"AMERICA'S FIRST GREAT SCIENTIFIC CONTRIBUTION": FIRST COMPLETE EDITION OF FRANKLIN'S ILLUSTRATED EXPERIMENTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON ELECTRICITY, 1769, A HANDSOME WIDE-MARGINED COPY IN CONTEMPORARY BOARDS
FRANKLIN, Benjamin. Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America… To which are added, Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. The Whole corrected, methodized, improved, and now first collected into one Volume, and Illustrated with Copper Plates. London: For David Henry; and sold by Francis Newbery, 1769. Large octavo, contemporary marbled paper-covered boards rebacked in half tan sheep with vellum tips, raised bands, red morocco spine label. $30,000.
First complete edition of "the most important scientific book of 18th-century America" and "America's first great scientific contribution" (PMM), with seven engraved plates (two folding). An exceptional, wide-margined copy. An important edition, edited and revised by Franklin himself, and with material and footnotes appearing here for the first time, especially scarce in contemporary marbled boards.
This first complete edition is the fourth edition of the original work; the earlier editions, each issued in three parts as separately published pamphlets usually bound together, were carelessly published. Franklin edited this new one-volume edition himself, significantly revising the text, adding for the first time a number of his own philosophical letters and papers, introducing footnotes, correcting errors, and adding an index (Cohen, Benjamin Franklin's Experiments). "Franklin's most important scientific publication," Experiments and Observations contains detailed accounts of the founding father's crucial kite and key experiment, his work with Leiden jars, lightning rods and charged clouds (Norman 830). "The most dramatic result of Franklin's researches was the proof that lightning is really an electrical phenomenon. Others had made such a suggestion before him— even Newton himself— but it was he who provided the experimental proof" (PMM). "The lightning experiments caused Franklin's name to become known throughout Europe to the public at large and not merely to men of science. Joseph Priestley, in his History… of Electricity, characterized the experimental discovery that the lightning discharge is an electrical phenomenon as 'the greatest, perhaps, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton'… Franklin's achievement… marked the coming of age of electrical science and the full acceptance of the new field of specialization" (DSB). With rarely found half title; with errata and advertisement for this edition bound following preface leaf. Mispaginations as noted in the advertisement/errata leaf (with the exception of p. 291). Containing engraved ornamental initials, head- and tailpieces. Grolier American 10. Howes F320. Sabin 25506. Ford 307. ESTC T101040.
Text and plates generally fresh with light scattered foxing, expert archival rebacking to endpapers, tiny bit of edge-wear to lower margin of preface leaf not affecting text, some rubbing to contemporary boards. A highly desirable extremely good copy, very scarce in contemporary boards.