Essays of the Strange Subtilty, Determinate Nature, Great Efficacy of EffluviumsBOYLE, Robert, The Honorable
London: Printed by W.G. for M. Pitt. 1673.
8vo. 167x105mm. pp. , 69, ; , 47, ; 74; , 85, . Rebound in twentieth century in tan full calf. Spine decorated in gilt with contrasting lettering piece tooled in gilt. Top edge gilt. Marbled endpapers. Blue silk ribbon bookmark. Ownership inscription of Sam. Willet (?), 1791 on verso of title page. The final six pages contain a note from "The Printer to the Reader" and "A Catalogue of the Writings Publisht by The Honorable Robert Boyle". Some light browning and toning to edges but overall an excellent copy of an important work of early modern science.
J.F.Fulton in his bibliography of Boyle described this collection of Essays of Effluviums as “one of the most important but little-known scientific works of Boyle”.
The first three works discuss the nature of matter - its finiteness, infiniteness and indivisibility - and are important steps towards the Atomic Theory of Matter. The fourth book, “New Experiments”describes Boyle’s observations on the processes of Oxidation & Reduction. The essay on Glass concludes (contrary to what was previously thought) that glass is not porous.
But in many ways, Boyle’s most important contribution in these essays is the fact of experimentation itself. Until he began to carry out what are recognisably modern chemical experiments, scientific enquiry developed by way of philosophical argument and Aristotelian dialectic. Boyle uses observation of natural phenomena to establish empirical truth. As a 1934 paper on Boyle’s Essays on Effluviums observed: “he ambles leisurely along the road, continually diverging to wander up parenthetical bypaths but always returning to the highway of his purpose with another fact or illustration carefully gathered for his argument. But everywhere the Essays show Boyle’s keen perception of the common facts of nature and of their value in supporting or refuting hypotheses”.