From writing about figures on the American scene (see his Real Books on George Washington and Andrew Jackson) Harold Coy changes to a portrait of a mineral- historical, physical and chemical. It is a romantic subject and he makes the most of its possibilities. First, there is the way gold was obtained, used, and the way it figured culturally- from ancient Egypt to the present day. Fascinating events- King Solomon's mining, Croesus' fabulous wealth, the fantastic ornaments of the Incas and the Aztecs -- are related skillfully in the light of world history. So is the saga of the '49ers and Jack London's days in the Klondike. Coming down to gold itself, Mr. Coy explains its atomic makeup, scientific uses, where it goes after it's scrapped, and for his last chapter there the rudiments of the gold standard and international economics. Where the interest lies, this will absorb.