The exquisite beauty of snow crystals, seen in the classical elegance of the simple geometrical shapes and the delicate tracery of the more intricate forms, has long been recognized and recorded by the scientist, the artist, and the industrial designer. The modes of formation and growth of the snow crystal have exercised some of the greatest scientific minds. I have been studying Kepler’s absorbing essay on “The six-cornered snowflake” which has just been translated into English for the first time. Writing this in 1611, as a Christmas present for his Patron, Kepler puts forward six alternative theories to explain the hexagonal symmetry of the snow crystal, only to reject them all and leave the problem to future generations. It is still with us! For, although much has been learned in recent years about the factors that control the shape and development of the snow crystal, some important details still elude us. But if, at times, we feel a little discouraged, we have only to look at some of the many beautiful photographs of our subject to receive inspiration and encouragement. The most outstanding collection of micro-photographs from the artistic point of view, is undoubtedly that built up over 50 years by W. A. Bentley. Taken in Vermont, in the early days of photography, out of doors, in sub-freezing temperatures, these pictures have never been surpassed. In 1931, the American Meteorological Society had the happy idea of gathering together a permanent collection of Bentley’s work. Accompanied by a brief text, written by W. J. Humphreys, they were published by McGraw-Hill in one of the most handsome of scientific books ever printed. It contained more than 2,000 beautiful pictures of snow crystals, no two being exactly alike.
In recent years, this classic work has become virtually unobtainable, and it is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome this excellent reprint by the Dover Press. It is an exact, unabridged copy of the original, printed on high-quality paper in a glossy paper cover at a remarkably low price. The publishers deserve much credit for making this beautiful book available to a wide audience.