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History of Science and Technology

History of science and technology is a natural continuum of the research and program strengths at the University of Delaware in all disciplines related to science and engineering. The collections are strongest in the history of chemistry and engineering with the preponderance of materials being those written in England or Europe. Many of these works are embellished with wonderful illustrations, often the first of their kind.

The resources for the study of the history of chemistry are comprehensive and extend into many related areas such as alchemy, pharmacy, and medical botany. Rare periodicals such as Das Laboratorium (1829-1833) and Annales de Chimie (1789-1802) provide further depth and scope.

Books that document the history of engineering include the most important works published during the Renaissance in a number of different branches of engineering: electricity, mining, hydraulics, and mechanics. Mining is represented by Georgius Agricola's spectacularly illustrated De Re Metallica in the editions published in 1556, 1561, and 1657. The Renaissance "machine" books, with their brilliant plates depicting levers and pulleys moving every kind of object, are the foundations upon which much of modern engineering rests. Certainly the most widely acclaimed work is Agostino Ramelli's Le Diverse et Artificiose Machine (1588), but not to be forgotten are such comparable works as Jacques Besson, Theatrum Instrumentorum et Machinarum (1578) and Domenico Fontana, Della Trasportatione deu'Obelisco Vaticano (1590).

The works of such figures as Archimedes, John Dalton, Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei, Stephen Hales, and Isaac Newton are present in first or early editions of their works as well as hundreds of treatises by less well known contemporaries, equally important in many ways.

American contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge include Benjamin Franklin's Experiments and Observations on Electricity (1769). The natural sciences include, among others, an array of books by John James Audubon, Benjamin Smith Barton, John and William Bartram, Amos Eaton, Asa Gray, Thomas Nuttall, John Torrey, and Alexander Wilson.

The history of American horticulture is an area in which the collections of the University of Delaware Library are particularly rich and diverse. Books, periodicals, seed catalogs, trade catalogs, prints, advertising broadsides and manuscripts are all present. Such works as Andrew Jackson Downing's The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America (1850) and Alfred Hoffy's North American Pomologist (1860) are examples of the kinds of books to be found in this collection. It is a collection that has many works with wonderful illustrations and is indeed fertile ground for the study of American colorplate books.

As this catalog reveals, the rare book and manuscript collections of the University of Delaware Library are diverse and filled with treasures both old and new. This library has been most fortunate in the continuing support it has received from its many friends and alumni. The collections are a testimony to their generosity, of which the University of Delaware Library is most appreciative.

Alice D. Schreyer
Head, Special Collections

Nathaniel H. Puffer
Assistant Director of Libraries
for Collection Development


De Re Militari. Paris: Christian Wechel, 1532.

De Re Militari was probably written between 1455 and 1460 and was circulated widely in manuscript for many years before being first printed in Verona in 1472. The work treats the art of war generally and from a historical point of view. Of the twelve books into which it is divided, the one on defensive and offensive weaponry is the most heavily illustrated. The kinds of siege warfare described and illustrated offered no startling new military techniques but rather described fifteenth-century military practice which still followed methods laid down in Roman and medieval times.

The significance of "On Military Matters" is that it is the first book printed with illustrations of a technical nature. A marvelous array of fantastic military and naval war machines including paddle wheeled ships, cannons, siege towers, pontoon bridges, gun turrets and battering rams with fanciful heads are included in some of its eighty-two woodcut illustrations. This work and its later reprints, of which the 1532 Paris edition is one, was the guide followed by many Renaissance military leaders.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates

ARCHIMEDES (ca. 287-212 B.C.)

Opera. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1558.

In antiquity, Archimedes' reputation rested upon his remarkable engineering abilities. He is credited with inventing, among other things, a screwlike device to raise water and the compound pulley. It is, however, his extraordinary mathematical discoveries that will forever assure him a place among the great mathematicians of all time. Achievements include his calculations on the area of the surface of a sphere, geometrical analysis of statical and hydrostatical problems and the use of statics in geometry.

It was not until fifteenth-century Europe, however, that the work of Archimedes began to be more widely known. Various versions of individual texts were published but it was not until a Latin translation was made that a much wider audience was reached.

Bequest of Melva B. Guthrie


De Re Metallica. Basel: J. Froben and N. Episopius, 1556.

De Re Metallica is Agricola's best known work. It is a systematic examination of mining and metallurgy as practiced in the sixteenth-century mining center of Joachimsthal in Czechoslovakia. Agricola was a medical doctor there and observed at first hand the mining operations commonly used as well as the ill effects on miners.

Agricola described all mining operations in great detail including prospecting, administration, the use of water power and the transport of ores. He described for the first time the preparation of nitric acid and saltpeter.

Illustrated with 292 large woodcut illustrations, De Re Metallica exerted great influence on geology, chemistry, mining technology and metallurgy. It was frequently reprinted and remained a standard work for more than 100 years.

Acquired with the support of the Unidel Foundation

AGOSTINO RAMELLI (1531-ca. 1600)

Le Diverse et Artificiose Machine. Paris, 1588.

Ramelli, a military engineer to Henry III, King of France and Poland, published at his own expense what is considered to be one of the most important books on machines in the Renaissance. It was in its own time widely known and frequently imitated. The 194 engravings on full and double pages show pumps, derricks, looms, cranes, saws, siege machinery, fortifications and foundry equipment. Each plate is fully described in the text, printed in both French and Italian. Ramelli sketched in detail a number of devices and machines which were successfully manufactured and sold, two or three centuries later.

This is the one-millionth volume added to the collections of the University of Delaware Library and was presented to Dr. E. A. Trabant, President of the University of Delaware, by the University of Delaware Library Associates in 1974.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates


Discorsi e Dimonstrazioni Matematiche. Leiden: Elzevir, 1638.

This first modern textbook in physics and the foundation of modern physics had a profound influence. It replaced the Aristotelian concept of motion with a new one of inertia and established general principles in the motion of the pendulum, falling bodies and in projectiles.

At the time that Galileo wished to publish his treatise on mechanics, now considered to be his most important work, his works were banned by the Inquisition because of his support of Copernicus. To avoid this proscription, Galileo had it published in the Netherlands, which was not subject to the edicts of the Roman Church. This was Galileo's final work before his death.

ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727)

Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. London: Joseph Streater, for the Royal Society, 1687.

It has been claimed that the Principia is the greatest work in the history of the physical sciences. By demonstrating that the motion of all bodies was controlled by the same universal laws, Isaac Newton brought to the scientific community a vision of an orderly, harmonious universe which could be understood independent of any supreme being.

Divided into three books, Book I develops general dynamics from a mathematical standpoint for the entire work and begins with the motion of mass particles. Book II is a treatise on fluid mechanics and Book III is devoted to astronomical and physical problems. Newton addressed and resolved a number of issues including the motions of comets and the influence of gravitation. For the first time, he demonstrated that the same laws of motion and gravitation ruled everywhere under a single mathematical law.

Newton's scientific accomplishments were vast. He was the co-discoverer with Leibniz of differential calculus and the founder of mathematical physics. He made important studies in optics and yet had time to devote to theology, alchemy and chemistry.


Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America. London: David Henry, 1769.

Benjamin Franklin's Experiments and Observations is the most important scientific book of eighteenth century America, and established Franklin as the first American scientist to achieve an international reputation. In this famous treatise on electricity, Franklin outlined his experiments, which proved that lightning is an electrical phenomenon, and which helped him to deduce the positive and negative nature of an electrical charge.

The text is in the form of a series of letters and papers addressed to Peter Collinson, a London merchant and naturalist. These communications were originally published in three separate pamphlets in 1751, 1753 and 1754. By 1774, five editions had appeared, and by 1783 the work had been translated into French, Italian and German.

The copy exhibited is the fourth edition, the first to contain all three parts in a single volume. Franklin's famous experiment with a kite, key and Leiden jar during an electrical storm is described on pages 111-112.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates


Traite Elementaire de Chimie. Paris: Cuchet, 1789.

Lavoisier's great contributions to chemistry were presented in what is acclaimed as the first modern chemical textbook. The use of accurate measurement for chemical researches; the introduction of the law of conservation of mass; the principles of chemical nomenclature; and the final overthrow of the phlogiston theory through research on combustion were all included. A new epoch in chemistry began with its publication.

Lavoisier's greatest contributions were to chemistry, but he was a talented geologist, experimental farmer, and financial and social reformer. Principally because of his tax-collecting activities, he was executed during the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates


American Ornithology; or, the Natural History of the Birds of the United States. Philadelphia: Bradford and Inskeep, 1808-1814. 9 volumes.

Naturalist William Bartram, Alexander Wilson's neighbor on the Schuylkill River just below Philadelphia, encouraged Wilson to collect specimens of birds and learn to draw and paint them. Wilson, an ornithologist, produced this comprehensive work, covering the eastern United States north of Florida, based almost entirely on his own observations. The plates were produced by engravings from his own drawings; Wilson colored a sample proof for use as a model by hand-colorists. American Ornithology is a landmark in American natural history.

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.

THOMAS SAY (1787-1834)

American Entomology, or Descriptions of the Insects of North America. Philadelphia: Samuel Augustus Mitchell, 1817-1828. 3 volumes.

Born into a prominent Quaker family of Philadelphia, Say was a self-taught naturalist. He was a founding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He was appointed chief zoologist of Major Stephen Long's exploring expedition to the tributaries of the Missouri River in 1819 and again in 1823 for the expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Say's studies of North American insects brought him recognition from the learned societies of Europe. His American Entomology was an important work and remains a classic. It was published over an eleven-year period with volume 3 being completed in the utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana, of which he became a member in 1825. The stature of the American Entomology is increased by its 54 colored illustrations, all of which were executed by American artists.

Bequest of Melva B. Guthrie

WILLIAM P.C. BARTON (1786-1856)

A Flora of North America. Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1821- 1823. 3 volumes in 1.

Barton, a botanist, teacher and naval surgeon, sought to promote "the advancement of national science" by encouraging Americans to examine and describe the botany of their own country, rather than leaving the field to "foreigners." His Flora, magnificently illustrated by his wife, is an excellent popularization of the work of earlier systematic botanists.

Gift in Memory of Francis Clifford Phillips

JOHN TORREY (1796-1873) and ASA GRAY (1810- 1888)

A Flora of North America. New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1838-1843. 2 volumes.

Flora of North America was begun in 1831 by John Torrey and in 1836 Asa Gray joined him in this pioneering work. It was the first attempt to describe all plants found in North America, not just those of a particular region. With the publication of the Flora, the break with the use of the Linnean system of plant classification became final, with the Jussieu and Candolle natural system of classification taking its place. The principles set forth in the Flora became the standard upon which all other studies by nineteenth- century botanists were based. Only two volumes were published, because Gray accepted a position at Harvard College, and both men were being overwhelmed by the botanical specimens sent to them from the western exploring expeditions.

Torrey and Gray worked together closely for thirty years analyzing the plant specimens from the expeditions and published the results in a variety of books and reports. Each of them gathered together impressive personal libraries but, more importantly, great herbariums. Gray became a correspondent of Charles Darwin and his chief defendant in America after the publication of the Origin of Species.

Acquired with the support of the Unidel Foundation

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON (1785-1851) and JOHN BACHMAN (1790-1874)

The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. New York: J. J. Audubon, 1845-1848. 3 volumes of plates. 3 volumes of text, published 1846-1854.

Although he is most widely remembered for his monumental Birds of America, an attempt to depict all of America's birds that consumed many years in preparation and publication, Audubon also applied his methodology and artistry to create a record of our native mammals. The Quadrupeds, which was an immense success on publication, presented many frontier mammals never before seen or depicted. This product of Audubon's later years required the assistance of his friend John Bachman and his sons, Victor Gifford and John Woodhouse. John contributed many of the later drawings, while Victor, who drew some backgrounds, principally attended to the business of subscription publishing. Bachman edited the text and saw the last two volumes, published after Audubon's death, through the press. The folio plates, originally issued in parts, were lithographed by J. T. Bowen of Philadelphia. The text compiles Audubon's observations, anecdotes and encounters with the animals in their natural habitat. Of the Grizzly Bear he wrote, "The Indians consider the slaughter of a Grizzly Bear a feat second only to scalping an enemy. Necklaces of the claws of this beast are worn as trophies among them. The audacity of these Bears around Fort Union was remarkable."

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.


The Fruits and Fruit Trees of America. New York: John Wiley, 1850.

Landscape gardener, architect and horticulturist Andrew Jackson Downing helped to run his father's nursery in Newburgh, New York, and traveled to estates on the Hudson River to observe their gardens. His Fruits and Fruit Trees of America, prepared with his brother's assistance, was the most complete treatise of its kind up to that time. It established Downing's reputation as a pomologist and was widely read, going through thirteen printings in the author's lifetime. In the preface, Downing referred to America as a "young orchard" with soil so rich that "In one part or another of the Union every man may, literally, sit under his own vine and fig tree."

Acquired with the support of the Unidel Foundation

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