Minerals and Mining

Posted by John Henry on

The search for minerals and fuel drove much early geological investigation. The earliest account of mining was Georgius Agricola’s De Re Metallica (on the nature of Metals) and remained the authority for nearly two centuries after its publication, in Latin, in 1556. The English translation, only in 1912 and for historic interest, is now very rare. In 1950 Dover publications produced a facsimile copy with the many woodcut engravings of the original.

Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopedie devoted many pages of illustrations to crystals and valuable metals that had long attracted mankind’s curiosity. At the time ‘Fossils’ included all objects found in the ground including not only petrified organic remains, but also minerals and archaeological finds.

As geology advanced as a science and the industrial revolution created a demand for raw materials and fuel, more systematic books on mining were published, such as Thomas Sopwith’s Account of the Mining Districts of Alston Moor, Weardale, and Teesdale, and William Wallace’s Laws which Regulate the deposition of Lead Ore in Veins, also based on his work at Alston Moor.

The expanding colonies of Great Britain led to exploration abroad; discoveries lead to gold rushes in Australia, Canada and South Africa. Jukes' lectures gave advice to gold-rushers,

Jukes et al, 1852, Lectures on Gold; for the instruction of Emigrants about to Proceed to Australia

On the back of discoveries new Geological Surveys were founded providing more a more systematic approach through detailed mapping 

Dept. of Mines, Sydney, 1887. Geology of the Vegetable Creek Tin-Mining Field

and compiling voluminous information from major mining developments to support more intensive exploration and development. 

The Surveys provided rigorous research and analysis to support exploration.
Finally, you may like these links for the 1970s Russian film, The Territory, about prospectors in Siberia. This link shows the very geological/cartographical introductory graphics, and here you can find the first 30 minutes of the film for free. Although the translations of the subtitles are completely inadequate, the scenery is dramatic and the opening scene is, literally, incredible.

If you don’t see what you are looking for, please feel free to contact me. I may have it in unlisted stock and, if not, will look out for it. If you are in London, you are welcome to visit by appointment.


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