17 June 2008
FRANKLIN, Benjamin (1706-1790). Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America. London: Printed and sold by E. Cave, 1751.
4o (214 x 160 mm). Engraved plate by Thomas Jeffreys. (Some light browning, tiny chip to upper right corner to most leaves, without advertisment leaf K4.) Modern calf antique. Provenance: Royal College of Surgeons of England (ink stamp on title); Constantine D.J. Generales, Medical Society of the State of New York (ink stamp and signature).
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST PART OF FRANKLIN'S MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION. The first part of Franklin's report on his electrical experiments performed during the latter half of the 1740s using the Leiden jar. Published in a series of letters addressed to Peter Collinson, a London merchant and naturalist, the results of his experiments provided successful analysis of electrical properties. His findings resulted in his proposition of the "single fluid" theory of electricity, which provided an explanation of induced charges. This work includes Franklin's account of his famous kite and key experiment. "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. In 1752 he flew a kite in a thunderstorm and attached a key to its string. From this he collected electric charges in a Leiden jar and showed that atmospheric and frictional or machine-made electricity are the same ... Experiments and Observations remains the most important scientific book of eighteenth-century America" (PMM). A brief second part, consisting of 12 leaves, was published in 1753 by Cave; this was followed by the third and final part in 1754. Dibner Heralds of Science 57; Grolier/Horblit 31a; PMM 199; Norman 830.
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