Theodore Gray’s Elements Vault – Book Review

Elements Vault
Theodore Gray – Elements Vault

Theodore Gray’s Elements Vault is a book about the chemical elements. However, it much more than just a book of element facts and pretty pictures. This book also includes:

  • element samples (including real gold)
  • 20 removable historic documents about the elements that you can pull out to examine
  • 20″ x 10″ poster of the emission spectra of the elements
  • element facts, organized according by element group, so you get a good feel for the trends in the periodic table
  • gorgeous photographs of the elements

Book Review

I came across Theodore Gray back in the early days of the internet. I was writing about chemistry and he offered some of the first good pictures of the elements. Eventually, he collected more elements photos, compiling a well-known and respected photographic periodic table of the elements.

As an online personality, I tend to read e-books rather than ‘real’ books, so in the usual course of things, I would not have seen Elements Vault. However, my son brought it home for me to look at, claiming it was one of the best books he had ever purchased.

I was skeptical (and also busy) and the book languished on the shelf beside my computer for about a week. One day, I picked it up to move it. As the book opened, I was entranced! Yes, the images are glorious, but there was so much more to this book. Theodore Gray offers interesting and insightful text regarding the history of element discovery and uses. His facts are helpful for anyone taking a chemistry class or otherwise curious about the properties of the elements. The element samples are packaged such that you can remove them from their built-in pouches, handle them, examine them, and return them to the book. The historical documents are carefully selected so that there will be something of interest to pretty much anyone who opens the book. Included are:

  • an advertisement for 7-UP soda, back when it contained lithium
  • Einstein’s famous letter to Roosevelt discussing the use of uranium in nuclear weapons
  • Mendeleev’s original on the periodic table

If you’ve ever read any of my chemistry book reviews, you know I try to say nice things about every book I review, but I’m also critical, rarely finding a book I truly enjoy. I’m happy to say, I only have good things to say about this book. The only possible drawback is that it costs a bit more than other books of element facts, however, it’s a large hardbound coffee-table book with lots of extras, so (in my opinion) it’s worth it.

if you are a hands-on type of person, this is the one book that can give you, literally, a feel for the chemical elements. You can find it online and at most bookstores. If you pick it up used, be sure the elements, documents, and poster are all still intact. They greatly add to the value of the book.