Folio (298 x 194 mm), [xxxvi] pp., 246 pp.,  pp., title printed in red and black, engraved arms of the Royal Society on title, and 38 engraved plates, of which 33 are folding. Bound in contemporary English vellum over thick boards, gilt panels with corner coronets (marquess) on sides, spine with gilt panels and central ornaments. Margins of front endpapers slightly frayed, two plate numerals and two images just touched by binder’s knife, two short clean tears to plates carefully repaired on blank verso and without loss, otherwise all the plates including the large flea and louse plates in perfect state. A fine, crisp, unpressed copy.
First edition, first issue, a fine, large copy of this most important work on microscopy ever published, and contains a large number of discoveries made possible by Robert Hooke’s (1665-1703) newly perfected compound microscope, presented in outstanding engravings of the microscopic world. Hooke investigated animal, vegetable, and mineral substances, and his observations in all three realms are fundamental to the sciences. He gave the first description of the plant-like form of moulds, the first accurate account of the compound eye of the fly, and other structures such as bees’ wings, and the legs and feet of the fly. In his investigations of the structure of cork he used the term ‘cellulae’ to describe the basic unit of tissue. He compared the structure of charcoal with that of fossilised wood and deduced correctly that mineral substances had replaced the organic matter of the original organism, extending this observation to other fossilised remains; this was the first scientifically accurate explanation of the nature of fossils. But above all the Micrographia, with its combination of observation and reasoning, allied to excellent illustrations, established the microscope as a primary research tool in the sciences.
In addition to its contributions to microscopy, Micrographia contains many other important inventions and discoveries, including the wheel barometer and a new hygrometer. Micrographia also ‘presents the first substantial opposing theory to the Pythagorean concept of light as a stream of particles,’ hypothesising ‘that light is a vibration transmitted through a medium’ (Parkinson, Breakthroughs). Hooke’s research was the inspiration for Newton’s optical experiments leading up to his Opticks.
The fine plates, here in particularly good impressions, were largely if not entirely drawn and engraved by Hooke himself, although it is possible that some were drawn by Sir Christopher Wren. The book was reissued in 1667 with some leaves reset and the plates in noticeably inferior impressions.
Provenance: signature on title, repeated, of the Paracelsan Scottish doctor and chemical philosopher William Davison (1593- ca 1669). Davison was first professor of chemistry and also of botany at the Jardin des Plantes and personal physician to the King of France. He left Paris in 1650 to become physician to John Casimir, King of Poland,. He was one of the leading advocates of the doctrines of Paracelsian iatrochemistry. His theories are an amalgam of Paracelsus, Copernican heliocentricity, Neoplatonism, Cabbala, and mystical geometry; see DSB III pp 596-7; small collector’s stamp ‘Selbourne Library’ on verso of title and p 51.
* Dibner 187; Horblit 50; Keynes 6; PMM 147; Wing H 2620