Detail from 1657 ed. of Agricola's De re metallica...
A number of early geological books were recently added to the General Glass Case collection. These were donated by Alan Mason, a private collector with a strong connection with the University’s Department of Geology, now part of the School of Environmental Science.
Amongst the donation are works reflecting key developments in the discipline. Georgius Agricola, ‘the father of geology’ is represented in an early edition of De re metallica (1657). The traditional theory of a catastrophic flood is promoted by William Whiston’s A new theory of the earth (1737), while Charles Lyell, in his Principles of geology (8th ed., 1850) helped to develop the critical concept of fossil-based stratigraphy. Most of these works are in excellent condition, thanks to a lifetime of careful collecting and storage by Mr Mason, and will greatly add to works on the history of science in Special Collections.
Alan Mason grew up in Auckland and after war service studied geology with Professor Bartrum at Auckland University College. His masters thesis, a field study of the Hokianga-Kaikohe area, which has a particularly complex geology, was later published and is still referred to. Initially appointed as the geologist at the Auckland Museum, Alan had to leave his chosen field to take responsibility for running the family firm of Mason Brothers, a well known engineering company for many years. However, Alan maintained a very strong interest in geology throughout his life and kept in weekly contact with his friend Professor Nick Brothers (for many years HOD of the Department of Geology) and with his former fellow students.
Alan accompanied his brother Brian, a well-known mineralogist and geochemist based at the Smithsonian Institute, on field trips to South Westland and the Australian outback. He also wrote many articles for the Newsletter of the Historical Section of the Geological Society of New Zealand, which he both founded and edited for many years.
Stephen Innes, Special Collections Librarian (with acknowledgments to Pat Browne.)