Historical Reading List: Carrara Marble

Black and white illustration showing workers in a Carrara marble quarry
This illustration of a Carrara marble quarry appeared in the journal La Science Populaire in 1880 (Vol 1, No. 15 (27 May), pp. 232-233).

When sedimentary carbonate rocks (such as limestones) are geologically transformed by heat and pressure, the calcite and/or dolomite is recrystallised to form a metamorphic rock called marble. When the original sedimentary rocks are very pure, the result is a white marble, but if impurities are present, coloured, banded or veined marble can result. Because of its granular texture, homogeneity and ability to take a polish, marble has been used for sculptures and other artistic purposes for more than 3,000 years. It has long been employed as an exterior layer on buildings.

Marble has been quarried in immense amounts in a number of countries. One of the best known sources of marble is the Apuan Alps in Tuscany in northern Italy near the small port city of Carrara, where numerous quarries have operated since classical times in the nearby mountains. Blocks of marble are brought down from the mountains to the coast at Livorno from whence they are now exported overseas by ship. This Carrara marble has been used in a number of remarkable buildings as well as famous works of sculpture.


This reading list was compiled to give you an opportunity to learn more about the history of the famous marble quarries of Carrara, Italy, which have been in operation for hundreds of years. The list is presented in chronological order to emphasise the development of ideas over time. The list is not comprehensive, but a compilation of some interesting information that has often been forgotten or overlooked.

Many of the articles exist in the public domain and can be found online at digital libraries such as Hathitrust, Internet Archive or other digital repositories. More recent publications can often be found in libraries, including the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library. Abstracts of these articles can usually be found on the website of the original journal or magazine, and the article itself is often available for purchase from the publisher.

Regarding the GIA library’s holdings and on-site access, please contact the GIA library in Carlsbad.

“A Natural History of Fossils”, E. Mendes da Costa, Vol. 1, Part 1, pp. 188-190 (1757). The author gives a short description of various white marbles including those from the Carrara region of Italy.

Chymische Versuche mit dem sogenannten carririschen, und dem sogenannten florentinischen figurirten Marmor, zur Erläuterung der Mineralogie [Chemical Studies of the so-called Carrara and so-called Florentine Marbles as an Explanation of the Mineralogy], J.B.J. Zauschner, Abhandlungen einer Privatgesellschaft in Böhmen, Vol. 3, pp. 287-290 (1777).  An early chemical study of Italian marbles.
Beobachtungen aus den Marmorbrücken von Carrara [Observations on the Marble Quarries of Carrara], L. Spallanzani, Magazin für das Neueste aus der Physik und Naturgeschichte, Vol. 5, No. 4, pp. 36-41 (1789).  The author presents an early study of Carrara marble.
“Sopra l’Alpe Apuana ed I Marmi de Carrara” [On the Apuan Alps and the Marble of Carrara], E. Repetti, Dalla Badia Fiesolana, 231 pp. (1820).  An early description is given of the Apuan Alps where the marble quarries are located.
Die Gebirgsverhältnisse in der Grafschaft Massa-Carrara [The Mountain Conditions in the County of Massa-Carrara], F. Hoffmann and L. von Buch, Archiv für Mineralogie, Geognosie, Bergbau und Huttenkunde, Vol. 6, pp. 229-263 (1834).  This article presents a geographical and geological description of the mountains near Carrara which are the site of the marble quarries.
Brief Observations on the State of the Arts in Italy …, C.H. Wilson, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Vol. 30, No. 59, pp. 90-110 (1841).  In this review of the artistic traditions in Italy, the author discusses the use of Carrara marble in sculptures.

Analyse von Carrarischem Marmor, Bester Qualität [Analysis of the Best Quality Carrara Marble], P.M. Kaeppel, Journal für Praktische Chemie, Vol. 57, No. 6, pp. 324-326 (1852). Results of the chemical analysis of marble samples from Carrara are presented.

Les Marbres de l’Altissimo et de Carrare [The Marbles of the Heights of Carrara], L. Simonin, Revue des Deux Mondes, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp. 125-161 (1864).  Description of a visit to the marble quarries.

“The Mineral Resources of Central Italy”, W.P. Jervis, Edward Stanford, London, 89 pp. (1868).  This book contains a chapter on the marble quarries.

Die Marmorindustrie der Apuanischen Alpen [The Marble Industry of the Apuan Alps], H. Zix, Zeitschrift für das Berg-, Hütten- und Salinen-Wesen in dem Preussischen Staate, Vol. 16, pp. 187-198 (1868). The author describes the marble industry in the Carrara region.

“La Toscane et la Mer Tyrrhénienne [Tuscany and the Tyrrhenian Sea]”, L. Simonin, Challanel Aine, Paris (1868) and “Les Pierres: Esquisses Mineralogiques [The Stones: Mineralogical Sketches]”, L. Hachette et Cie, Paris (1869).  These two books by the same author contain sections on the Carrara marbles.

“L’Industria dei Marmi Apuani [The Apennines Marble Industry]”, C. Magenta, G. Barbera, Florence, 176 pp. (1871).  A description is given of the marble industry in the Apennine region.

Notes on the White Marble Quarries of Carrara Italy, E. Hull, Journal of the Royal Geological Society of Ireland, Vol. 3, pp. 51-55 (1873). The author describes the marble quarries based on a visit to the area.

“Beneath the Surface, or the Wonders of the Underground World”, W.H.D. Adams, T. Nelson and Sons, Edinburgh, 560 pp. (1876).  In this book on geological wonders seen underground, the author describes the Carrara marble quarries.

The Carrara Marbles – A Chapter in the History of Continental Geology, G.A. Lebour, Geological Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 7, pp. 289-292 (1876).  The author discusses the geological age of the rock units that include the Carrara marbles.

Marble-Mining in Carrara, R.W. Welch, Century Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 240-243 (1882).  The methods used to quarry marble blocks from the mountains near Carrara are described.

Carrara und seine Marmor-Industrie [Carrara and its Marble Industry], B.R. Martini, Die Gartenlaube, Vol. 31, pp. 455-459 (1883).  The author describes the marble industry.

Die Marmorbrücke von Carrara [The Marble Bridge of Carrara], E. Kaempffer, Westermann’s Illustrierte Deutsche Monatshefte, Vol. 63, No. 374, pp. 177-189 (1887).  A description of quarrying marble blocks in the mountains near Carrara is provided.

The Marble Quarries of Carrara, F.A. Junker, Art Journal, Vol. 50, pp. 356-360 (1888). The quarrying and recovery of marble blocks are described.

A Reminiscence of the Marble Quarries of Carrara, W. Sharp, Good Words, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 617-626 (1890). The author describes a visit to the Carrara region.

The Carrara-Marble District Railway, C.P. Sheibner, Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Vol. 103, pp. 342-351 (1891).  The railway constructed to bring marble from the quarries to the Mediterranean coastline for export is described.

“Around the Roman Campagna”, G.E. Thompson, pp. 143-156, Edward Howell, Liverpool (1893). This book contains a chapter on the marble quarries.

The Marble Quarries of Carrara, A. Lee, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 442-447 (1894).  A historical review is presented of the use of Carrara marble over the past two millennia.

The Marble-Workers of Carrara, H. Zimmern, English Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 11, No. 127, pp. 719-724 (1894). The author describes the mining of marble at Carrara.  The same article is summarised in Littell’s Living Age, Vol. 201, No. 2602, pp. 444-445 (1894).  A more detailed article by the same author appeared in Leisure Hour, Vol. 48, pp. 712-718 (1899).

Au Pays de Marbre [In the Land of Marble], E. Neukomm, Journal des Voyages, Vol. 35, No. 888, pp. 41-42 (1894).  A short description of the Carrara quarries.

Carrara and its Marble, Author unknown, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 155-157 (1896).  This article discusses the state of the Carrara marble trade.

La Patria – Geografia dell’ Italia [The Country – Geography of Italy], G. Strafforello, Unione Tipografico, Turin, 272 pp. (1896).  This book contains a section on the Carrara region and the marble quarries.

In den Marmorbergen – Carrara [In the Marble Mountains – Carrara], H. Kurz, Über Land und Meer, Vol 79, No. 9, pp. 143-146 (1898).  A description is given of the Carrara region and the marble quarries.

The Marble Quarries of Carrara, C. Venuti, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, Vol. 76, No. 66, pp. 212-215 (1899). The history is given of the uses of marble for sculpture and the arts.

Carrara and its Quarries, Unknown author, Scientific American, Vol. 80, No. 14, p. 215 (1899).  A brief description is given of the marble quarries.  The same article appeared in Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 19-21 (1899).

Dispositions Capables d'Étendre et de Faciliter l'Usage du Fil Hélicoïdal pour la Taille du Marbre in Roche [Provisions Capable of Expanding and Facilitating the Use of Helical Wire for the Cutting of Marble and Rocks], N. Pellati, Bulletin de la Société de l’Industrie Minérale, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 1275-1282 (1900).  The author discusses techniques used to cut blocks of marble at the Carrara mines.

Die Marmorindustrie von Carrara [The Marble Industry of Carrara], Unknown author, Berichte über Handel und Industrie, Vol. 2, No. 15, pp. 488-493 (1901). A report on the marble industry from the United States Consul in Livorno.

The Carrara Marble Industry, J.A. Smith, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 32-36 (1901). The author, the US consul in Leghorn (Livorno), gives a summary of the state of the marble industry.

The Marble Quarries of Carrara, A. Melani, Architectural Review, Vol. 9, pp. 182-185 and 230-232 (1901).  The author gives a description of the Carrara quarries.

The Carrara Marble Industry, Unknown author, Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. 49, No. 2525, pp. 393-394 (1901). The marble industry is briefly described.  The same article appeared in the Scientific American Supplement, Vol. 53, No. 1376, pp. 22045-22046 (1902).

Carrara Marble, Unknown author, Mining Reporter, Vol. 43, No. 6, pp. 91-92 (1901). General information on the local marble industry is presented.

Carrare: La Cité du Marbre [Carrara: The City of Marble], R. De Broutelles, La Tour du Monde, Vol. 9, No. 28, pp. 325-336 (1903). The marble industry centred around the town of Carrara is described.

A Marble World, E. St. J. Hart, Pearson’s World, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 141-146 (1903). The methods for quarrying marble at Carrara are described.

The Carrara Quarries, Unknown author, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 418-422 (1903). This article discusses the historical techniques that were used to transport large blocks of marble from the quarries.

Die Marmorbrüche von Carrara [The Marble Bridge of Carrara], E.F. Lwoff, Die Woche, Vol. 6, No. 19, pp. 841-845 (1904). The author discusses the small town of Carrara.

Carrara, W. Hörstel, Himmel und Erde, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 1-22 (1907). The quarrying of Carrara marble from historical to modern times is discussed.

Carrarische Marmor [Carrara Marble], G. Eberlein, Die Gartenlaube, Vol. 55, pp. 85-88 (1907).  The author describes the marble quarries.

The Marble Quarries of Carrara, D.A. Willey, Scientific American, Vol. 97, No. 20, pp. 361-362 (1907). A brief description of the quarries is provided.

Classification of Carrara Marble, Unknown author, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 28, No. 7, pp. 407-410 (1908). The types of marble from the Carrara region are discussed.

A Titanic Blast, P.C. Webb, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 5, pp. 204-206 (1908).  The author describes a large dynamite blast used to open up a marble quarry.

Florentinische Erinnerungen [Florentine Memories], I. Kurz, George Müller, Munich, 390 pp. (1910).  This book contains a chapter on the marble mountains of Carrara (pp. 323-348).

Carrara und seine Marmorbrüche [Carrara and its Marble Quarries], F. Mielert, Deutsche Rundschau für Geographie, Vol. 33, No. 11, pp. 545-555 (1911). The Carrara mining district is described.  Similar articles by this author appeared in Unsere Welt, Vol. 2, pp. 397-402 (1910); in Globus, Vol. 97, No. 19, pp. 293-299 (1910); and in Urania, Vol. 5, No. 30, pp. 533-536 (1912).

Aus dem Unbekannten Italien [On the Unknown Italien], A. Steinitzer, 291 pp., R. Piper & Company, Munich (1911).  This book contains a chapter on the Carrara marble industry (pp. 79-125).

The Carrara Marble Industry, F.A. Delmas, Stone – An Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 8, pp. 411-414 (1912). Quarrying has continued for two millennia, but early methods used to recover and transport marble blocks resulted in a large amount of waste material that now covers and hinders access to additional material for mining. The author, a US consulate agent, reviews the current state of the marble industry at Carrara.

The Carrara Marble Industry, Unknown author, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 62, No. 3184, pp. 35-36 (1913). A brief note on the marble industry.

The Geological Age of the Carrara Marble, T.G. Bonney and H.H. Winwood, Geological Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 7, pp. 289-294 (1915).  The authors describe the geological setting of the marble occurrence.

The Carrara, Massa, and Versilia Marble Districts, C.S. Du Riche-Preller, Geological Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 12, pp. 554-565 (1915). A geological description is given of the marble districts.  This information is also presented in “Italian Mountain Geology”, on pages 85-96 (1918).

“British and Foreign Marbles and other Ornamental Stones”, J. Watson, pp. 175-204 (1916).  This book contains a chapter on the Carrara region in which the various quarries and the marbles they produce are described.

Massenspektrometrische Multielementenanalyse von Carrara-Marmor [Mass-Spectrometric Multi-Element Analyses of Carrara Marble], J. Luck, P. Möller and W. Szacki, Fresenius’ Zeitschrift für Analytische Chemie, Vol. 267, No. 3, pp. 186-188 (1973).  Chemical analysis data obtained by mass spectrometry are presented on the trace elements found in the marble.

A Preliminary Evaluation of Chemical Data (Trace Element) from Classical Marble Quarries in the Mediterranean, L. Conforto, M. Felici, D. Monna, L. Serva and A. Taddeucci, Archaeometry, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 201-213 (1975). Chemical analysis of minor and trace elements measured in samples from several classical Mediterranean quarries indicates that the determination of the geographical origin of marble may be possible.

Determination of Marble Provenance: Limits of Isotopic Analysis, K. Germann, G. Holzmann and F.J. Winkler, Archaeometry, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 99-106 (1980). The authors discuss the determination of marble geographical sources by the use of carbon and oxygen isotopes.

High-Temperature Flow and Dynamic Recrystallization of Carrara Marble, S.M. Schmid, M.S. Paterson and J.N. Boland, Tectonophysics, Vol. 65, No. 3/4, pp. 245-280 (1980).  The authors conducted experiments to study the recrystallisation of marble during deformation at high temperatures.

Tracing the Origins of Marble, N. Herz and D.B. Wenner, Archaeology, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 14-21 (1981).  Article not seen.

Carrara Marble Area, L. Casagrande, Lapidary Journal, Vol. 36, No. 5, pp. 880-893 (1982). The author reports on a visit to the marble quarrying area.

Carrara Marble: Touchstone of Eternity, C. Newman, National Geographic, Vol. 162, No. 1, pp. 42-59 (1982).  Article not seen.

Stable Isotopes and Archaeological Geology: The Carrara Marble, Northern Italy, N. Herz and N.E. Dean, Applied Geochemistry, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 139-151 (1986). The use of several isotopes (carbon, oxygen and strontium) for determining the provenance of Carrara marbles is discussed.

Carbon and Oxygen Isotopic Ratios: A Data Base for Classical Greek and Roman Marble, N. Herz, Archaeometry, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 35-43 (1987).  Based on a database of results of the analysis of samples from 39 classical Greek and Roman quarries around the Mediterranean, the authors show that particular localities display distinctive isotopic signatures.

Minerals of the Carrara Marble, M. Franzini, P. Orlandi, G. Bracci and D. Dalena, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 263-296 (1987). Descriptions are given of a number of accessory minerals that occur in the Carrara marbles.

Geochemistry and Archaeological Geology of the Carrara Marble, Carrara, Italy, N.E. Dean, Classical Marble: Geochemistry, Technology, Trade, NATO ASI Series, Vol. 153, pp. 315-323 (1988). The author summarises a geological field investigation of the Carrara area.

Micromechanics of the Brittle to Plastic Transition in Carrara Marble, J.T. Fredrich, B. Evans and T.F. Wong, Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 94, No. B4, pp. 4129-4145 (1989). The authors studied the changes in the physical properties of marble under conditions of increasing pressure.

Experimental Study of the Influence of Stress, Temperature, and Strain on the Dynamic Recrystallization of Carrara Marble, E.H. Rutter, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, Vol. 100, No. B12, pp. 24651-24663 (1995).  The author reports the results of deformation experiments conducted at high temperatures and pressures that were undertaken to study the structural changes in the marble associated with dynamic recrystallisation.

A New Methodology for the Provenance of Marble based on EPR Spectroscopy, K. Polikreti and Y. Maniatis, Archaeometry, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 1-21 (2002).  A technique for distinguishing archaeological samples using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy is discussed.

14C-Dating from an Old Quarry Waste Dump of Carrara Marble (Italy): Evidence of Pre-Roman Exploitation, G. Bruschi, A. Criscuolo, E. Paribeni and G. Zanchetta, Journal of Cultural Heritage, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 3-6 (2004).  Carbon dating of ancient rock waste indicates that efforts to recover marble at Carrara extend back to approximately 750 BC, a time that predates the conquest of the area by Rome.

Accessory Minerals and δ18O and δ13C of marbles from the Mediterranean Area, S. Capedri, G. Venturelli and A. Photiades, Journal of Cultural Heritage, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 27-47 (2004).  Accessory minerals were documented in marble samples from Italy and other countries as an additional way of establishing the provenance of archaeological marbles.

A Non-Destructive Methodology for the Characterization of White Marble of Artistic and Archaeological Interest, F. Biricotti and M. Severi, Journal of Cultural Heritage, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 49-61 (2004). A method of measuring certain physical properties of white marbles is described as a way to characterise different marble samples.

World at Work: Marble Quarrying in Tuscany, G. Angotzi, L. Bramanti, D. Tavarini, M. Gragnani, L. Cassiodoro, L. Moriconi, P. Saccardi, I. Pinto, N. Stacchini and M. Bovenzi, Occupational & Environmental Health, Vol. 62, No. 6, pp. 417-421 (2005).  The authors discuss occupational hazards for workers involved with marble quarrying.

The Carrara Marbles (Alpi Apuane, Italy): A Geological and Economical Review, M. Meccheri, G. Molli, P. Conti and L. Vaselli, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geowissenschaften, Vol. 158, No. 4, pp. 719-735 (2007).  Article not seen.

“Reading the White Stone: Travels through the Italian Marble Quarries”, D. Macfarlane, Little Brown & Company, New York, 224 pp. (2010).  Book not seen.

Carrara Marble, A. Claridge, Encyclopedia of Ancient History (DOI: 10.1002/9781444338386.wbeah16040) (2012).  This section of the encyclopaedia discusses the historical importance of Carrara marble.

“Michelangelo’s Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries of Carrara”, E. Scigliano, Atria Books, New York, 368 pp. (2012).  Book not seen.

Carrara Marble: A Nomination for “Global Heritage Stone Resource” from Italy, P. Primavori, Geological Society of London Special Publication, Vol. 407, pp. 137-154 (2015). Because of its cultural and economic heritage, this material is nominated as a heritage resource stone.

Geological Application of UAV Photogrammetry and Terrestrial Laser Scanning in Marble Quarrying (Apuan Alps, Italy), R. Salvini, S. Riccucci, D. Gulli, R. Giovannini, C. Vanneschi and M. Francioni, Engineering Geology for Society and Territory, Vol. 5, pp. 979-983 (2015).  The authors conducted a structural-geological survey of the marble quarries to identify stones of potential rock instability to improve workplace safety.

I Minerali nel Marmo di Carrara [Minerals of the Carrara Marble], A. Morino, Rivista Mineralogica Italiana, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 242-253 (2017).  The author describes minerals that can occur as crystals with cavities in the marble.

Dr James Shigley is a distinguished research fellow at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, California.