By Brecken Branstrator
Carlsbad, Calif.--The Gemological Institute of America has made 101 of the rarest and most historically significant books about gems and jewelry available to the public through a digitization project by its Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center.

121115 GIA-digitize-ArticleThe GIA’s Richard T. Liddicoat library digitized 101 books on gems and jewelry spanning more than 500 years--from 1496 to the present--to make them available to the public.

The works are available to download for free, and include major studies related to minerals, gems and jewelry spanning more than 500 years--from 1496 to the present.

The debut of the collection online includes the digitization of the oldest book in the GIA’s library, Pliny’s Natural History.

The digitization project is part of the GIA’s mission of ensuring public trust in gems and jewelry, providing global access to hundreds of years of prominent works. The organization said that it will continue to digitize its catalog of rare and unique books and estimates that it will be able to make 100 additional works available to the public each year.

The GIA’s library currently houses more than 57,000 books, 700 journals and magazine titles, 160,000 digital images and 1,900 videos, as well as the Cartier Rare Book Repository and Archives.

Highlights of the collection now available for download are as follows. 

--Pliny’s Natural History, 1496: “Naturalis Historia” by Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23 to A.D. 79) is one of the earliest and most celebrated academic treatises of all time, the GIA said. Its content dates back to A.D. 77 and was considered the foundation of all science until the Renaissance. 

--Marbode’s Book of Precious Stones, 1511: Marbode (1035 to 1123), Bishop of Rennes, originally wrote this manuscript in the form of a 742-line poem between 1061 and 1081. Only 100 copies are known to have been made, and this edition, called a lapidary, was the first Marbode work printed using Gutenberg’s process of movable metal type. 

--Haüy’s Treatise of Mineralogy, (1801): René Just Haüy (1742 to 1822) was an ordained priest, botanist and mineralogist whose expertise lay in his ability to describe the laws that govern the structure of crystals. His mineral studies led to him creating a system to indicate the different faces of crystals.

--Sowerby’s British Mineralogy, 1804-1817: James Sowerby documented the minerals of Great Britain and drew hundreds of specimens. These images were printed using copper plates and then were hand-colored. Though Sowerby published his illustrations as periodicals available by subscription, they were later compiled and sold in sets, with fewer than 100 complete sets still in existence today.

--Proby’s British Mineralogy, 1840: Martha Proby (1783 to 1864) created this two-volume set of books based on Sowerby’s work, meticulously hand-copying selections and illustrating her books with original watercolor paintings. 

--Frémy’s Synthesis of Ruby, 1891: This book documents and illustrates the work of Edmond Frémy (1814 to 1894), a French chemist and professor. His interest in synthetic crystal growth led to his groundbreaking work with Auguste Verneuil in growing synthetic rubies using the flux technique.  

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