Category Archives: Book Review

Nowherelands: A Book Review

In winter I spend a little time with my second hobby: philately.  In addition to topical stamps bearing minerals and fossils, I also like to learn about forgotten and defunct places.  Often stamps help tell that story.  I am not alone with this interest among members of the Rochester Philatelic Association.  In October of 2015, Steve Eisinger entertained us with his presentation entitled “Confusing, Obscure, Bizarre and Defunct Countries – Their Coins and Stamps”:  fascinating stories about forgotten places.

And now, for all of us who enjoyed Steve’s presentation, there is a new philatelic book with the same theme. “Nowherelands- An Atlas of Vanished Countries 1840-1975”  reviews the history and geography of some 50 vanquished countries through the eyes of the country/kingdom’s stamp issues.  The author, Bjorn Berge, is a Norwegian philatelist with a keen interest in history, a tireless commitment to research, and a ability to craft a relevant and enjoyable story.

The book was first published in Norwegain in 2016 with  the title Landene som Forsvant.  In late 2017, an English translation became available online.

Bjorn Berge notes in his introduction, “The stamps serve as the core evidence, providing concrete proof that the countries did in fact exist.”   Countries such as Karelia (now part of Russia) that existed only for 17 days in 1922.  Not much time to form much of a government, but apparently enough time to issue a postage stamp (heck 15 of them!), thereby insuring its immortality, at least to philatelists.  Or the Kingdom of Two Sicilies which united the Kingdoms of Sicily and Naples from 1815-1860 and issued a set of stamps depicting the kingdom’s coat of arms stamps in 1858.  And then there is Inini, Biafra, Nandgaon, Obock, Upper Yafa, and this list goes on.   Each entry includes a map, a bit of history, and the story behind the designs of the stamps.

On the left: Scott #4 from Karelia (one of 15 stamps issued in early 1922). The raging bear breaking free of its chains depicts a republic willing to defy the Russians in establishing an autonomous country. Starvation and a frostbite cut the rebellion short. Those scribbles above the bear’s head: those are the northern lights!
On the right: Scott #3 issued in 1858 by the independent kingdom of Two Sicilies.

The book received a positive review by Phillip Coop in the January 2018 issue of The New CartoPhilatelist, the journal of the ATA Study Unit of Maps on Stamps, and by Angela Riechers in the online October issue of Print Magazine.  The 200 page book can be obtained from Amazon online for less than $20.

 Full reference:

Berge, Bjorn, 2017, Nowherelands – An Atlas of Vanished Countries, 1840-1975, Thames and Hudson, 200 p. (originally published in Norwegian in 2016)

A Book Review: Stromatolites

Bruce Leis has been an enthusiastic collector and researcher of stromatolites for over two decades.  He has visited them worldwide, photographing their distinctive patterns and studying their geologic setting.  In 2015 he teamed up with retired professor Bruce Stinchcomb and paleo-artist Terry McKee to produce a unique book detailing these wonderful and important geologic features.  Anyone interested in earth’s geologic history and the development of life on this planet should enjoy their wonderfully illustrated 176 full page size treatise.

Continue reading

Music Review: Nuggets and High Grade

A music review ?  Well, if you are a rockhound (and you probably are if you stumbled to my blog), and you like music (who doesn’t) then this might be just for you.  With song titles like “The Crystals that I’ve Known”, “Agate Lickers”, “Gold is Where you Find it”, “The Mineral Dealer”, and Damn the Glaciers” how could you possibly not be interested in a music CD entitled “Nuggets and High Grade”?

Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Orthosilicates

What do you call chemical compounds that are comprised of isolated silica tetrahedron: that is, where the tetrahedrons do not share any corner oxygens with other tetrahedron, but rather are connected by cations in various configurations?  Why, orthosilicates, of course.  Olivine, garnets, zircon, staurolite, and topaz are orthosilicates, to name a few.  So is titanite, one of our favorite Bancroft, Ontario minerals.

When Dr. Robert Lauf arrived at the Rochester Mineralogy Symposium in April he was carting several boxes of his newly minted book entitled “Collector’s Guide to the Silicates: Orthosilicates”.  After his Friday morning talk on the topic, the line to obtain signed copies was predictably long.  I got there early to secure mine, but I do believe Robert was prepared and everyone who desired a signed copy at the symposium was rewarded. Continue reading

Black Tourmaline of Pierrepont, NY

Another wonderful book on a classic New York State mineral location is available.   Many of us have ventured to the Bower Powers Farm in Pierrepont to collect black tourmaline.  We have driven Post Road to the washed out bridge over Leonard Brook, hiked along the brook to the tourmaline laden pits, and collected what we could carry.  But did you ever want to know more about the rich history of the location, the multiple collecting sites, the varied geology, or the complete mineralogy of this classic site?

Continue reading

A Field Guide to the Empire State

BOOK REVIEW:  New York Rocks and Minerals: A Field Guide to the Empire State, by Dan and Bob Lynch (2016)

There is a new publication available entitled “New York Rocks and Minerals: A Guide to the Empire State”.  It is authored by Dan and Bob Lynch and published by Adventure Publications of Cambridge, MN.  The 2016 book is available online for less than $20 on Amazon.

For each of 105 rocks, minerals, and fossils found in New York State this book provides a page of pictures designed to illustrate the specimen’s most characteristic identifying traits and an opposing page providing information on environment, what to look for to identify it, size, color, occurrence, and a notes section with other pertinent information.  The format and presentation is very easy to use.  In addition, beginners should enjoy the several page overview of New York geology.  The 14 page “Quick Identification Guide” based on color and then expanding into other properties may be just the ticket for some.

Continue reading

Herkimer Diamonds – A Book Review

All New York mineral collectors have a soft spot for Herkimer diamonds and now there is a comprehensive book dedicated to one of our favorite minerals. herk2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Mike Walter, a teacher and mineral dealer by trade, but a true collector by heart, we can learn more about the little (and sometimes not so little) doubly terminated clear quartz crystals than most thought probably could be known.

Continue reading

GHOST OF FOSSIL GLEN

Article I wrote for January, 2015 WCGMC News

The cold has arrived and the snow has covered our favorite collecting sites, but that does not mean that we cannot read about them.  There are even novels written about some of the fossil-rich sites in western New York.  In this case, a children’s novel, set in the prized fossil location, Kashong Glen.

Cynthia DeFelice, a nationally known writer of children’s books, attended William Smith College in Geneva and never left the area.  She was a school librarian in our club’s home town of Newark in the 1980’s and now claims she does most of her writing from a second floor room in her home in Geneva overlooking Seneca Lake.  She has authored over 30 children’s books including a series of ghost stories featuring Allie Nichols, who is a 6th grader when she encounters a ghost in Kashong Glen near her home.

Continue reading

Devonian Fossils of NY – A Book review

Field Guide to the Devonian Fossils of New York by Karl A. Wilson (Paleontological Research Institute, 2014):  This compact (6” by 9”) spiral bound fieldbook is a update to the1994 PRI publication by David Linsley.  After introductory sections on general Devonian stratigraphy and geology and a section of fossil collecting methods, the book systematically introduces Devonian fossils.  Sections on sponges, corals, bryozoa, brachiopods, mollusks, anthropods, trilobites, echinoderms, and more follow with diagrammatic plates offset by descriptive pages detailing the fossils.  By limiting the species to those found in New York, you are much more likely to identify your finds with this book than with a more inclusive book.  The PRI price is $18 and the book can be obtained online with a modest additional shipping charge.  Mine arrived in 3 days !

book fossil

Lake Superior Agates – A Book Review

Some of us have been discussing a long trip to the Lake Superior region next summer, Thunder Bay amethyst, Keweenaw Peninsula copper and more, Petoskey stones, and, of course all those Lake Superior agates.  If you like agates, or want to see what we might be able to collect there, I can recommend the following book by Dan and Bob Lynch and published by Adventure Publications in 2011.  It lists for $19.95 online, but I found mine at Barnes and Noble.

agates1

Tourmalines – A Book Review

tourmaline book

The compositional variety, the range of color variation, and the diverse origin of tourmalines has led to several books on the subject.  Some are very technical, either mineralogically or technically, but for me one stands out for the mineral collector.  The Collector’s Guide to the Tourmaline Group by Robert J. Lauf (Schiffer Publishing) combines adequate detail on tourmaline chemistry and taxonomy with a pictorial account of all the recognized tourmaline species.  Lauf does all this at a level that is not daunting for the non-geologist.  The price is right also, $19.99 list for the oversize softcover book, and I found it for a few dollars less online.

Incidentally, this is one of a series of books published by Schiffer on various minerals or mineral groups.  All are informative and affordable and well illustrated.

Rockhounding New York: A Book Review

      Rockhounding New York:     A Field Guide to the                                State’s Best Rockhounding Sites                                     by Robert Beard        Falcon Guides (2014)

With this informative guide, you can explore the mineral-rich state of New York, from the beaches to the mountains. The book describes the states’ best rockhounding sites and covers popular and commercial sites as well as numerous little-known areas.  Although the technical and mineralogical data on the 98 sites is a bit brief, this handy guide does include maps and directions to each site and enough rockhounding information to at least prepare you for your visit.

Brief sections in the front of the book review the state’s bedrock geology and natural resources and there is also a short section on basic rockhounding.

Continue reading