"THE FIRST EXPERIMENTAL SCIENTIST IN THE MODERN SENSE": FIRST EDITION OF ROBERT BOYLE'S MEDICINA HYDROSTATICA, 1690, PUBLISHED THE YEAR BEFORE HIS DEATH, THE FIRST WORK DIRECTING "PHYSICISTS AND CHEMISTS TO THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIFIC GRAVITY"
BOYLE, Robert. Medicina Hydrostatica: Or, Hydrostaticks Applyed to the Materia Medica. Shewing, How by the Weight that divers Bodies, us'd in Physick, have in Water; one may discover Whether they be Genuine or Adulterate. To which is subjoyn'd, A Previous Hydrostatical Way of Estimating Ores. London: Printed for Samuel Smith, 1690. Small octavo (4-1/4 by 6-1/2 inches), contemporary speckled brown sheep early rebacked and recornered; pp (xxvi), 217, (vii), (ii), 14. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $11,000.
First edition of the "first tract in English upon the determination of specific gravity," one of the final works by Boyle, "arguably the most influential figure in the emerging scientific culture of late 17th-century Britain" and a close friend of John Locke, whose Essay Concerning Human Understanding appeared the same year, containing engraved frontispiece of weighing scales, bound with Catalogue of Philosophical Books at rear, a handsome copy in contemporary boards.
"A disciple of the empiricism and rationalism of Bacon and Descartes, Boyle devoted his life to establishing an empirically based, mechanistic theory of matter" (Norton I:298). A pillar of the Scientific Revolution with Locke and Newton, "Boyle was arguably the most influential figure in the emerging scientific culture of late 17th-century Britain," and is substantially viewed as "the first experimental scientist in a modern sense" (Hunter, Robert Boyle, 1). Medicina Hydrostatica, "the first tract in English upon the determination of specific gravity, was written by Boyle the year before his death… The principle of weighing bodies in the air and in water dates from the time of Archimedes or probably earlier, but it was Boyle who first directed the attention of physicists and chemists to the importance of specific gravity" (Fulton, 128). Locke, his friend and executor, published his Essay Concerning Human Understanding the same year as Medicina Hydrostatica.
Here Boyle reveals his precise method of "applying the physicist's approach to chemical problems… His work on specific gravity (he devised a useful and simple 'hydrostatic balance') is generally classed as physics, but though he began it as a commentary on Pascal, he quickly applied it to chemistry" (Boas, Robert Boyle, 132). "Interestingly, Boyle also planned a sequel… this would have been entitled Medicina Chromatica and would similarly have illustrated the value of color tests… no second volume was ever published" (Hunter, 175-76). First edition of Medicina: "leaf A1 was a title page, subsequently cancelled," replaced with pi2 (engraved frontispiece and title page within double-ruled border). "Table" at rear identifying the specific gravity of ivory, coral, copper and other materials. Bound with second edition of Catalogue of the Philosophical Books and Tracts (first issued in 1689): separately paginated with separate title page containing publisher's imprint dated the same as Medicina title page. "One of Boyle's last writings and important as the first work in English on determining specific gravity. The catalogue at the end is rare and was added to only a few copies." (Neville, Historical Chemical Library I:200)). "The book is not common and has not been reprinted except for the Geneva edition" (Fulton 189). Krivatsy 1727. ESTC R17502. Wing B3988 (Medicina). Wing B3928A (Catalogue); See Wing B3928. Half title with early owner bookplate of "John Jocelyn." Occasional early marginalia.
Interior fresh with lightest scattered foxing and toning, a few marginal paper flaws, faint marginal dampstaining to early leaves. A most desirable copy of a signal work in the history of science.