Browse Exhibits (24 total)

"To all young practioners"


The Practice of New and Old Physicke was published in 1599 and written by Conrad Gessner.  You'll first notice the type, a font different than the more modern books in this collection.

Conrad Gessner was a Swiss naturalist and believed in the return to the study of natural science through observation; he was arguably the greatest naturalist of his age.  This was a time when what constitued as science included a broad range of topics, which meant Gessner had experience in all areas, from metallurgy to zoology.

This particular work of his includes mostly instructions on all types of distillations: water, oils, balms, as well as the extraction of salts and potable gold.  The science of “making gold” was a major element of scientific pursuits (pun intended) that spilled over from the Medieval ages—alchemy to be exact.

This edition was printed in London by Peter Short.

In A Little History of Science, William Bynum tells us “…laboratories were where alchemists worked.  Alchemy has a long history, stretching back to ancient Egypt, China, and Persia.  The aim of alchemists was not always simply to change less valuable (“base”) metals into gold: it was also to exert power over nature, to be able to control the things that surround us…The alchemist experimented with substances, to see what happened when things had violent reactions, like phosphorous and mercury.”


A Clergyman's Opinion


Primitive Physick: or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases is one of the more fascinating manuscripts within the collection, if only for the plethora of marginalia.  Written by John Wesley, the famous English clergyman and founder of Methodism, the work contains handwritten annotations from what appears to be at least two other writers

It's not too surprising that this type of work was not typical within Wesley’s canon.  However, it reflected the effect religion would have on the rising trend of pseudo-science, as this particular work focused on the practical side of science.

The work is filled with “home remedies,” making the science (particularly medical) field more accessible to the common man.  For someone like Wesley, physical health was closely linked to spiritual health.

This edition, the tenth, was printed in Bristol in 1762 by William Pine.


A Grand Historie


The Historie of the World: Commonly Called the Natural History was written centuries before its 17th century publishing. It was written by C. Plinus Secundus, an early naturalist and natural philosopher who actually lived during the first century.

This work became an early model for all other encyclopedias, formed by a collection of writings that came out of Pliny’s extensive observations and investigations of the natural world.  During this time, “history” also meant “description.”

This 1634 edition was translated by Philemon Holland, a doctor of physicke.


A Learned Collection


The Works of the Learned Sir Thomas Brown, published in 1686, includes a large variety of topics and arguments.  Sir Thomas Brown was a scholar and a doctor who wrote many discourses and treatise on a variety of subjects.  He was particular interested in the intersection of the spiritual and the natural, and his writings include many Biblical references.

This edition was printed in London for a large group, including Tho. Basset, Ric. Chiswell, Tho. Sawbridge, Charles Mearn, and Charles Brome.


Absolutely Medicine


Idea Universae Medicinae Practicae Libris XII absoluta was written by Johannes Jonstonus, a well-regarded Polish physicist and naturalist.  He boasted an extensive list of works, covering a range of topics, though more than often he focused on all types of animals.

The Special Collection’s edition was published in 1648, four years after the original work was released, in Latin.  Printed in Amstelodami for Apud Ludovicum Elzevirium.


An Alchemist's Workspaces


The Works of the Highly Experienced and Famous Chemist John Rudolph Glauber, a German-Dutch alchemist and chemist.  In 1625, Glauber actually invented sodium sulfate.  He worked as an apothecary but was also considered a chemical engineer.

This edition was printed in 1689 in London by a T. Milbourne.


An Opinion on Learning


Of the Advancement and Proficiencie of Learning was published in 1674.  It was written by the famous Francis Bacon, an English lawyer and politician who thought deeply regarding science and its advancement.  Bacon was most famous for the method of induction, or repeating experiments over and over again until results are consistent, his way of supporting the growth of empirical science. “Bacon urged people to value science. ‘Knowledge is power,’ he famously said” (A Little History of Science, Bynum 2012).

This work in particular set the example for other contemporary encyclopedias.

This edition was published in London in 1674 and translated by Gilbert Watts.


Blazing the Trail to the 19th Century


A Dissertation Upon the Philosophy of Light, Heat, and Fire is the last of the early modern works in this collection.  The work was written by James Hutton, a Scottish chemist, naturalist, and founder of modern geology.  His theory of Unitarianism changed the way the earth’s formation was studied.

He wrote many books on geology and his theories surrounding it, while travelling to study rocks and landforms of many kinds.  Hutton also wrote about his studies of the atmosphere of the earth, which relates more to this specific work.

This edition was published in 1794 Edinburgh and printed for a Cadell and a Davies, both in London.


Carnival of the Animals


Memoirs For a Natural History of Animals: Containing the Anatomical Descriptions of Several Creatures Dissected by the Royal Academy of Science at Paris, does not have one author, but it is explained to be by the “Academie des Sciences” in France.

However, it was translated by Alexander Pitfield, a fellow of the Royal Society

It was printed in 1688 in London by Joseph Streater.


Curing Melancholy


The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, was not the first of its genre of the literature of the humors.  Authors like Lemnius Levinus had written on the diseases and cures of the more psychological side of the human body.  Burton was a mathematician and an amateur astrologist.  This was his most famous work, although he also wrote a popular comedy called Philosophaster.

Having a talent for narrative, it is no surprise that he wrote Anatomy with more of a literary tone—it’s in first person and his language is both imaginative and eloquent.  This was to be a treatise on why the study of psychology is more important than of natural science.

It has been said that Burton wrotehis great study of melancholy to treat himself for his own depression.  Yet, Burton’s work is full of humor; this is not your typical science literature.

This edition was printed in Oxford, for a Henry Cripps.