Philadelphia: James Humphreys, 1806. First American edition. Two volumes in one. Contemporary sheep binding with morocco spine label. Small loss to lower rear corner of spine, and extremities rubbed. Hinges tender but sound. Contemporary ownership signature to title page: "Mary Wayhill her Book, Presented to her by a friend." Collates , [1, blank], 429, [1, blank], [1, advertisement]: lacking front endpaper else complete, including all 11 engraved plates of chemistry experiments. Internally a bit foxed and toned as is common with American imprints of this era. In all, an excellent copy of this exceptionally rare book. Both the 1805 London first edition and the present first American edition are incredibly scarce. While the true first does not appear in the modern auction record, the first American appears only three times, with the most recent sale occurring over 20 years ago.
Published anonymously in 1805, Jane Marcet's Conversations on Chemistry would become a cornerstone text for science education. Largely considered one of the first elementary science textbooks, Marcet's work was designed to make the complex field more accessible to women and younger readers who did not have easy access to rigorous science and mathematics training. As Marcet records in her introduction, she was inspired to author the text after facing her own struggle to understand a science lecture conducted at the Royal Institution in London; only after having friend in the field provide more conversational explanations were her imagination and interest awakened. She thus concluded that "familiar conversation was, in studies of this kind, a most useful auxiliary source of information; and more especially to the female sex whose education is seldom calculated to prepare their minds for abstract ideas...there are but few women who have access to to this mode of instruction." In the belief that women are quite capable of scientific thinking if provided an elementary foundation, Marcet composed a text that tackled important concepts ranging from General Principles, to Light and Heat, through Metals, Alkalines, and a variety of compound gases and acids. All of these and their related experiments are covered as dialogues among three women -- Mrs. B. and her pupils Caroline and Emliy. Contemporary reviewers hailed the work as "perspicuous and clear, the style simple and easy...an useful and entertaining performance for young beginners and others who are desirous of making their first advances into the study of chemistry" (General Review). Indeed, Michael Faraday credited Marcet's textbook with initiating his interest in science and persuading him to leave his apprenticeship as a bookbinder to pursue more advanced study in electrochemistry. One of the most influential early science education texts.
Feminist Companion 713. Women in Science 125. (Item #2909)