(Vagn F.) Buchwald. Handbook of Iron Meteorites. Their History, Distribution, Composition and Structure. Berkeley and London (Univ. of California Press), xii + 1426 pp., 2124 figs. (3 volumes), 1976. Price £98·00

Howard Axon
1977 Mineralogical magazine  
Most present-day Handbooks are put together by several editors and consist of separate chapters by a multitude of contributors who attempt to review the existing literature in a specific area of study. Vagn Buchwald's Handbook of Iron Meteorites is very different; it is a single-handed circumnavigation of the whole of iron meteorites and the vast bulk of the work is an eyewitness account of what he personally and alone has seen. There are also modest accounts of a few of the expeditions that he
more » ... expeditions that he has, at one time or another, undertaken in his efforts to harvest meteoritic iron for scientific study. Volumes 2 and 3 (PP-245-820, figs. 23o--I I42, and pp. 82I-I418, figs. 1143-2t24) are devoted to alphabetically arranged descriptions of the 532 different iron meteorites with their numerous related fragments and sometimes damaged portions with, in addition, a number of pseudometeorites. In most instances the verbal description of the structure is accompanied by excellent photographs, by critically selected chemical analyses, and by an account of the more recent history of the material. There is also a record of how it is distributed among the major collections. In this part of the work the author's avowed intention is to present a description of meteorite structures, not an explanation or a comprehensive theory. However, it is not easy to find a form of words that is purely descriptive and has no overtones of an explanatory model. Also it is sometimes very difficult to pass over the opportunity of discussing the more unusual structures and attempting to explain how they were achieved. These occasional discussions of structure-forming processes are always of interest, but it is a weakness of the personal method of presentation that it is not made clear to what extent alternative interpretations and hypotheses are available. A good proportion of iron meteorites belong to chemically defined and, by presumption, genetically related, groups and a particularly valuable aspect of the present work is the way in which systematic trends and ranges of structural detail are reported for the individual members within the different chemical groups. Unfortunately the method of individual, alphabetically arranged, descriptions makes it impossible to effect a complete and systematic inter-comparison at all points, and, moreover, significant elements of structure are occasionally glossed over in the primary description of an individual, only to be emphasized in another place as part of the comparative description of another meteorite. Hence the only sure way to cover the whole subject is to read the whole book. Of course the author is well aware of these difficulties of presentation and he has provided in Volume I a series of tables (pp. I47-243) in which the members of the different chemical groups are listed in chemical sequence, together with condensed structural detail. Since the major part of this work is a record of the author's hitherto unpublished personal researches it might be appropriate to take note of some of the important new contributions or redistributions of emphasis that are presented. Artificial alteration by man and atmospheric entry effects are most carefully considered, along with the effects of terrestrial corrosion. The interplay of these factors makes it possible to discuss the amount of material that has been lost as a result of corrosion--which is often surprisingly small, and to diagnose unambiguously the thermal damage that has been inflicted by man--which is unfortunately all too common. In these areas of study the surface and near-surface structures are of paramount importance and are powerfully investigated by the method of microhardness survey, which the author has
doi:10.1180/minmag.1977.041.319.26 fatcat:3biwa3tzt5e2tdblhqnhleznqi