Most of my bookcrops are unique, funny, sometimes bizarre or in this case a pioneering study in geology. I was given this book by a colleague with the Geological Survey of Canada when he was downsizing his collection. It is a canceled copy of Francois E. Matthes "Geologic History of the Yosemite Valley" published in 1930 as a USGS Professional Paper #160. You can view an online version here complete with all the plates and illustrations at the bottom of the page. Not all the plates are scanned full size but they are at least viewable.
Matthes's paper was the first comprehensive report of the geology and glacial history of the region and really championed the idea that Yosemite's landscape was a direct result of glacial activity. His descriptions and photographs were, and still are, compelling evidence to support this argument, which was first articulate by John Muir in "Studies in the Sierra." The historical link between Muir and Matthes is an interesting juxtopostion between a naturalist and an engineer - both with a love of mountains and glaciers. I think the most beautiful plate in the book is the "Map of Ancient Glaciers of the Yosemite Region."
Not only is the map beautifully drawn and colored but it offers a relatively good reconstruction of the extent of Wisconsin (or Tioga) glaciers. For a more recent account of the effects of glaciation in Yosemite you can read N. King Huber's "Geologic Story of Yosemite Valley" or Jeffrey Schaffer's "The Geomorphic Evolution of the Yosemite Valley and Sierra Nevada Landscapes."
One of my other favorite images is of the Dana Glacier taken by G.K. Gilbert - a pioneer in his own right. You can compare Gilbert's image (below left) with an earlier photograph taken my I.C. Russell (below right) in 1883 and get a sense of the amount of ice mass lost over the intervening decades. Similarly, if you compare it with a modern day image provided by Basagic (2004).
When you compare these two images with the one taken in 2004 by Basagic, the amount of ice volume lost since the late 1880s is dramatic! If you need further convincing that global ice volume is rapidly decreasing, visit Extreme Ice Survey for even more compelling images. Luckily you don't need to go out and by this book if you primarily want to look at the images - you can just explore the USGS online edition and really get a feel for the type of fieldwork and challenges Matthes must have faced writing this paper.