Substance Journal

Roger Caillois Mineral Collection

Roger Caillois bequeathed his renowned mineral collection to the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris. The collection, featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale, can be seen at the galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie. The following pages present images of selected pieces from the collection, paired with passages from Caillois's The Writing of Stones (Trans. Barbara Bray, University of Virginia Press, 1985). This content supplements but also contextualizes the excerpts from Caillois's Pierres réfléchies featured in Rock Records, as well as treatments of Caillois in the issue by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Paul Prudence, and Paul A. Harris. 

Caillois's opening words in The Writing of Stones provide a portal through which to enter this virtual gallery.

"Just as men have always sought after precious stones, so they have always prized curious ones, those that catch the attention through some anomaly of form, some suggestive oddity of color or pattern. Stones possess a kind of gravitas, something ultimate and unchanging, something that will never perish or else has already done so. They act through an intrinsic, infallible, immediate beauty, answerable to no one, necessarily perfect yet excluding the idea of perfection in order to exclude approximation, error, and excess. This spontaneous beauty thus precedes and goes beyond the actual notion of beauty, of which it is at once the promise and the foundation" (The Writing of Stones, 1-2).





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