STENSEN, Niels (1638-1686). De solido intra solidum naturaliter contento dissertationis prodromus. Florence: "sub signo Stellae" Press, 1669.
4o (248 x 182 mm). Title printed in red and black with engraved armorial vignette, privilege leaf and errata leaf at end, first blank leaf present, woodcut initials and tailpiece, type ornament headpiece, one large folding plate (single sheet bound in as two folding plates) consisting of an engraving with diagrams of crystals and of stratification and with a typographic explanation of the figures. (Marginal tear to A2 catching headline, occasional minor foxing). Original paper boards, title ink-lettered on spine, EDGES UNCUT. Modern citron morocco felt-lined folding case by Sangorski & Sutcliffe.
Provenance: Agostino Coltellino (author's presentation inscription, "Agost. Colt. Donato dall' Autor", on front free endpaper); a Florentine ecclesiastical library (mostly illegible 18th-century inkstamps on title and on K2v).
PRESENTATION COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF STENSEN'S PATH-BREAKING GEOLOGICAL TREATISE, containing the first correct explanations of fossils and of the sedimentary origins of rocks. In the Prodromus, Stensen outlined the principles of modern geology: "He explained the true origin of fossils found in the earth as being remains of once living things, and he discriminated between the volcanic, chemical and mechanical modes of the origin of rocks. He was the first clearly to realize that the strata of the earth's crust contain the records of a chronological sequence of events from which the history of the earth can be reconstructed. He attempted to find the principles of stratigraphy" (PMM), and "concluded that the strata were formed by solids settling from water to form a sediment and that such strata must be horizontal, while vertical ones were caused by violent upheavals" (Dibner, Heralds). Stensen deduced from this that the variegations in the earth's surface are a visible record of past geologic events, a revolutionary concept at the time. He recognized the effects of erosion, and explained the sources of springs as resulting from fissures opened during the dislocation of strata. His work also records important observations on the structure and manner of formation of crystals, including the first statement of the constancy of interfacial angles of quartz crystals, a fundamental principle of mineralogy. In the last section Stensen applies his theories to Tuscany, attempting a sketch of the region's geologic history. A portion of the folding engraving contains diagrams representing six successive stages in the stratification of the Tuscan surface: "the first attempt ever made to represent geological sections" (PMM). Intended, as its title implies, as the introduction to a larger work, the book "presents only the outline of a discussion, yet almost every sentence or paragraph yields new insights" (DSB).
Presentation copies of Stensen's works are of the greatest rarity. THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY OF AN IMPORTANT WORK IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE. Dibner Heralds of Science 90; Grolier/Horblit 96; PMM 151; Norman 2013.