GALVANI, Luigi (1737-1798). De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari commentarius cum Joannis Aldini dissertatione et notis. Accesserunt epistolae ad animalis electricitatis theoriam pertinentes. Modena: apud Societatem Typographicam, 1792.
4o (250 x 184 mm). 3 folding engraved plates printed in sanguine, plate 3 in the first state, with the letter "E" in figure 22 uncorrected. Woodcut headpiece, c6 blank and present. (Mostly light dampstain to corners, a3 with small tear catching footnotes.) Original plain blue wrappers (backstrip torn and soiled); folding cloth case.
Second edition. Luigi Galvani, Professor of Anatomy at Bologna, became interested in the study of the physiology of nerves and muscles in the 1770s, and "began in late 1780 an extensive and meticulous series of investigations into the irritable responses elicited by static electricity in properly prepared frogs" (DSB). In the course of these experiments he hit quite by accident upon the central phenomenon of "galvanism": the production of an electric current betwen two metals in a moist environment. "He did not, however, interpret his own discovery this way. Instead, Galvani thought that he had finally obtained confirmation for the suspicion, entertained from time to time during the eighteenth century, that animals possess in their nerves and muscles a subtle fluid quite analogous to ordinary electricity" (DSB). He first published his theory in 1791, in volume V of the proceedings of the Bologna Academy of Science, where it aroused great interest and controversy. The offprint of his article, the first separate edition of the work, is known in only a dozen copies. This first edition in book form is the first to contain the notes and commentary by Giovanni Aldini, Galvani's nephew and principal apologist, containing his own theory of animal electricity. The appended "epistolae" consist of an exchange of letters (in Italian) between Don Bassano Carminati and Galvani, containing Carminati's report of Volta's repetition of Galvani's experiments, which Volta interpreted correctly as the result of contact electricity. This would lead to his invention of the voltaic pile and the first continuous and controllable electric current.
Fulton and Stanton Galvani, 5; Osler 1243; Waller 11346; Wellcome III, p. 86; Wheeler Gift 575; Norman 869.