The Earth a Magnet
William Gilbert, 1600
GILBERT, William (1544-1603). De magnete, magneticisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure; Physiologia nova, plurimis & argumentis, & experimentis demonstrata. London: P. Short, 1600.

First edition of “the first major English treatise based on experimental methods” (PMM). Magnets had been objects of fascination from antiquity, but a truly scientific approach did not develop in Europe until knowledge of the magnetic compass arrived from China in the later Middle Ages. Gilbert, a physician to Queen Elizabeth I, brought the study of magnetism and its related phenomena into the modern age. He coined the term electricity and designed the first device for its study: the versorium, which functioned as both an electroscope and an electrometer. “He contended that the earth was one great magnet; he distinguished magnetic mass from weight; and he worked on the application of terrestrial magnetism to navigation” (PMM). Horblit 41; PMM 107.

Folio (288 x 190mm). Woodcut printer’s device on title with Gilbert’s arms on verso; folding woodcut diagram; woodcut illustrations in text (occasional spots, neat repair to fold of folding plate, a blank lower corner of one leaf reattached). Contemporary limp vellum, title in ink on spine (lacking ties, neat repairs to headcap); custom box. Provenance: armorial stamp on title verso – Kenneth E. Hill (bookplate).
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