Manchester: Printed by S. Russell, 125, Deangate, for R. Bickerstaff, Strand, 1808.
1st Edition. Hardcover. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Very Good. Item #001757
A New System of Chemical Philosophy. Part I. ... [Part II.]. Manchester: S. Russell for R. Bickerstaff, 1808 [vol. 1, part I]; Russell and Allen for R. Bickerstaff, 1810 [vol. 1, part II]. 8vo (204 x 125 mm), viii, , 220 pp., with four leaves of plates; , 221-560 pp., with four leaves of plates. Contemporary quarter calf (hinges repaired, some wear to spine ends, rubbed), internally little browned, occasional light spotting and staining. A very good copy. ----
Dibner 44; Horblit 22; PMM 26; Sparrow 47. - First edition of the two parts of the first volume (the second volume was published 17 years later in 1827). While the idea that all matter is composed of singular, indestructible particles goes back to speculative philosophers and scientists (Democritus and Lucretius among the ancients, Newton among the moderns), the great exposition of such a theory and its physical implications is by John Dalton (1766-1844), as presented in his New System of Chemical Philosophy. Here, for the first time, Dalton argued that each of the éléments of Lavoisier - as defined in 1789 - 'is composed of atoms all alike ... the composition of each being constant' (PMM 261), the identity of each atom being established by its particular weight. Taking the lightest atom (hydrogen) as his integer, Dalton found that oxygen weighed 6.5 times as much, sulphur thirteen times as much, and so on, providing here (also for the first time) a 'periodic table' of the then-known elements: see pp. 213-15, and p. 219 and the facing plate. He proposed to express the age-old problem of chemical composition in terms of the number of atoms of each contributing element that combined into the smallest unit (later termed a 'molecule') of any compound substance; this model of all physical matter proved confirmable through experiment, and has dominated chemical theory (with modifications) ever since. Dalton's emphasis on the indestuctablity of matter was also 'new' in 1808: 'we might as well attempt to introduce a new planet into the solar system, or to annihilate one already in existence, as to create or destroy a particle of hydrogen' (p.212, see DSB III, p.537ff).
Dalton explains the publication strategy of his New System in his Preface: he first intended 'to publish it intire in one volume', but changed his mind in order to 'exhibit and elucidate ... those primary Laws, which seem to obtain in regard to heat, and to chemical combinations' as swiftly as possible, being warned by colleagues that 'the interests of science, and his own reputation might suffer by delay'. Since his exposition of 'the doctrine of heat, and the general principles of Chemical Synthesis, are in a good degree independent of the future details, there can no detriment arise to the author, or inconvenience to his readers, in submitting what is already prepared, to the inspection of the public'. Hence Dalton put into print the essential 'Part I' of his New System in May 1808, reserving the 'details' of his experiments and analysis for two years: that supplement, entitled 'Part II', appeared in 1810, with a prefatory apology for its two-and-a-half year delay, and with its pagination continued from that of Part I. A very belated third part (described as 'Volume II, Part I', but effectively a new work under the old title) saw print only in 1827, by which time 'the theory had borne such widespread fruit that Dalton's own conclusions were almost all out-of-date' (PMM). - Visit our website for more images!
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