“One of the First Truly Scientific Books Ever Published in England

The New Attractive. Containing a Short Discourse of the Magnes or Loadstone: and amongst other his vertues, of a new discovered secret and subtil propertie, concerning the Declining of the Needle…Hereunto are annexed Certaine Necessary Rules for the Arte of Navigation…Newly Corrected and Amended by M. W.B. [with, as issued]: A Discourse of the Variation of the Compasse, or Magneticall Needle…and is to be annexed to the New attractive.

Attractive large woodcut vignette on first title & woodcut illus. & tables in the text. Titles within ornamental borders. [96]; [60] pp. Two parts in one vol. Small 4to, late 18th-century half-calf & marbled boards. London: E. Allde, for H. Astley, 1592.

Third edition (1st ed.: 1581) of one of the great rarities in the entire literature of navigation, electricity, and magnetism, and one of the first truly scientific books published in England. All four of the 16th-century editions are rare. “The publication of The Newe Attractive undoubtedly had an immediate and beneficial effect upon English navigation.”–Waters, The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times, p. 162 (& see pp. 153-62 for an excellent summary of the contents of both works in this book).

“It is the first English work devoted to the use of the compass, and it contains Norman’s proposal for a magnetic field of force acting independently of matter — one of the most important concepts in the history of science. William Gilbert credits Norman with the discovery of the phenomenon of dip of the magnetic needle.”–Tomash & Williams N44 (& see B210).

“Norman (fl. 1560–1584), maker of mathematical instruments, whose origins are unknown, spent, by his own account, eighteen or twenty years at sea before settling down as a compass maker and self-styled ‘hydrographer’ at Ratcliff, London. Most of what is known about him comes from his own publications, in particular The Newe Attractive, which appeared in London in 1581. The title-page announced Norman’s discovery of magnetic inclination or dip; in his terminology this was called the ‘declining’ of the needle from the horizontal…He was encouraged in his magnetic work by William Borough, comptroller of the navy, to whom he dedicated The Newe Attractive; Borough’s own Discourse of the Variation of the Cumpas was published with it as an appendix…

“Norman has attracted considerable interest on account of his self-conscious adoption of an experimental approach and his unusual application of instruments. He was deploying his dip circle at a time when instruments were associated not with natural philosophy but with applications of mathematics to practical arts. He was sensitive that, as an ‘unlearned mechanician’, he would scarcely have been expected to concern himself with an area of practical mathematics relevant to natural philosophy, but he vigorously asserted the worth of investigations by practical men, who had the relevant art ‘at their fingers ends’, while their more learned critics were ‘in their studies amongest their bookes’.”–ODNB.

This volume contains, as is usual, the appendix by William Borough (bap. 1536-98), explorer and naval administrator. Borough, in his governmental role, had encouraged Norman’s experimental work. In the early 1560s Borough learned from John Dee to draw and use “paradoxall compasses” or circumpolar charts. In 1581, Borough, using a version of Eden’s translation of Taisnier’s study of terrestrial magnetism and another translation of Pellegrine de Maricourt’s De magnete of 1558, wrote A Discourse of the Variation of the Compasse, which was reprinted, with additions, as the appendix to our work.

Provenance: John Scott (1830-1903) and Robert Lyons Scott (1871-1939), shipbuilders, the latter’s gift in 1921 to The Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Scott Library Collection, with book label; Christie’s London, Scott Library sale, 4-5 December 1974, lot 354 to Traylen.

A nice fresh copy. Pale dampstain to final two signatures and outer rule of table on K4 just shaved.

❧ Dibner, Heralds of Science, 53–(1596 ed. only). Taylor, The Haven-Finding Art, p. 204. Taylor, The Mathematical Practitioners of Tudor & Stuart England, pp. 173-74–(who considers Borough’s Discourse to be “important.”). Norman: D.S.B., X, pp. 149-50.

Price: $40,000.00

Item ID: 6946