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SIGAUD DE LAFOND, Joseph-Aignan (1730–1810)

Précis historique et expérimental des phénoménes éléctriques , depuis l’origine de cette décourverte jusqu’à ce jour

Paris: Rue et Hôtel Serpente (de l'Imprimerie de Demonville, rue Christine), 1781
8vo: a8 A–2Z8 3A4, 380 leaves, pp. xvi 742 [2].
9 folding engraved plates by Sellier (bound as foldouts at the end).
Condition: 215 x 125mm, untrimmed. A fine fresh unpressed copy.
Binding: Original blue paste-paper boards. Spine frayed.
First edition. Price printed on title ‘1 vol. in-8\o. avec Figures, broché 6 liv’. A revised edition was printed in 1785.
Bibliography: Wheeler Gift 505; Bakken p.107; Blake p. 418; Neville II, p. 476.

An extensive synthesis of electrical research and instrumentation. Sigaud attended Nollet’s lectures and succeeded him in his chair at the Collège Louis-le-Grand and became one of the most fashionable public lecturers in Paris. There was at this time a huge demand for experimental science among the leisured classes in France. Electricity especially appealed as the demonstrations produced spectacular effects and often involved the physical participation of the audience. Though not, like other works by Nollet and Sigaud, directly linked to a lecture series, the Précis gave the well educated audiences the further background knowledge they needed as well as providing a text-book for those who wanted to perform experiments themselves.
There is an advertisement on the verso of the half-title for the services of Sigaud’s nephew, M. Rouland, his successor at Louis le Grand, from whom readers could obtain the apparatus discussed in the text, and who would also give private lessons on their use.
The invention of the glass insulator is usually attributed to Sigaud, and also the circular glass plate, an improvement on the glass globe, in electrical machines, though this development has also been claimed for Ingenhousz, Ramsden or Planta. Both globe and plate machines are shown in the plates.
The thickness of this copy in original boards, 70mm when lightly compressed, shows how bulky books can be before they are beaten by the binder's hammer. Bound copies are about 40mm thick.
Keywords:     electricity