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THE INVENTION OF THE AIR PUMP
AND THE ELECTRIC GENERATOR
GUERICKE, Otto von. Experimenta Nova (ut vocantur) Magdeburgica de Vacuo Spatio Primùm à R.P. Gaspare Schotto . . . nunc verò ab ipso Auctore Perfectiùs edita, variisque aliis Experimentis aucta... Amsterdam, J. Janssonium a Waesberge, 1672.
Folio [30.6 x 20.1 cm], 9 ff. (including a full-page engraved title and a full-page engraved portrait of the author), 244 pp., (2) ff., (1) f. errata, with 22 engraved plates (2 of which are double-page and unpaginated; the plates are numbered to XX, but XVIII occurs three times, XIX and XX are part of the same plate, and one plate is unnumbered), with woodcut initials and tailpieces. Bound in contemporary vellum over boards, manuscript title on spine. Only minor hand soiling and slight rubbing to binding. A few contemporary annotations, and occasional minor stain, small pale water stain to corner in quires A and B, the portrait a bit toned. Excellent.
$55,000 First edition, and a fine copy, of one of the great classics of science. Complete copies, such as ours, have become difficult to find on the market.
This book is notable for its importance in the fields of electricity and air pressure and for its account of the discovery of the vacuum pump. Guericke describes here his electrical machine by which he generated the first visible and audible electric discharges (illustrated here). “This remarkable work on experimental philosophy ranks next to Gilbert’s in the number and importance of the electrical discoveries described. Electric conduction and repulsion, the discharging power of points, the dissipation of charge by flames, the light due to electrification, the crepitating noises of small sparks are all recognized” (Wheeler Gift Cat. 170).
Also described is his famous air pump with which he created a vacuum, something (or nothing) which had been sought since antiquity. This air pump became of fundamental importance for the study of the physical properties of gases. Guericke was able to demonstrate here that air had weight and determined its density. The applications in meteorology were enormous. Guericke was also a devoted Copernican and this book contains his important astronomical investigations.
* Dibner, Heralds of Science, 55 (pp. 30 & 67); Dibner, Founding Fathers of Electrical Science, pp. 13-14; DSB V.574-76; Evans, Exhibition of First Editions of Epochal Achievements in the History of Science (1934), 30; Horblit 44; Sparrow, Milestones of Science, p. 16.
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