38. “Snow Crystals” by W. A. Bentley and W. J. Humphreys

By adapting a bellows camera to include a microscope, W. A. Bentley (1865 – 1931), a self-educated farmer from Jericho, Vermont, became a pioneer in the world of photomicrography and the first to photograph snow crystals (or snowflakes) in 1885 – proving the old adage that “no two snowflakes are alike.” (here) Collecting images of snow crystals became his passion for the rest of his life, and, over several decades until his death, Bentley compiled a collection of over 5,000 images of unique specimens. Bentley was on a mission not only to document the unique design of each snowflake but, in doing so, to preserve their natural beauty before they literally melted away and were lost forever.

In 1925, Bentley stated: “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.” (here)

This week’s library pick, Snow Crystals, is an unabridged and unaltered republication of the original 1931 book published just before Bentley’s death. It includes over 2,000 photomicrographs of snowflakes, “plus slides of frost, rime, glaze, dew, and hail” (here).  W. J. Humphreys, who worked for the U.S. Weather Bureau, assisted Bentley in the production of this book, and his introductory essay includes an informative discussion of how the images were made, including a brief discussion of the science of crystallography. Most of the 200 page book depicts page after dazzling page of black and white images.

For more information about W.A. “Snowflake” Bentley, check out his official website here: http://snowflakebentley.com/bio.htm

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17 thoughts on “38. “Snow Crystals” by W. A. Bentley and W. J. Humphreys

  1. Wow! What an awesome book…I wonder if I can get a copy via inter-library loan. Or is it quite rare? I think I’ll check with my library today.

  2. That is really cool. I have always seen photos of snowflakes but never knew the first was taken in 1885. It is amazing to think that the old camera and microscope technology was good enough back then to get such amazing photos. Great post. Thanks.

  3. I bought this book about 15 years ago and treasure it. It’s just thousands exquisite photographs of crystals. It is an aid to meditation.

  4. FYI, There is a children’s book simply called Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin that tells about this marvelous man and his work. For any readers who are parents or elementary teachers, I would rate it grades 2 to 4 for interest. Thanks for the link to the official site too! ~ Lynda

  5. I should love to have this book. But I’m not good on libraries, I always want to POSSESS. A costly failing. And I’m in France anyway, I don’t think I’d find it here.

  6. I adore this book. My friend Henryk Fantazos has a copy that I like to look at. My husband just came back from a winter camping trip where he saw a snow bank with millions of flakes each reflecting a different color of the rainbow. What’s the Eskimo word for that?

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