“THEY APPEAR LIKE ROUND BALLS OF FIRE, OR GLOBES OF RED HOT IRON”: FIRST AND ONLY SEPARATE PRINTING OF CLAP’S WORK ON METEORS, 1781
Clap, Thomas. Conjectures Upon the Nature and Motion of Meteors, Which Are Above the Atmosphere. Norwich. Printed by John Trumbull, 1781. Slim quarto, original self wrappers, disbound, uncut; pp. 13 (3). $2750.
First and only separate publication of the first American work devoted solely to the subject of meteors, by Yale’s Thomas Clap—“the colonies’ most serious student of meteors,” scarce in original wrappers.
This pioneering early American work on meteors, the first American work singly devoted to the subject, was authored by Thomas Clap, who served over 26 years as both rector and president of Yale (1740-66), and is considered a “‘founding father’ of American science” (Tucker, ISIS). As “the colonies’ most serious student of meteors, Clap’s interest appears to have been aroused by the meteor of 1742.” In April 1759 he tracked the course of Halley’s comet, and in the 1750s developed a theory that meteors shared several characteristics with comets such that they could orbit the earth at a close distance without ever crashing into it. His Conjectures upon…Meteors initially circulated privately “among his colonial correspondents in 1756. Later he sent it (March 1, 1763) to Dr. John Pringle, who was himself something of an authority on meteors, and Pringle presented it to the Royal Society… at meetings of the Society held on June 7, 21 and July 5, 1764” (Stearns, Science in the British Colonies of America, 542). This exceptional edition is the first and only separate publication, published 15 years after Clap’s death. With half title; with illustrated diagram on rear leaf showing Clap’s theory of a meteor’s orbit. Evans 17113. Several small numerical notations on half title.
Several leaves detached and mild dampstaining. A scarce, extremely good copy of a valuable early contribution to American science.