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The Inventor of the Barometer

TORRICELLI, Evangelista/BONAVENTURI, Tommasso, ed. Lezioni Accademiche. Florence, Jacopo Guiducci & Santo Franchi, 1715.

Large 4to., 49, (1) pp., (1) f., 96 ff., with 1 engraved author portrait signed Pietro Anichini, with 3 woodcut illustrations in the text. “Imprimatur” leaf misbound following preliminaries. Bound in contemporary cartonnage, laid down. Scattered waterstaining, upper corners of later leaves worn; nonetheless, generally very good, with portrait very fresh.

$4,850

First edition of 12 collected lectures composed for the Academia della Crusca, posthumously published; “an important summary of Torricelli’s theories,” including reprints of his important letters on the barometer. Torricelli (1608-47) was Galileo’s pupil and secretary, succeeding him as professor of mathematics at Florence. Calling himself “a Galileist by profession and sect,” Torricelli was the first in Rome to make a careful study of Galileo’s Dialogo.

The extensive preface reprints the two letters to Michelangelo Ricci in which Torricelli discusses atmospheric pressure and reports on the 1643 research that led to the invention of the barometer. “His experiments provide the first strong refutation of the generally held view of the impossibility of a vacuum” (Parkinson, Breakthroughs. See further for a more detailed account of the barometric experiments).

“From the point of view of physics, the lectures on the force and impact and on wind are of particular interest. In the former he said that he was reporting ideas expressed by Galileo in their informal conversations, and there is no lack of original observations…” (DSB XIII.438-39). “Chapter 7 on the movement of winds is a pioneer contribution in the field of meteorology explaining in detail their origin in atmospheric changes and refuting the contemporary theory that they issued from the earth” (Roberts and Trent p. 322). Lessons two through four treat percussion, one of Galileo’s favourite problems. Other lessons are devoted to mathematics, military architecture, etc.

Tommasso Bonaventuri (d. 1731) includes a biography of Torricelli in the prefatory material. The attractive portrait of the 40-year-old Torricelli, which was engraved after Anichini’s 1647 portrait, is decorated by a cartouche displaying a clever anagram of Evangelista Torricellius: “En virescit Galilaeus alter.”


* Cinti169; Norman 2088; Dibner 149; Roberts and Trent, Bibliotheca Mechanica, p. 322; Riccardi II.544; Sparrow 190.

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