Rare science book: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 1, NS. Philadelphia, 1818.
Item Number: Book 23-D
Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Volume 1, NS. Philadelphia, 1818. Quarto, pp. xxiv, 454, errata, folded hand-colored geological map and profile by William Maclure, and 11 additional plates.
The volume is complete and in a contemporary calf and marbled boards. The binding is tight and clean, owners book plate on front paste down, original owners signature on title page with part of original mailing label tipped on to title page. Some foxing to the first and last pages. The Maclure map is clean, profile is clean, light foxing to plates of Thomas Jefferson’s fossils. Over all in very good condition.
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The American Philosophical Society was founded in large part by Benjamin Franklin as a means to distribute to the learned public the new found scientific knowledge of a young United States. The transactions are still published today. The early numbers contained works by many of the great scientists in America and included works by Benjamin Franklin, Rittenhouse, Oliver, Williams, Maclure and many others. The early volumes are rare.
The most important work in this volume is William Maclure’s “Observations on the Geology of the United States of North America; with remarks on the probable Effects that my be produced by the decomposition of the different classes of rocks on the nature and fertility of soils; applies to the different States of the Union, agreeably to the accompanying geological map” which is found from pages 1 through 91 and includes the folded hand-colored map, and folded hand colored profiles.
Maclure (1763-1840) was a Scottish geologist and statigrapher. He settled in the United States in 1797, traversed much of the eastern part of North America with an eye for the stratigraphy and prepared a colored geological map (the first colored geological map) of the country. The first copy of his map appeared in 1809. Not satisfied with his abbreviated text and the first edition of his map, Maclure set about gathering new data and after eight years of study, produced a much expanded text and a much changed map which appeared in this volume. He corrected many minor details on the distribution of formations and a much more conspicuous delineation of the Appalachian range. Plate 2 was added which gave five sections across what was at that time the United States from the Atlantic through the Appalachians and into his Secondary strata of the Mississippi.
The volume is also noted for several other important works. These include: Francis W. Gilmer’s description of the natural bridge found in Virginia. Two early paleontology studies re present. The first is Henry Steinhauer’s Fossil Reliquia from coal strata in England with four plates. The second is the very important contribution by Thomas Wister in which he describes and illustrates on two plates fossil vertebrate skulls presented to the Society by President Thomas Jefferson. The fossils were unearthed by General William Clarke (who with Lewis completed the Lewis and Clarke Expedition). The fossils were from “Big Bone Lick” on the Ohio River. This is the first description of those bones which refuted the British claim that North America did not contain large fossils of prehistoric animals.