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MENDELEEV (or MENDELEYEV), Dmitri Ivanovich. Osnovy Khimii [Principles of Chemistry]. . St. Petersburg, Tip. Tovarishchestro “Obschestvennaja Pol’za”, 1869-71.

8vo [17.5 x 11 cm], 2 vols. vol. 1: (1) f. half-title, (1) f. title, (2) ff. with pages ii and iii numbered, 816 pp.; vol. 2: (1) f. half-title, (1) f. title, (1) folding periodic table, 951 pp., (1) p., vol. 1 with 151 numbered illustrations in text and vol. 2 with 28 numbered illustrations in text. Half bound in contemporary black calf & dark green and black glazed marbled boards, spine in 4 compartments, author and title gold & owner’s initials (E.R.) gold tooled on spine, pink silk ribbon bookmarks. Faint remnant of sticker on upper board of vol. 2. Joints slightly worn and a bit tender, negligible wear to spines and boards, minor discoloration to upper right corner of first few and final few leaves of both volumes (from binder’s glue), ownership inscription (E. O. Romanova, dated 1871) and ink notes on front flyleaf of volume 1, faint pencil annotations in margins of some sections, minor marginal tear at p. 81 of first volume. Excellent.


A fine copy - highly unusual for this book - of the rare first edition of Dimitri Mendeleev’s Principles of Chemistry, containing the first appearance of the periodic table of the elements. Mendeleyev was a Russian chemist “whose name will always be linked with his outstanding achievement, the development of the periodic table. He was the first chemist to understand that all elements are related members of a single ordered system. He converted what had hitherto been a highly fragmented and speculative branch of chemistry into a true, logical science … According to Mendeleyev the properties of the elements, as well as those of their compounds, are periodic functions of their atomic weights (relative atomic masses). In 1869, he stated that ‘the elements arranged according to the magnitude of atomic weights show a periodic change of properties’” (Hutchinson, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, pp. 475).

“Mendeleyev compiled the first true periodic table, listing all 63 elements then known. Not all elements would ‘fit’ properly using the atomic weights of the time, so he altered iridium from 76 to 114 (modern value 114.8) and beryllium from 13.8 to 9.2 (modern value 9.013) … Also, in order to make the table work Mendeleyev had to leave gaps, and he predicted that further elements would eventually be discovered to fit these predictions provided the strongest endorsement of the periodic law” (Hutchinson, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, pp. 475-76).

“Mendeleev’s first report of his discoveries was “Opyt sistemy elementov, osnovannoy na ikh atomnom vese I khimicheskom skhodstve” (Attempt at a system of elements based on their atomic weight and chemical affinity)’ (DSB, p. 288). This in fact is in Osnovy khimii, and is the heading to the periodic table that appears on p. [iv] of the preface, which is dated March 1869. Mendeleev had discovered the periodic arrangement on March 1 1869, and immediately sent his draft to the printers for inclusion in the first part of his textbook Osnovy khimii, which had been printed but not yet distributed. The appearance of the table is from the same setting of type as two single-sheet printings, with legends in French and Russian, which were printed at the same time for presentation to colleagues. Mendeleev then at a later date presented a slightly modified version, with different title, to the Russian Chemical Society, in whose Journal it was published (this is the work cited by Horblit). The Journal version uses the same setting of type of the table itself (with minor variations due to locking up the type a second time), but with a different heading and additions to the text. It is therefore the second printing, with a revised text. Mendeleev himself makes clear, in the preface to the fifth edition of the Osnovy khimii, that he first published the periodic table in the first edition of this work.

Not only does the Osnovy khimii contain the first appearance of the table in its earliest version (the single-page list in the preliminary leaves on volume 1) but also Mendeleev’s expanded table of 1871 (a folding plate), in which the periodic table assumes more or less its modern form (with the elements in the same group arranged vertically, instead of horizontally as in the first table). Also discussed are his further researches into the ‘periodicity’ of the elements, including predictions to be discovered based upon gaps in the table (including a whole series of rare earths).

OCLC reports U.S. copies at Yale (imperfect), Berkeley, NYPL, Chemical Heritage, Illinois (imperfect), and Michigan (only volume 2).

* Parkinson 373; DSB 9, pp. 286-95; Bolton, p. 664; Dibner 48 (citing the German translation of 1891); Horblitt 74 (citing the Journal appearance); Hutchinson, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, (Oxford: Helcion, 2005), pp. 475-77 Eric R. Scerri, The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance, (Oxford: Oxford University, 2006); Michael D. Gordin, A Well-Ordered Thing: Dimitrii Mendeleev and the Shadow of the Periodic Table, (New York: Basic Books, 2004).

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