University of Delaware Library

Special Collections


A Manuscript Sampler

History of Science and Technology

The great depth of the holdings in science and technology reflects the University of Delaware's program and research strengths in these areas. The collections are strongest in the history of chemistry and engineering. The core of these holdings is the Unidel History of Chemistry Collection which contains nearly three thousand primary sources in the history of chemistry. The resources for the study of the history of chemistry are comprehensive, with over half the titles published prior to the chemical revolution of the 1780s, and extend into related areas such as alchemy, pharmacy, medical botany, and applications such as dyeing and bleaching and distillation. The collection includes a small, but interesting, collection of original manuscripts.



Johannes de Rupescissa, ca. 1300-ca. 1365.
De consideratione quintae essentiae rerum omnium. 15th century.

Joannes de Rupescissa (also known as Jean de Roquetaillade) was a Franciscan monk who lived at Aurillac in Aquitaine in the fourteenth century. His writings were very influential on the development of alchemy and he was known as one of the masters of the art. His De consideratione quintae essentiae rerum omnium is one of his most important works. This manuscript dates from the fifteenth century and includes manuscript annotations in the margins throughout the text.

The Unidel History of Chemistry collection


[Medical, alchemical, and craft materials recipes], 15th and 16th centuries.

This fifteenth-century manuscript contains remedies for various illnesses, recipes for pills, formulae for purifying metals, and recipes and instructions for making colors for painting and enameling. Additional remedies in a sixteenth-century hand are also present, including treatments for toothache, headache, leprosy, and recipes for birth control and hair dyes.

The Unidel History of Chemistry collection


Magni philosophia opus [ca. 16--?].

This seventeenth-century manuscript by an unidentified author is a comprehensive treatise on alchemy. Of particular interest are the hundreds of original drawings of alchemical symbols. The page displayed depicts Hermes, the father of alchemy and the hermetic tradition, a container bearing the symbol "IAAT" representing the four elements (Ignis, Aer, Aqua, Terra), and a pyramid which can represent a variety of alchemical meanings.

The Unidel History of Chemistry collection


Ramon Lull, 1232?-1316. Le testamant de Raymont Lulle, tres doite et tres célebre philosophe, 1661.

Born in Palma, Majorca, to a wealthy family, Ramon Lull (sometimes spelled Llull) studied Arabic language and literature and founded (1276) a college in Majorca for the study of Arabic. Lull's chief work, Ars magna, was a defense of Christianity in which he maintained that philosophy, including science, was not divorced from theology and that every article of faith could be demonstrated perfectly by logic. This manuscript is a seventeenth-century French translation of alchemical works attributed to Lull.

The Unidel History of Chemistry collection


Serafin Spoccani. Scienza della mano o sia chiromanzia ... 1711.

In this manuscript the author provides a detailed explanation of the art of Chiromancy, which is better known today as Palmistry. Practitioners of palmistry attempted to diagnose disease, reveal character, and foretell the future by reading the lines and convolutions on the palm of the hand. After going in and out of fashion in Europe for several hundred years, palmistry underwent a revival during the 18th and 19th centuries.


Geminiano Rondelli, 1652-1735.
Trattato dell' idrometria del Rondelli [with] Trattato delle livellazioni, 1720.

The author of this manuscript was a professor of Philosophy and mathematics at the University of Bologna who was an expert in fortification and hydraulics and the first librarian of the Bologna Institute of Sciences. His edition of Euclid's Elements was highly regarded by his contemporaries, and he also composed an important treatise on trigonometry and various papers on hydraulics. In these two manuscripts he outlines his theories and applications on hydraulics and also develops standards for leveling and grading earth.

The Unidel History of Chemistry collection


Claude-Louis Berthollet, 1748-1822.
Précis d'une théorie sur la nature de l'acier, sur sa préparation et ses différentes espèces. Autograph manuscript, 78 pp.

Claude-Louis Berthollet was one of the most important early modern chemists. He was particularly important for his development of chemical applications for industry. For example, the use of chlorine for bleaching was one of his discoveries. This is Berthollet's original working manuscript of one of his least-known, but most important works in which he describes the steel-making techniques that he and several colleagues developed in order to make France independent of England in obtaining supplies of steel. It is displayed with a copy of the rare first edition of Précis d'une théorie sur la nature de l'acier (1789)

Melva B. Guthrie Fund


James Curtis Booth, 1810-1888.
Document signed, 15 December 1876, 1 p.

James Curtis Booth was one of the founding members of the American Chemical Society. This document is his receipt for membership in the Society's initial year of existence. Booth subsequently served as President of the ACS from 1883-1884.

From the James Curtis Booth papers.


Joseph Henry, 1797-1878.
Letter signed, to James C. Booth, 9 December 1855, 1 p.

In this letter, transcribed and signed by a secretary, the distinguished American scientist and Director of the Smithsonian Institution invites Booth to deliver a series of lectures on the subject of chemistry applied to agriculture.

From the James Curtis Booth papers.


Charles Goodyear, 1800-1860.
Letter signed, 23 June 1852, 1 p.

In this letter, the prominent inventor of the vulcanizing process, patented in 1844, which revolutionized the rubber industry, requests letters of introduction from Booth for a trip to Europe. Booth was one of the best-known American scientists and the fledgling inventor sought his help as he attempted to make inroads in the European market.

From the James Curtis Booth papers.


Lewis C. Beck et al.
Document signed, 6 November 1839, 1 p.

In this historic document, Booth receives an invitation to attend a seminal meeting of State Territorial geologists to be held at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to exchange views and opinions. In addition to Lewis C. Beck, the document is signed by five other prominent American geologists, including Ebenezer Emmons, and James Hall.

From the James Curtis Booth papers.


Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, 1880 1948.
Manuscript plan for an herb garden, signed, June 1945, 7 pp.

The British gardener, gardening historian, and horticultural writer, Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, was well known for her garden of uncommon herb and vegetable varieties, and also took commissions as a garden designer. Her best known design was the herb garden for Lullingstone Castle in Kent, England. This 1955 design was done as a commission for an unidentified customer.

The Unidel History of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture


Introduction | Delaware Collection | 18th and 19th c. Literature & Politics |20th c. Literature | 20th c. History & Politics

For reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:

Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Last modified: 12/21/10

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014