Silliman Jr., Benjamin; Silver Mines of Fresnillo, Cerro de Proano, Zacatecas, Mexico. 1883

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Silliman Jr., Benjamin; Silver Mines of Fresnillo, Cerro de Proano, Zacatecas, Mexico. Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, New Haven, 1883. Small folio, pp. xxxix, 1, 79, large folded plan of mine workings and veins, one addition plate.

The work is complete and in a later cloth with gilt spine titles, marbled text block edges and original brown title wraps with silver titles bound in. The binding is tight and clean, inscription and Silliman’s signature on title page. The text and plans are clean, original cover is brittle with short tears repaired with archival tape. Book plate of defunct college on front paste down. Overall in very good condition. A very rare work with only one other copy located which is in a institution.

Benjamin Silliman Jr. (1816-1885) was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on the fourth of December, 1816, and died in that city on the fourteenth of January, 1885.  He was the son of America's first mineralogist, Yale Professor Benjamin Silliman and his wife Faith Trumbull.  Silliman Jr. followed in his Father’s footsteps and was also a chemist, mineralogist and geologist. In 1855 he was hired to write a report on the possibility of using petroleum as a fuel for illumination. Silliman used fractional distillation (a technique developed by his father) to create refined oil from Pennsylvania rock oil and showed that the refined oil was a powerful illuminator. Silliman’s report was a major factor in the development of the oil industry. He also made contributions to geology, mineralogy, and engineering. Silliman was a founder of the Scientific School at Yale, later renamed the Sheffield Scientific School, teaching chemistry and natural sciences there. In 1853 he was in charge of the departments of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology at the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations at the Crystal Palace in New York. In 1838 he took over, with James Dwight Dana, as coeditor the American Journal of Science, the prestigious journal created by his father, remaining in that role for the rest of his life. Like his father, Benjamin, Jr. had an interest in mineralogy, and built his own mineral collection. He was often hired as a consultant by both the mining industry and fledgling oil industry and made trips to the Western states where he identified potential oil fields, including those in southern California (later proven by discoveries in the late 1870's), and also gold and silver deposits. 

His report on the silver mines of Cerro de Proano, at Fresnillo in the state of Zacatecas, Mexico is one famous example of his study of silver mining regions. The study was commissioned by Don Manuel v Legua of Zacatecas, who was acting for the owners of the properties. Silliman provides a history of the mines and follows with a description of the present conditions of the mines and their deposits and provides a bibliography of earlier reports on the mines. This is followed by earlier reports by prominent geologists and especially an 1859 report by Don Pascual Arenas containing a description of the geology and mineralogy of the Fresnillo mining region.