The Best Edition of Franklin's Experiments on Electricity – 'America's first great scientific contribution' (Howes)

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 ... [Bound with:] A letter from Mr. Benjamin Wilson, F. R. S. and Member of the Royal Academy at Upsal, to Mr. Aepinus, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, and Member of the Academies of Berlin, Stochholm, and Erfurth. Read at the Royal Society December 23, 1763, and March 1764.

London: Published by Printed for David Henry, and sold by Francis Newbery, 1769; London: [William Bowyer], 1764.

Price: $35,000.00

About the item

The fourth edition, being the first collected edition and by far most desirable edition, containing for the first time complete notes on all the experiments, as well as correspondence between Peter Collinson, Franklin, and other collaborators. [Franklin:] 7 engraved plates (2 folding). [2],iv,[2],496 [i.e. 510, accounting for mispagination, plus four extra pages where the page numbers have been duplicated, i.e. page numbers 112-113 and 416-417 appear twice], [16]pp. [Wilson:] Two engraved plates. 35, [1]pp. Some contemporary manuscript marginalia in French. 4to. The Best Edition of Franklin's Experiments on Electricity – 'America's first great scientific contribution' (Howes). Contemporary French mottled calf, raised bands, red morocco lettering piece, marbled endpapers, spine lightly worn at bands and at top and tail, scuff to upper cover. Minor toning. Provenance: Louis George Carpenter, Fort Collins, Colorado (signature on endpaper dated 1901). [Franklin:] ESTC T101040; Howes F320; Printing and the Mind of Man 199; Sabin 25506; Ford 307; Milestones of Science 69. [Wilson:] ESTC T37897.

Item #339652

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 as 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. 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 example in a contemporary binding and bound with a second work on electricity; i.e. Benjamin Wilson's Letter ... to Mr. Aepinus (which according to Bowyer's records only 150 copies printed). Franklin and Wilson disagreed publically and vehemently on the question of whether lightning conductors should be round (Wilson) or pointed at the top (Franklin).