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Carleton House
92 Malone Road
Belfast
BT9 5HP
Contact Peter Rowan
Telephone 02890 666448
Specialists Ireland, Irish History & Culture, Manuscripts, Maps, Literature, Economics, Sciences, History of Ideas, Travel, Rare Books in all fields (15th to 20th Centuries)
The item listed here are samples from the 2016 fair.
We will be launching the highlights of the 2017 fair on 1st May 2017.
P & B Rowan
Stand F02

OXYGEN DISCOVERED & ISOLATED - LOVELY COPY IN THE ORIGINAL BINDING

PRIESTLEY, Joseph

Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air. [Vol. I] The Second Edition, corrected [and] Vol.II. The Second Edition [and] Vol. III., London: Printed for J. Johnson: 1775-1776-1777 1775 - 1777

second edition of vols. I & II, first edition of Vol.III. tall 8vo. Vol. I: [2 (half-title)], xxiii, [5], 324, [1 (errata)], [3 (advts. for Priestley's publications)], 2 folding plates; Vol.II: xliv, 399, [1 (errata)], [15 (index)], [1 (blank)], [4 (advts. for Priestley's publications)]pp., 3 plates; Vol.III: xxxvi, [6], 411, [1 (blank)], [7 (index)], [1 (errata)], [4 (advts. for Priestley's publications)]pp, 1 folding plate, contemporary calf, spines panelled by raided bands highlighted by double gilt fillets, red morocco labels, one panel direct gilt numbered, a few scattered and very minor internal marks, some cracking to front joint of vol.2, else a near perfect copy in its original binding. Rare thus.

Provenance
Twentieth century bookplates of Hugh Dixon, a Dublin meteorologist.

Note
ESTC 33833, 33835 & 33838 CROOK Bibliography .. Priestley, S/454, S/455 & S/453 cf. Printing & the Mind of Man 217 (the Phil. Trans. paper) Vols. I and II were first published in 1774 and 1775 respectively.
Priestley (1733-1804), chemist, physicist, philosopher and political theorist, educationalist, Unitarian minister and theologian was one of the key figures in English intellectual life but his outspoken liberal political views (particularly in support of the American and French Revolution) led to his being driven out by right-wing mob violence from his ministry in Birmingham in 1791 and then to his emigration to America in 1793.
"Priestley’s concentration on pneumatic studies began comparatively late in his career (at the age of thirty-seven). This interest lasted for the remainder of his life; and during those thirty-odd years, and chiefly in the first ten of them, he was to establish himself as one of the world’s foremost pneumatic chemists. His discoveries of new gases and new processes were to make the chemistry of his day seem untenable; but Priestley never developed a new system to encompass his discoveries, and he refused to adopt the system developed by Lavoisier, which did so ...
[His] magisterial 'Observations on Different Kinds of Air' read to the [Royal] Society in March 1772, with a supplement in November, [was] printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society for that year. This paper reports Priestley’s pneumatic researches since 1770, including the isolation and identification of nitric oxide and anhydrous hydrochloric acid gases; the beginnings of the discovery of photosynthesis; and a scarcely noted reference to an 'air extracted from nitre', which appeared extraordinary and important to him, but on which he was not to experiment further for several years. Both the range and quality of the research described in this paper illustrate the major influence on Priestley of [the 1769 fourth edition of] Hales’s work [Vegetable Staticks]. Without in any way detracting from the personal characteristics of Priestley’s work as a scientist—the ingenuity with which he diversified his experiments, the increasingly skilled manipulation of simple apparatus, and the tenacity with which he followed minor variations in results - it is necessary to emphasize the great difference in his mode of working before and after his reading of Hales. In the paper of 1772 and thereafter, the experiments performed, the instruments used, and the way of using them—but particularly the thinking that informed the experiments and guided their interpretation—are all developed from the chapter on airs of the Vegetable Staticks. ...
Black and Cavendish had each identified a particular species of air, but no one had examined the natures of all of the airs that might be released from substances. This examination was the task Priestley set for himself. First he examined the airs as generated by Hales; and then, as his confidence grew, he set about generating new varieties -by heating substances, mixing them, or taking the residues from containers in which such processes as calcination, vegetation, or electrical discharge had taken place. He adapted the pneumatic trough with inverted receiver, pedestal apparatus, and supporting rack that had been used and improved by Hales, Brownrigg, and Cavendish. The occasional advantage of substituting mercury for water in the pneumatic trough was, for example, first noted by Cavendish. For his early experiments Priestley transformed household utensils (a laundry tub, beer and wine glasses, clay tobacco pipes) into chemical apparatus; but soon he was designing equipment to meet his particular requirements. Josiah Wedgwood freely supplied him with ceramic tubes, dishes, crucibles, and mortars; and the London firm of William Parker and Sons was his supplier of glassware, including the burning lenses that he frequently used to heat substances within the receivers of the pneumatic trough. An inventory of his apparatus destroyed in the Birmingham riots of 1791 .. reveals a well-stocked laboratory of sophisticated apparatus and a variety of reagents.
The tests Priestley initially used in distinguishing the airs that he produced were quite simple: Did they turn lime water turbid? Would they burn or support combustion? What was their appearance and taste? How long would a mouse live in a container filled with one of them? As he gained in knowledge his tests became more comprehensive. He developed techniques of eudiometry using nitric oxide, noted flame size and color in gases that burned or supported combustion, and even recorded the different colors of electric sparks through different gases. Most of his experiments were qualitative; when he did quantitative work it was generally volumetric and not gravimetric. For however skilled in experimental manipulation Priestley became, he never lost the conviction that the important pneumatic parameters were physical and mechanical rather than substantive and chemical.
Priestley’s emphasis on mechanical considerations provided the rationale for an experimental program, which, from a chemist’s viewpoint, appears chaotic. Of course, any successful set of experiments generates a kind of momentum in which one operation suggests another; this can frequently be seen in Priestley’s career [such as in the process leading] to the discovery of sulpher dioxide and ammonia. Moreover, any systematic investigation of the differences between airs must almost of necessity lead to the discovery of new airs. Priestley’s well-reported “accidental” discovery of oxygen in 1774- 1775 was not an accident of producing an air. Priestley had expected the discovery, having deliberately created the conditions for it when he placed a piece of mercuric oxide within a receiver inverted in a pneumatic trough and heated it with his newly acquired burning lens. The surprise was in the unexpected nature of the gas released, which he had expected to be the same as the carbon dioxide he had found in heating impure red lead. Routine examination of substances could produce new airs but did not permit predictions as to their natures. .....
Priestley’s experiments were carried on at such a prolific rate, that following the paper of 1772, it was decided that he should publish his accounts of them in book form. The first volume of Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air appeared in 1774, the second in 1775, and the third in 1777. In 1779 Priestley began a new series, Experiments and Observations Relating to Various Branches of Natural Philosophy, continued with a second volume in 1781 and a third in 1786. (These six volumes are generally cited as forming a single series; in 1790 they were combined and edited in three volumes as Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air, and Other Branches of Natural Philosophy). These works were supplemented by an occasional paper in the Philosophical Transactions (including the 'Account of Further Observations on Air' [1775], in which he announced his discovery of 'dephlogisticated air', later to be defined as oxygen), and an extensive correspondence with other scientists in Britain and on the Continent.
During this period—in addition to his discovery of oxygen—Priestley described the isolation and identification of ammonia, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and nitrogen dioxide, and silicon tetrafluoride. He discussed the properties of mineral acids; further extended the knowledge of photosynthesis; defined the role of the blood in respiration: and noted, unknowingly, the differential diffusion of gases through porous containers. More than any other person, he established the experimental techniques of pneumatic chemistry. For over a decade Priestley dominated the scientific scene in Britain and attracted the attention of scientists throughout Europe. ... His reign came to an end with the development of Lavoisier’s new chemistry" [R. E. Scofield in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol.11, p.139-147