What follows is a selection from the collection of minerals given to and arranged for St. David’s School, Reigate, by John Ruskin, who prepared a full printed Catalogue of the Collection of Siliceous Minerals, dated 1883. The collection is still largely intact.
Stones were important to Ruskin’s view of architecture. Through analysing minerals he developed an appreciation of the profusion of nature as a model for design and as a fund of forms, while rocks – in their polychromy, their acceptance of age, and their bringing of independent characteristics into sympathetic combination – suggested the moral and aesthetic effects of a natural architecture. ‘It is seldom,’ he said, ‘that any mineral crystallises alone. Usually two or three, under quite different crystalline laws, form together. They do this absolutely without flaw or fault, when they are in fine temper… two or more minerals of different natures will agree, somehow, how much space each will want: agree which of them shall give way to the other at their junction; or in what measure each will accommodate it to the other’s shape!’
The texts shown here are the original display labels excerpted from Ruskin’s Catalogue.
The formation of stones is indeed a curious business. A stone can be seen a mountain in miniature; and the surface of any stone is more interesting, richer in colour, more splendid in form than any ordinary hill. Nature in this way finds in a piece of stone merely two feet in diameter the chance to express all of her majestic varieties of form, and shape, and colour, and ornament, and fracture that she needs to build her great mountains.
Nature also draws herself on a rock… using moss for a forest or crystal edges to show crags. Here I sought to draw nature in a rock. To draw landscapes truly one needs to see the surface and what lies beneath the surface. Here in this rather wonderful drawing, which has been much admired, I sought to draw the shape, the surface, and the soul of the rock.
From The Stones of John Ruskin as performed by Nicholas Olsberg from a script by Karen Eve Johnson.