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WILLIAM GILBERT (1544-1603)
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WILLIAM GILBERT (1544-1603)

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WILLIAM GILBERT (1544-1603)
De magnete, magneticisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure; physiologia nova, plurimus & argumentis, & experimentis demonstrata. London: Peter Short, 1600. 2° (261 x 181mm). Woodcut printer's device of a brazen serpent [McKerrow 119] on title, woodcut arms of the author on verso. One folding woodcut diagram, woodcut text illustrations and diagrams, 4 full-page. Woodcut historiated and ornamental initials, and head- and tailpieces. (Occasional light spotting and inkmarking, paperflaws and neat marginal repairs on a few leaves, title slightly marked and guarded in, small hole in H2, stamps erased causing minor repairs on *1, *6, M1 and V6, folding diagram with neatly-repaired clean tear.) Modern calf in a contemporary style, boards panelled in blind with foliate cornerpieces, spine in compartments, gilt morocco lettering-piece in one, red edges. Provenance: early annotations.

FIRST EDITION. THE FIRST GREAT SCIENTIFIC BOOK TO BE PRINTED IN ENGLAND. 'Gilbert coined the terms "electricity", "electric force" and "electric attraction" and may rightly be considered the founder of electrical science' (PMM); further, he 'provided the only fully developed theory dealing with all five of the then known magnetic movements and the first comprehensive discussion of magnetism since the thirteenth-century Letter on the Magnet of Peter Peregrinus' (DSB). De magnete exemplifies pre-Baconian experimental philosophy by supporting new theories with empirically-derived experimental evidence, and these experiments were described in sufficient detail for the reader to recreate them. Gilbert also described his scientific instruments in great detail, including new ones such as the 'versorium' -- the first instrument to be used for the study of electric phenomena. Gilbert observed that the earth was a gigantic magnet and provided a physical basis for the Copernican theory. His work was cited by Digby, Boyle, Kepler and Huygens, and Galileo drew on Gilbertian magnetism to support his belief in a Copernican heliocentric cosmology in his Dialogo ... sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaico e Copernico. Dibner Heralds 54; Grolier Science 41; Norman 905; PMM 107; Wellcome 2830. Together with: [Silvanus Phillips Thompson's] Notes on the De magnete of Dr. William Gilbert. London: Chiswick Press/Charles Whittingham and Co., 1901. 2° (298 x 200mm). (Light spotting and marking.) Original cloth-backed boards. FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed by Thompson to the Scottish physical chemist Sir William Ramsay. No. 39 of a limited edition, possibly of 250 copies. (2)
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