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Rational Recreations, in which the Principles of Numbers and Natural Philosophy are clearly and copiously elucidated, by a series of Easy, Entertaining, Interesting Experiments. Among which are All Those commonly performed with the Cards. Containing Electrical and Magnetical Experiments. (from the Half-title of Vol. 3).
Author: Hooper, W., M.D.
Reference #: 1038
List Price: $295.00
London, L. Davis, Holborn et al. 1787. Full sprinkled calf, with red leather spine labels and volume number (faded). [xii], 296 pp.; 20 copper plates as called for in the List; several fold-out. Light foxing of both front and rear endpapers and 3 or 4 adjoining leave, but otherwise absent or sparse. Leather boards uniformly faded. Front gutter starting to separate, but still firm. Armorial bookplate of The Right Honourable Charles Bathurst, Sydney Park, on front paste-down. Table of Contents at end of book.
One of four volumes that Dr. Hooper prepared, each with a separate scientific theme, and meant to demonstrate science to the average householder, thereby lessening what he saw as the contamination of scientific endeavour by charlatans. His work proved very popular and went through a number of editions. By today’s standards of safety, some of these experiments and ‘recreations’ are problematical. The Table of Contents description for the re-creation of an ‘artificial earthquake’ is indicative, describing in part – and with the original typography of the time – an “edifice . . . laid to ruins” after becoming “greatly agitated by the explofion”! (p. 258)
More interesting may be the historical context provided of the advancement of science, and of the awareness of the general population of its processes and significance. The fifteenth experiment uses electricity and combustion: “after many explofions three diftinct rings appear, each of which contains all the colours of the prifm or rainbow. This experiment corroborates the Newtonian doctrine of colours”. (cf p. 78 ff.).
Worth of note is also the description of Recreation XVII, “The Electical Kite” (pp. 82 ff.), giving due attribution in a footnote to “Dr. Franklin” and providing a second, alternative process through “an apparatus, invented by Dr. Prieftley, and with which he thinks there can be no great danger in any thunder-ftorm.” (p. 89)
The volume includes instructions for 57 different experiments. Ah, the state of scientific investigation 235 years ago!
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