Encyclopedia of Mineral Names.
Interest in the "human" side of mineralogy is not new; confirmation of this is near at hand in the series of mineral-related biographies published by Dr. R. I. Gait in Rocks & Minerals. Or, check the popularity of Matrix, the magazine of the history of minerals published by Jay Lininger, or look at the references to history and biography in the cumulative index to the Mineralogical Record itself. The naming of minerals has a strong "human" subjective component. Mineral names are memorable, colorful, and often very informative - if only we knew the stories behind them. This book tells the stories, or at least the ends of the stories. The interested reader may well wish to track backwards from there on his own.
Strangely, perhaps, for a book dealing with minerals, this text begins with a history of the development of European languages. It traces an evolutionary tree from Indo-European beginnings before 2,000 years BC to modern English beginning around 1350 AD, then gives a short table of examples. Here, for instance, we learn that the Indo-European root lep-i (to peel) led to the Greek lepis (a scale), thence to lepidolite as a mineral (or leprosy as a disease!).
From language derivations, the text leads to what one might term the theory of the naming of minerals. It may surprise some readers to learn that there were attempts in times past to apply the Linnaean taxonomic classification method to minerals. In one such scheme, cubic pyrite formed the genus Pyricubia, with striated cubic pyrite Pyricubium maximum foliaceum, and unstriated cubic pyrite Pyricubium solidum minus as separate species.
Fortunately, since 1970, guidelines for the establishment of new mineral names have been laid down by the Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names (CNMMN) of the International Mineralogical Association. The book states the guidelines clearly, and outlines the philosophy of the authors on how they chose to follow those guidelines. They have included almost exclusively the names accepted by the CNMMN, given in bold face type. Names commonly used but not necessarily accepted by the CNMMN are in plain type. Accompanying each name is the chemical formula of the mineral, its crystal system, its space group, and (where appropriate) its relationship, structural or chemical, to other minerals. Those, in turn, are followed by the etymology of the name. If the mineral was named for a person, a brief biography is included. Finally, the entry is closed by references to the original work, or to relevant papers published later. For the most part, chemical formulae correspond to Fleischer and Mandarino (1995), although there are minor exceptions.
At 360 pages, this is far from a trivial book. It is clearly a substantial work, involving research and scholarship of a high order, as might be expected when one reflects that there are now some 3,800(+) described minerals. The book is a full compilation of known minerals to the end of 1996, and includes the new IMA recommendations on the nomenclature of the amphiboles published in February 1997 in The Canadian Mineralogist. That makes it the most up-to-date reference work available today. [An update to the Glossary of Mineral Species 1995 on the revisions in amphibole nomenclature will appear in the next issue of the Mineralogical Record. Ed.] Furthermore, the names reflect a new emphasis in the IMA on diacritical marks, including accents on names deriving from French or other languages (vide serandite and horvathite, from French and Hungarian respectively). In general also, the umlaut "o" is preferred to the "oe" form seen frequently in some references (although the Germans themselves often say that they don't care how it's spelled as long as it's pronounced properly).
It would be hard to judge the overall accuracy of the contents without repeating the research involved. As far as the formulae, crystal systems and space groups are concerned, we should note the authors' personal reputations in mineralogy, their preference for Fleischer and Mandarino (1995), that the book is edited by Dr. Robert Martin (editor of The Canadian Mineralogist and professor at McGill University in Montreal), and that it bears the imprimatur of Dr. Ernest H. Nickel in an appreciative preface.
In terms of the etymology of the names, there is more room for caution, for many are somewhat dimmed by the passage of time, while others are open to simple transcription or interpretive errors, particularly where foreign languages are involved. This is not to suggest that such errors exist - simply to note the difficulty of the research involved. In fact, I noted only three errors - one in the entry for willhendersonite, and two in the entry for voggite. In the entry for willhendersonite, Dr. Henderson is referred to as a physician; in fact, he has a Ph.D. in chemistry. The voggite entry states that it was named after "Albert Vogg, an amateur mineralogist of the Montreal area," but voggite was named for Adolf Vogg (1931-1995) of Arnprior, Ontario. The Montreal area is where the type locality is located; Montreal and Arnprior are 200 km apart - and in different provinces. But I'm nit-picking, probably because those are the only errors I saw. In general the etymology appears sound.
In layout, the book is a non-standard size for North America, having pages 21 x 29.7 cm, or 8.25 x 11.63 inches (presumably A4 size before trimming). This size gives ample area for text to be set up in well-spaced. highly readable fashion. Entries are laid out alphabetically, with each new letter "chapter" headed by a superb black and white drawing of a mineral specimen done by Peter Russell, retired (but still part-time) Curator of the Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. The only quibble I have about the layout of the entries is an apparent inconsistency in the placing of information pertaining to minerals having suffix modifications of the same name. For example, pumpellyite-([Fe.sup.3+]) and pumpellyite-([Fe.sup.2+]) are followed by pumpellyite-(Mg) and pumpellyite-(Mn), but the etymology of the name pumpellyite is not given until the pumpellyite-(Mg) entry (presumably because that was the original description). For monazite-(Ce), monazite-(La) and monazite-(Nd) the derivation of the name is given with the first entry, while for lanthanite-(Ce), lanthanite-(La) and lanthanite-(Nd) the derivation with the second. One cannot argue with the logic involved, which is why the inconsistency is only apparent, not real, but I must admit a sneaking preference for having the etymology of the name uniformly with the first entry. It would merely provide a neater appearance to the whole.
The alphabetized entries are followed by two appendices. Appendix A lists the etymology of the chemical elements, and Appendix B the abbreviations of journal references.
Yearly updates will be published in The Canadian Mineralogist.
In sum, this is a book that should be on the shelf of any serious collector. It is easy to follow, well researched, up-to-date, and authoritative. Besides, how many others will tell you that stenhuggarite was named for Brian Mason?