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17th Century Classic on Distillation

ELSHOLTZ, JOHANN SIGISMUND. (English) The Curious Distillatory

London: Printed by J. D. for Robert Boulter, 1677

Small 8vo. Frontispiece of a distilling installation, engraving of the “clove- cinnamon” plant from America. C3 supplied from another copy, rear inner hinge loose. Original 17th-century blind- ruled calf (some chipping exposing boards) complete with ties. Very good. Half morocco case.

First edition in English. Elsholtz (1623-1688), who studied at Padua, was physician to Elector Friedrich Wilhelm and director of the botanical garden at Brandenburg. He was a pioneer in hygiene and nutrition, emphasizing the importance of personal cleanliness and clean air, water, food, and drink. His published works include a study of physiognomy (he coined the term “anthropometry”) and its health implications, a chemical treatise on phosphorous, contributions to the Ephemerides of the Academia, and a study of intravenous injection and blood transfusions. Thorndike, in A History of Magic and Experimental Science, calls Elsholtz a man with “broad medical and scientific interest and experimental tendencies.” Thomas Sherley, physician in ordinary to Charles II, translated this first English edition from the Latin edition (Berlin, 1674).

Distillation was an essential tool for scientists of the late seventeenth century. The process separates compounds by means of their differing boiling points. The frontispiece, engraved from that used in the Latin edition, shows a typical seventeenth-century distillation laboratory, with the air-cooled alembic atop a large furnace from which steam escapes.

Provenance: John Prince, signatures dated 1699 and 1730, among other markings on endpapers.

Wing E638. Duveen 192. Ferguson 238.