FRANKLIN, Benjamin (1706-1790)
Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America...to which are added, Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. The Whole Corrected, Methodized, Improved, and now first collected into one volume, and illustrated with copper plates
London: Printed for David Henry, 1769. Quarto. (8 1/2 x 6 7/8 inches). , iv, , 496 [i.e. 504], pp. including leaf of errata and advertisement "concerning this fourth edition." Seven engraved plates (four folding). Half title.
Contemporary speckled calf, expertly rebacked to style retaining the original red morocco lettering piece.
Provenance: F. G. Smyth (armorial bookplate)
The fourth, first collected, and by far the most desirable edition, containing for the first time complete notes on all the experiments, as well as the correspondence between Peter Collinson, Franklin, and other collaborators: "The most important scientific book of 18th century America" (PMM).
Franklin began experimenting with electricity as early as 1745, demonstrating the electrical property of lightning and inventing the lightning conductor. This volume includes summaries of his work with Leyden jars, charged clouds and lightning rods, as well as his famous kite and key experiment. In addition to the electrical experiments it contains the important discovery of the course of storms over North America, and other important meteorological observations.
The work caused a sensation in the scientific world when first published in 1751, and ranked in the eyes of many of Franklin's contemporaries far beyond any of his political achievements. Harvard and Yale awarded him honorary degrees in 1753; he received the highest award of the Royal Society, the Copley Medal, the same year; and he was elected to the Society in 1756, the first American to be so honored.
This fourth edition is the first complete edition of the original work; the earlier editions were issued in separately-published parts. Here, Franklin edited this new one-volume edition himself, significantly revising the text, adding for the first time a number of his own philosophical letters and papers, introducing footnotes, correcting errors, and adding an index. This copy with the errata/advertisement leaf which is often lacking.
"America's first great scientific contribution" (Howes).
Ford 307; Howes F320, "b"; Printing & the Mind of Man 199; Sabin 25506; Milestones of Science 69.