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BOYLE, Robert (1627–1691)

BOYLE, Robert (1627–1691)

Tracts consisting of observations about the saltness of the sea: an account of a statical hygroscope and its uses: together with an appendix about the force of the air’s moisture: a fragment about the natural and preternatural state of bodies. By the Honourable Robert Boyle. To which is premis’d a sceptical dialogue about the positive or privative nature of cold: with some experiments of Mr. Boyl’s referr’d to in that discourse. By a member of the Royal Society

London: printed by E. Flesher for R. Davis, 1674
8vo: A4 (–A1) B–N8, 99 of 100 leaves, pp. [6] 51 [3] 6 [2] 5 [3] 11 [3] 39 [3] 5 [3] 11 [3] 27 [3] 14, without the blank A1.
Condition: 169 x 102mm. Light dampstaining in foremargins.
Binding: Contemporary unlettered blind ruled sheep. Very slightly rubbed.
Provenance: Eighteenth-century booklabel ‘John Rutherfurd, Esq; of Edgerston’ and MS shelf label pasted inside front board.
First edition, second state of the titlepage, dated 1674: several of the tracts have titlepages dated 1673, and the copy presented by Boyle to the Royal Society on 13 November 1673 has a variant of the main titlepage dated 1673.
Bibliography: Fulton 113; Wing B4053; Madan 3005.

A work consisting of 10 tracts describing Boyle’s work in thermodynamics, the desalination of sea water, and experiments with a new hygrometer. The first four tracts are sequels to his Experimental history of cold (1665); they describe experiments on the expansive force of freezing water and various freezing mixtures measured with spirit thermometers. The next tract is the one from which the volume takes its title, ‘Observations and experiments about the saltness of the sea.’ Boyle was very interested in the practical problems of desalination and much of this tract describes experiments to discover a practical method which could be used at sea. As a result of this piece Boyle became involved in a long correspondence, some of which was printed in Fitzgerald’s Saltwater sweetened (1683). The next tract is ‘Relations about the bottom of the sea,’ followed by ‘Of the natural and preternatural state of bodies’. The three final tracts describe experiments and observations made with Boyle’s hygrometer. This used a sponge suspended from one arm of a balance, an arrangement he preferred to the more common hygrometers pioneered by the Accademia del Cimento, which relied on the expansion and contraction of vegetable or animal fibres. Boyle says that the problem with such hygrometers, using lute strings or oat beards, is that after a while their contractile power is altered or impaired (see Daumas p. 60).
Typical of the books from the Edgerston library, this copy is in very good original condition in a simple unlettered sheep trade-binding and with an unassuming printed label rather than the engraved booklabel that one might expect from a major country house collection. The label was probably printed for John Rutherfurd (1748–1834) who inherited the Edgerston estate in the Scottish borders in 1764.