POPULAR-LEVEL MINERALOGY TEXTS AND THE FAMILIAR FORMAT IN THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY
The widespread popularity of the familiar format led Charles Lyell to consider writing a geological “conversation,” noting in an 1828 letter to Gideon Algernon Mantell that “it is what no doubt the booksellers, and therefore the greatest number of readers, are desirous of,” but eventually thought against it.
Likewise, in the introduction to her Conversations on Mineralogy (1822) Delvalle Lowry (1800 – 1860) noted that “Not withstanding the number of elementary treatises on Mineralogy which have been published within the last few years, the mode of conversation has not yet been adopted in this branch of natural history.” Indeed, several works that purported to utilize this popular style in actually did not, while geologist Robert Bakewell (1768-1843) took the tactic of adding a “series of conversations explaining the principles of the science” to his An Introduction to Mineralogy (1819). While Lowry’s work enjoyed four editions in her native England plus an American edition, it can be argued that it was not a fully fleshed out conversation, but rather a scripted dialogue. This poster will compare three early “conversations” on mineralogy – those by Bakewell and Lowry, as well as Familiar Lessons in Mineralogy and Geology (1832), by Massachusetts native Jane Kilby Welsh (1783 - ?) - in order to illustrate the wide variety of ways that authors sought to introduce mineralogy through the familiar format.