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standard work of 18th-century chemistry

MACQUER, PIERRE JOSEPH. Elements of the Theory and Practice of Chymistry

London: Millar and Nourse, 1758

Two volumes. 6 engraved plates. Contemporary calf, lacking labels, joints restored. A very good copy.

FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH of Macquer’s Elémens de chymie-theorique (1749) and Elémens de chymie-pratique (1751), translated by Andrew Reid from the 1756 editions. The theoretical section lays out the principles of chemistry, and the practical section presents a course of chemistry including engravings of apparatus.

Macquer was one of the leading chemists of his day, and his works were fundamental texts in the field. He made notable contributions in the application of chemistry to industry.

“Macquer wrote his Elements for people with no previous chemical knowledge. He began with an account of the four elements, air, water, earth, and fire (of which phlogiston was a modification), briefly discussed affinity, and the considered compound substances in order of their increasing complexity, mineral, vegetable, and animal. He was careful not to mention any substance before acquainting the reader with it: for example, acids, alkalis, and salts were described before metals, so in the account of acids their power of dissolving metals was not mentioned” (DSB).

This first edition in English is scarce. Thomas Jefferson owned this edition. He called for the book in his recommended library for an English gentleman.