Rather than simply appreciate his mineral collection for its sheer beauty, de Monmonier was determined to learn more about his specimens. As part of his collection, he built an outstanding mineralogy library of more than 300 books. The library contains classic mineralogy texts from Brongniart, Cleaveland, Dana, Haüy, and Kirwan, as well as books from modern-day authorities such as Peter Bancroft, George Kunz, John Sinkankas, and John White.
The Father of Mineralogy and His Famous Translator
One of the most important books in the de Monmonier library is actually a compilation of five books by Georg Bauer (1494-1555); De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum, De Natura Eorum quar Efflunt ex Terra, De Natura Fossilium, De Veteribus et Novis Metallis and Bermannus, Sive De re Metallica Dialogus. Bauer, best known by his Latinized name Georgius Agricola, earned the title “Father of Mineralogy” with the publication of De Re Metallica (On the Nature of Metals).
The first English translation of De Re Metallica came in 1912 from America’s 31st president Herbert Clark Hoover and his wife Lou Henry Hoover. The Hoovers combined his expertise as a mining engineer and her knowledge of Latin and geology to complete the difficult translation. More than 450 years after its first publication, the scientific classic still remains in print.
Woodcuts from De Re Metallica
The illustrations in Agricola’s classic book are woodcut prints, a specialized art form that employed many skilled workers in the 16th century. Typically, the woodcut design itself was done by an artist, the block carving by expert craftsmen, and the printing by special printers.
The large number of woodcuts required and the extensive labor involved in printing delayed publication of De Re Metallica and Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum until 1556 and 1558, years after Agricola’s death.