Geneva: 8 September 1840. One page Autograph Letter Signed on half of one sheet, with transmittal address and stamp to the other half. Original fold lines from mailing. Mounted to a later album page, with faint pencil notation identifying the date of receipt in October. Manuscript material from Jane Marcet, author of the influential Conversations on Chemistry as well as a series of science textbooks, is quite rare. Signed books aside, the present is the only example on the market of a letter in her hand; and ABPC lists none appearing at auction.
Jane Marcet has been credited with radically expanding access to science education at the turn of the 19th into 20th century, with Conversations on Chemistry being the most remembered and having the widest impact. Published anonymously in 1805, Jane Marcet's Conversations on Chemistry would become a cornerstone text for science education. One of the first elementary science textbooks, Marcet's work made 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." The book did more than open the door to women; it influenced working class men like Michael Faraday, and a whole generation that would push England toward Industrial Revolution. Committed to maintaining the quality and accuracy of her work, Marcet stayed engaged with scientific advances as they occurred and worked with her publisher to update the new editions to reflect expansions of information in those fields.
The present letter shows that 35 years after the book's release, Marcet continued this work. Writing to her publishers at Longman & Co., she notes that "I have not alterations to make in The Seasons, & in regard to the Conversation on Chemistry I shall be in London on the 5th Oct & wish then to have the pleasure of speaking to you about them [updates]. Very truly yours, Jane Marcet." (Item #4079)