THE SPANG COLLECTION OF MINERALS.
|THE SPANG COLLECTION OF MINERALS.|
PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY IN THE STEVENS POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE.
THE increasing taste for the pursuit of natural science in this country is strikingly exhibited by the rapid increase in the number of gem and mineral collections. The taste is not confined to men of any one profession, but is cultivated by lawyers, physicians, artists, engineers, iron-masters and persons in every rank and walk of life. Some of the collections thus formed are valuable in a scientific point of view, on account of their being receptacles for specimens obtained in the prosecution of mining enterprises, or from local discoveries arising in the opening of quarries, the development of farm-lands, or cutting of canals and road-ways; thus preserving material which otherwise would be lost, and which ultimately must be handed over to the skilled mineralogist for accurate description and analysis. Other private collections are of deep interest on account of containing specimens of such exceeding rarity and costliness as to surpass aught that our colleges with their hitherto meagre endowments can display. This is especially true of the magnificent cabinet, some few of whose wonders I desire cursorily to describe in the present sketch, and which, by very general consent, is regarded as one of the finest collections in existence at the present time. This result has been achieved by an unsparing expenditure of money, time, and energy, not only in this country and Europe, but in every part of the world; extending to the sending out of paid collectors, the blasting of rocks in remote mountain-districts, the outbidding of all rivals when cabinets were offered for sale, and an unceasing watch over the fate of every unique specimen known to mineralogists. In some instances entire collections were purchased in order to secure a few remarkable specimens. To the man of science the collection affords the gratification of examining fine specimens of bodies so extremely rare that few persons have ever beheld them. The resources of the cabinet are most generously placed at the disposal of those engaged in any special mineral research; and, finally, the munificent owner proposes eventually to endow some institution of learning in this country with the perfected cabinet.
It is difficult to begin where so many objects worthy of study present themselves, and I shall not attempt a systematic description of this accumulation of minerals, which, though crowded together, can barely find room in eleven cases of drawers, a fire-proof safe and six glass show-cases. In the inclosed cases are more than 300 drawers, averaging about 25 specimens to the drawer.
But in the first place the tourmalines attract our attention. Of