London: John Murray, 1848. First edition. Original publisher's cloth bindings with gilt to spines and blind stamping to boards. Gentle rubbing and shelfwear to extremities, most affecting crown and feet of spines. Minor spotting to boards. Small binder's ticket to rear pastedown of volume I. Collates ix, , 303, ; vi, 285, , 16 pages: complete, including frontis portrait of author in volume I. Internally Fine, with the textblock of each volume clean and tight. With no appearances in the modern auction record, only 11 copies listed in the U.S. on OCLC, and this as the only copy on the market, Somerville's pioneering work on geography has become incredibly scarce.
Mary Somerville was one of the most influential science writers of her time. "Perhaps no woman of science until Marie Curie was as widely recognized in her own time...not only did [Somerville's works] bring scientific knowledge in a broad range of fields to a wide audience, but thanks to her exceptional talents for analysis, organization, and presentation, they provided definition and shape for an impressive spread of scientific work" (ODNB). It was later in life, following the death of her first husband, that Somerville gained access to the scientific community, gaining entree to intellectual circles with the encouragement of her second husband, Dr. William Somerville. In 1835, she became one of the first two female members of the Royal Astronomical Society. A groundbreaking work on geography, the present text was the first textbook in the field to be printed in English; and Somerville unalterably shifted the study of the natural world by not only considering the landscape as it naturally occurs, but also by acknowledging "the influence of man on the material world." Human invention, including locomotive technology and the control over inland waterways permanently alter landscapes and ecosystems, Somerville admits. And her work takes a regional look at the geography of the Americas, Africa, Australia, and Asia in terms of their mapping as well as their evolving flora, marine life, insects, birds, and mammals. A truly groundbreaking work by a leading, early woman scientist.
Women in Science 245. Feminist Companion 1006. (Item #2575)