Nouvelles Observations microscopiques, avec des découvertes intéressantes sur la Composition & la Décomposition des Corps organisés.

Eight folding engraved plates. xviii, 524, [4], 29 pp. Small 8vo, cont. polished calf, spine gilt, red morocco lettering piece on spine. Paris: L.E. Ganeau, 1750.

First edition, a translation by Louis Anne Lavirotte, of Needham’s Account of some New Microscopical Discoveries (1745) and his Observations upon the General Composition and Decomposition of Animal and Vegetable Substances (1749). This edition contains substantial additions by Needham which appear here for the first time, including his “forward-looking theory of reproduction”–D.S.B., X, p. 9.

The first English Catholic priest to be elected to the Royal Society of London, Needham (1713-81), developed a theory of generation in this work which placed him in the vitalist camp through its reliance on principles peculiar to living things and its assignment of self-patterning powers to matter. It differed from Buffon’s in its denial of chance combinations of mathematically countable genetic traits.

The final 29 pages — “Description et Usage du Microscope” — discuss a Cuff-style microscope developed by Passement. Its parts are illustrated on one of the plates.

Fine copy with the bookplate of Etienne François Dutour de Salvert (1711-89), experimental physicist, geologist, and botanist from Riom. He wrote several monographs on electricity and natural history and corresponded with a wide range of scientists, including Nollet, Lavoisier, d’Alembert, and Buffon.

❧ Needham, History of Embryology, p. 211. ODNB.

Price: $2,500.00

Item ID: 5363