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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 183

    HOOKE, Robert (1635-1703). Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses. London: John Martyn and James Allestry for the Royal Society, 1665.

    Price Realised  

    HOOKE, Robert (1635-1703). Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses. London: John Martyn and James Allestry for the Royal Society, 1665.

    2o (300 x 192 mm). Title-page printed in red and black with engraved arms of the Royal Society. 38 engraved plates, by and after the author and possibly also Christopher Wren (15 folding), woodcut head-pieces and five-line initials (some minor spotting, small repair to verso of first plate, one or two small repairs to gutters). (First leaf expertly laid down on antique paper, occasional mostly marginal spotting or marking.) Contemporary calf, gilt arms of The Society of Writers to the Signet center of upper cover (rebacked to style with endpaper renewed, extremities rubbed); quarter morocco folding box. Provenance: Contemporary annotations to two plates; The Society of Writers to the Signet, the oldest legal society in the world (arms on binding); William Morehead (bookplate and library label).

    "THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WORK IN THE HISTORY OF MICROSCOPY, CONTAINING THE DISCOVERIES MADE WITH HOOKE'S NEWLY PERFECTED COMPOUND MICROSCOPE" (Norman)

    FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE OF HOOKE'S MOST CELEBRATED WORK, with the title printed in red and black and dated 1665. "Micrographia was not only the first book devoted entirely to microscopical observations, but also the first to pair its descriptions with profuse and detailed illustrations, and this graphic portrayal of a hitherto unseen world had an impact rivalling that of Galilieo's Sidereus nuncius... his famous and dramatic portraits of the flea and louse, a frightening eighteen inches long, are hardly less stratling today than they must have been to Hooke's contemporaries" (Norman).

    The 28-page preface gives a description of the newly-perfected compound microscope, and "contains many reflections on human faculties and the importance of scientific discoveries in general" (Keynes). Although the main emphasis is on plants and insects, the written "Observations" that follow range from "The Point of a Needle" and "Edge of a Razor" (nos. 1-2) to "The Fixt Stars" and "The Moon" (nos. 59-60), and include almost everything except a unifying theory. Newton read the book diligently in his mid-twenties; his notes on it survive at Cambridge, and there is no doubt that Hooke's examination of the phenomena of colors in thin, transparent films led him directly to the experiments which became the foundation for Book Two of the Opticks. In his last observation, Hooke conjectured that the moon might have a gravitating principle like the earth's; his book also marks the first scientific use of the word "cell". Although Keynes states that the plates are "mostly folding", many of the folds are only short flaps, and the number of folding plates varies from copy to copy, depending on the whim of the binder; in this copy some plates have been trimmed across the platemark, but without loss to the images. As in the copy described by Horblit Science, plates 2 and 13 are titled in manuscript ("Schem. 2" and "Schem. 13"), and plate XVI is bound after XXI. Dibner Heralds of Science 187; ESTC s.v.; Garrison-Morton 262; Heirs of Hippocrates 599; Horblit Science 50; Keynes Dr. Robert Hooke 6; Norman 1092; PMM 147.


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