We’ve been hammered by the beginning of the fall semester, so it’s taken some time to respond the book challenge presented to us by beckerrarebooks
. Even though we are not noted for our science collections, we decided to follow the example of the past few challenge responses by focusing on the science-related publications we love to highlight whenever given the opportunity. Here are ten of some of our faves in publication-date order:
John Gerard. The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. London: Iohn Norton, 1597. One of the most popular of English herbals, this first edition of Gerard’s Herball is profusely illustrated with detailed, woodcut images that probably served as a source for Shakespeare, among others. It is also notable for presenting the first published illustration of the American potato.
Gaspar Schott. Physica curiosa, sive mirabilia naturæ et artis … . Herbipolis (Würzburg): J.A. Endteri & Wolffgangi jun. hæredum, excudebat J. Hertz, 1662. Two volumes. Gaspar Schott was a German Jesuit who maintained an interest in science and mathematics, producing numerous works on mathematics, physics, and magic, none of which were based on any first-hand research. Physica curiosa is a supplement to Schott’s most well-known work Magia universalis naturæ et artis (1657–1659). Frankly, we like to drag this publication out simply for its fantastic images of elephant-headed people, jackalopes, Albrecht Dürer-inspired rhinoceroses, and other such nonsense.
Francesco Redi. Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degl’Insetti. Firenze: All’insegna della Stella, 1668. Redi’s famous refutation of spontaneous generation. This volume also includes one of the first detailed descriptions of ectoparasites, especially ticks. The numerous copperplate engravings of these tiny arachnids, with decorative, scrolling label ribbons above them, give these bloodsuckers an almost vaunted, monumental appearance.
Marcello Malpighi. Opera posthuma. Amsterdam: Donatum Donati, 1698. A posthumous publication (Malpighi died in 1694) of the works of the father of microscopical anatomy and histology. Malphigian tubules, anyone!?
John Harris. Astronomical dialogues between a gentleman and a lady: wherein the doctrine of the sphere, uses of the globes, and the elements of astronomy and geography are explain’d in a pleasant, easy and familiar way. London: Printed by T. Wood for B. Cowse, 1719. Early science education for women; the title says it all.
Isaac Newton. Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica. Amsterdam: Sumptibus Societatis, 1723. The second Amsterdam printing of the “greatest work in the history of science.” The invention of calculus, the theory of gravity, the principles of time, force, and motion — just the basis for the development of modern physical science, that’s all.
Joseph Priestley. Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air. London : Printed for J. Johnson … , 1781-1784. Three volumes. Third corrected edition of Priestley’s report on his experiments with gases leading to his discovery of oxygen, or as he preferred to call it, “dephlogisticated air.”
John Dalton. A New System of Chemical Philosophy. Manchester: Printed by S. Russell for R. Bickerstaff, London, 1808-27. Three volumes. One of the earliest descriptions of molecular structure and the theory of atomic weights by this pioneer in the development of modern atomic theory.
François Marie Guyonneau de Pambour. A Practical Treatise on Locomotive Engines Upon Railways. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1836. Early treatise on choo-choos — with diagrams!! First Philadelphia printing after the first French edition published in Paris in 1835.
François André Michaux. The North American Sylva. Philadelphia: Rice & A. N. Hart, 1857. Five volumes. American reissue of Michaux’s monumental work first published in French and then in English translation by Augustus Lucas Hillhouse. The last two volumes in this set are an addition by English botanist Thomas Nutall that includes descriptions of the tress “not Described in the Work of F. Andrew Michaux.” The combined five volumes include hundreds of exquisite hand-colored lithographs.
Of course, there are many more we would like to include, but we agree with beckerrarebooks about the American Civil War Medical and Surgical History (we too have a copy of the six-volume set). We’re especially intrigued by the fabulous chromolithographs of bullet wounds (yes, we also have a particular affinity for zombies, vampires, and velociraptors here in Special Collections).