London: for Ralph Mab and are to be sold by John Jackson and Francis Church, 1634.
Quarto: 19 x 14.5 cm. 5 leaves (including the engraved title), pp. 112, (16), 121–142, (3), 150–192, (2) blank, 1 woodcut plate at p. 15. Collation: π1 (engraved t.p.), A-B4, C4+chi 1, D-Q4, q4, R-T4 (leaf T4 is the leaf "chi1" bound after leaf C4); Aa-Ff4 (leaf Ff4 bank and present.) Complete.
Bound in contemporary speckled sheep (old repair to foot of spine and one lower corner, joints and leather of spine cracked, top of spine worn). Apart from the wear to the spine and a mild dampstain in the last part, a nice, clean copy. The book preserves evidence of its original stab-stitching in the inner margins of the quires. Some of the quires are creased in the inner margin.
Provenance: signature of Thomas Willoughby (1672-1729), Fellow of the Royal Society, in upper margin of title, with his shelf-mark, a price on the facing endpaper and notes on the final blank leaf possibly in his hand; old bookseller’s description on front pastedown; modern bookplate of Leonard Harrison Matthews (1901-1986), British naturalist and Fellow of the Royal Society.
Illustrated with a fine engraved title-page with representations of the various parts of the book, separate title-pages to parts 2, 3 and 4 with woodcut vignettes, numerous woodcuts in the text (some full-page) of machines, fireworks, and explosives.
FIRST EDITION of the first comprehensive illustrated English book on hydraulic machinery, fireworks, and incendiary devices. It also includes sections on drawing, painting, and engraving, and on remedies and recipes. The first part describes and illustrates all sorts of hydraulic machinery, including water clocks, weather glasses, water clocks, fountains, siphons, pumps, and watermills. There are also devices for drawing water by compressed air, evacuated air, and by steam — bearing in mind the early date of the book, the descriptions of engines driven by steam are of great technological interest. As a young man Newton neglected his school work as he spent so much time making mechanical contrivances, many of which he found in a copy of this book and made notes of them. (See Westfall, Never at Rest, p. 61).
There is also much of chemical interest in the book, particularly in the second section, on pyrotechny, which gives minute directions about the materials and various kinds of fireworks. The third book is concerned with drawing and painting, and an account is given of both mediums and colours. The fourth book is a collection of miscellaneous secrets such as how to melt metal, how to make ice that will melt in fire but not dissolve in water, how to make cement and marble, and how to make invisible ink.
There are also some medical receipts.
“All the editions, more particularly the first and third, are moderately rare, and are not readily procurable in really nice state… It is not an absolute rarity, but on account of its contents and illustrations and the difficulty of getting it in perfect condition, it commands a certain amount of attention” (Ferguson).
STC 1577. Ferguson, …Books of Secrets, 4th Supplement, pp. 10–12. Neville, I, p. 93 (1654 edition). Philip, Firework books, 18. Not in Krivatsy (or the NLM online) which has the second and third editions.