17 June 2008
MAXWELL, James Clerk. A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1873.
2 volumes, 8o (221 x 140 mm). Half-titles, errata slip in vol. 1, 15-page publisher's advertisements at end of vol. 2. 21 plates, diagrams in text (Some occasional minor spotting.) Original maroon cloth, spines gilt (recased, some minor wear). Provenance: Philip E.B. Jourdain (1879-1919), historian of logic and mathematics (signature on front pastedowns).
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE of Maxwell's major work, with the words "just published" in the advertisement for this work on p.10 of the publisher's catalogue. Maxwell saw electricity not as just another branch of physics but "... as an aid to the interpretation of nature..." and saw the study of electromagnetism "... as a means of promoting the progress of science" (Preface, p. vii). A difficult book, the Treatise served to emphasis the importance of electricity to physics as a whole and to advance the hypothesis that light and electricity are the same in their ultimate nature. This theory, one of the most important discoveries of 19th-century physics, was Maxwell's greatest achievement and laid the groundwork for Einstein's theory of relativity. Grolier/Horblit 72; Norman 1466; PMM 355; Wheeler Gift Catalogue 1872.
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