London: Newberry, 1769. EXPERIMENTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON ELECTRICITY BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN IS THE “MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC BOOK OF 18th CENTURY AMERICA" (Printing and the Mind of Man, 199). Further, the volume offered here, the fourth edition in English, and the first collected edition “is especially important because it includes additional material not present in the first edition of 1751" (Norman 830). A custom made, half-calf case has been made to house the volume (see more at end of listing).
“Editions one, two, and three [were] carelessly published, each issued in three parts as separately published pamphlets usually bound together. Franklin edited the fourth edition himself, significantly revising the text, adding for the first time a number of his own philosophical letters and papers, introducing footnotes, correcting errors, and adding an index (Cohen, Benjamin Franklin's Experiments). Also included are Franklin’s full notes on all of his experiments, along with correspondence with Peter Collinson, and other collaborators.
Experiments and Observations was “Franklin’s most important scientific publication… [it] detailed accounts of the [his] crucial kite and key experiment, his work with Leiden jars, lightning rods and charged clouds” (Norman 830). "The most dramatic result of Franklin's researches was the proof that lightning is really an electrical phenomenon. Others had made such a suggestion before him— even Newton himself— but it was he who provided the experimental proof" (PMM). In History and Present State of Electricity, Joseph Priestley “characterized Franklin’s experimental discovery that the lightning discharge is an electrical phenomenon as 'the greatest, perhaps, since the time of Sir Isaac Newton'… Franklin's achievement… marked the coming of age of electrical science and the full acceptance of the new field of specialization" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).
Just as significant as his discovery that lightning is really an electrical phenomenon, in this volume “Franklin proposed and defended the beginnings of a correct macroscopic theory of electricity, the “single-fluid” theory. The single-fluid theory states that electricity is a single fluid (charge) that flows naturally from areas with a surplus to areas with a deficit. In this theory, electrostatic attraction occurs if one body has a surplus while the other a deficit, and repulsion occurs when both bodies have either a surplus or a deficit. Franklin’s theory is consistent with our current understanding of electrical charge, except that the fluid (charge) is negative rather than positive” (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection). Item #1569
CONDITION & DETAILS: London: Printed for David Henry and sold by Frances Newberry. 4to. (9 x 6.75 inches; 228 x 178 mm.). , iv, , 112, 111-417, 416-472, 465-496, . Indexed. 7 engraved plates, two folding. Several numbered illustrations. Early small printed label of owner Charles Riche on the front pastedown. Bound in contemporary calf with gilt-tooled boards evidencing minor scratching (see photos); 5 raised bands at the spine; gilt-tooled compartments; red Morocco spine label. Tightly and very solidly bound. Custom clamshell case, half-calf over marbled paper boards; linen block and ribbon tab. As with the volume, the case has 5 raised bands at the spine; gilt-tooled compartments; red Morocco spine label. Original wide margins. Faint scattered toning, otherwise clean throughout Very good + condition.
References: Ford 307; Howes F-320; Sabin 25506; Wellcome III:62. Printing and the Mind of Man, 199; Norman 830;.