De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno magnete tellure; Physiologia nova, plurimis & argumentis, & experimentis demonstrata.

Woodcut printer’s device on title, Gilbert’s woodcut coat of arms on verso, numerous woodcut diagrams & illus. in the text, & one folding woodcut plate (one fold with a careful repair). 8 p.l. 240 pp. Folio, cont. limp vellum (some occasional spotting, a few unimportant dampstains), ties gone. London: P. Short, 1600.

First edition, and a very fine and fresh copy, of the first major English scientific treatise based on experimental methods of research and the foundation work of magnetism and electrical science. Gilbert uses here for the first time the terms “electricity,” “electric force,” and “electric attraction.”

Book I “deals with the history of magnetism from the earliest legends about the lodestone to the facts and theories known to Gilbert’s contemporaries…In the last chapter of book I, Gilbert introduced his new basic idea which was to explain all terrestrial magnetic phenomena: his postulate that the earth is a giant lodestone and thus had magnetic properties…The remaining five books of the De magnete are concerned with the five magnetic movements: coition, direction, variation, declination, and revolution. Before he began his discussion of coition, however, Gilbert carefully distinguished the attraction due to the amber effect from that caused by the lodestone. This section, chapter 2 of book II, established the study of the amber effect as a discipline separate from that of magnetic phenomena, introduced the vocabulary of electrics, and is the basis for Gilbert’s place in the history of electricity.”–D.S.B., V, p. 397.

This is an early issue of the first edition, containing manuscript corrections (in the author’s hand?) on pages 22, 47, 130, and 221. The large woodcut plate in this copy is on an untrimmed sheet; usually it has been cut down.

A really fine and crisp copy of this influential book, preserved in a morocco-backed box. Armorial stamp on verso of title.

❧ Dibner, Heralds of Science, 54. Evans, First Editions of Epochal Achievements in the History of Science (1934), 26–“The scientific treatise on electricity and magnetism.” Horblit 41. Printing & the Mind of Man, 107. Sparrow, Milestones of Science, 85. Wheeler Gift Cat. 72.

Price: $65,000.00

Item ID: 2520