S. Dana.

The current authors undertook the daunting task of bringing the Dana System up-to-date with all minerals known through 31 December 1995 (a listing is also provided of new minerals accepted as species in 1996). The level of detail has been greatly simplified relative to the seventh edition to make completion of the text possible in a reasonable time frame. The data include Dana classification number, name, chemical formula, name derivation, related species, crystallography (system, space group, point group, lattice constants, cell contents and calculated density, powder diffraction pattern–eight strongest lines, structure, habit/twinning), physical properties (morphology and habit, twinning, color, streak, luster, cleavage and parting, fracture, tenacity, hardness, density, spectroscopic data, fluorescence/phosphorescence, optical properties), composition and phase relationships, occurrence, localities, and authorship of key descriptive work.

Many species descriptions are enhanced by elegant line drawings of their internal structures. These diagrams are perspective drawings, created by Eric Dowty using SHAPE software, and show the arrangement of atoms (depicted as balls) and bonds (sticks connecting the balls) along directions that are clearly identified relative to crystal axes. Line drawings of important crystal habits, showing relevant forms, are also included for many species. In addition, there is a handful of tables and graphs.

The book looks and feels much like the sixth edition of the Dana System, in that all known species are encompassed within a single volume. The descriptions are extremely compact, yet very comprehensive. Every species is flagged with references to relevant literature if more detail is needed. The enormous advantages of this book are that it is current (as of 1995) and meticulously researched by a team of dedicated and experienced mineralogists. It is also a single volume, although this has largely been accomplished by the expedient of printing the work on “Bible paper”–the strong yet thin tissuelike paper commonly encountered in Bibles. The typesetting is excellent and extremely readable; the Dana number, name, and formula for each species are in a bold sans-serif type; the entries are in a basic serif-type font comparable to Times Roman; and some locality and reference data are italicized. Classes are designated and described in very large, bold sans-serif type.

Two large indexes at the back list all the known minerals, first in numerical and then in alphabetical order, followed by a general subject index. The binding is strong, and the book lies almost flat. Localities are presented in a preset order, and a large table of abbreviations is provided. An enormous mass of literature has been surveyed, and an extensive list is given of the citations that are included in the book.

The authors indicate that there are about thirty-seven hundred mineral species currently recognized and about fifty to sixty are added each year. This book does not provide data on the seven hundred or so naturally occurring chemical compounds that have not been formally designated as mineral species.

The cover price of this book may seem high until you realize how difficult, tedious, and time consuming it would be to extract from the existing literature information that is instantly available in this handy volume by merely turning a page.

This long-awaited eighth edition of the most enduring of all mineralogy books will stand as a monument to the tenacity and dedication of a small group of people who have taken great pains to make their work accessible and useful. Dana’s New Mineralogy will take its rightful place as a modern classic and should be on the shelf of every scientific institution and every serious collector or student of minerals.

Joel E. Arem

Laytonsville, Maryland

COPYRIGHT 1998 Heldref Publications

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