WILSON A. BENTLEY (1865 - 1931). Snow Crystals. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1931.

Bentley, popularly known as the "snowflake man," was born on the family farm at Jericho, Vermont, and remained there all his life. His formal education was only the little he got from his mother, who taught him at home until he was fourteen, and at the public school of Jericho. With the aid of a small microscope which his mother had used as a school teacher, he became fascinated with the varied forms of the snowflake and began making pen-and-ink sketches of as many of them as he could. But the flakes were fleeting, the sketching tedious, and the results imperfect. In 1885, his mother persuaded his father to buy him a camera and young Bentley soon constructed a crude device by which he could obtain enlarged photographs of snow crystals. Gradually at first, and then rapidly, selections from these snow-crystal pictures appeared in newspapers, magazines, and books, both in the United States and abroad, many of them in the Monthly Weather Review of the United States Department of Agriculture.

For fifty years, practically Bentley's only interest was in picturing nature's water beauties - clouds, dew, frost, and, above all else, the snow crystal in its myriad forms. Bentley wrote in 1925, "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."

The book was made possible by the American Meteorological Society, with the aid of a subsidy by one of its fellows and the courage of a large publishing firm, McGraw-Hill. After furnishing the necessary pictures and being paid for them (he got no royalty, that going to the Meteorological Society), he knew nothing more of the book's progress until it was completed in 1931. It bore the title Snow Crystals, and the text was supplied by William J. Humphreys (1862 - 1949), a meteorologist at the U.S. Weather Bureau. The book contained more than 2400 snow crystal images, no two of them alike.

"Wilson Alwyn Bentley," Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1944.

List of books in exhibit (links go to author information and references)