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    First Collected Edition

    John Wilkins. The Mathematical and Philosophical which is prefix'd the author's life, and an account of his works... Containing, I. The Discovery of a New World, or, A discourse tending to prove, that "tis probable there may be another habitable world in the moon. With a discourse concerning the possibility of a passage thither. II. That 'tis probable our Earth is One of the Planets. III. Mercury, or The Secret and Swift Messenger. Shewing how a Man may with Privacy and Speed communicate his Thoughts to a Friend at any Distance. IV. Mathematical Magick: or the Wonders that may be perform'd by Mechanical Geometry. V. An Abstract of his Essay towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language. To which is prefix'd the Author's Life, and an Account of his Works. London: John Nicholson, And[rew] Bell, Benj[amin] Tooke, & Ralph Smith, 1708. First collected edition. Octavo. Three parts in one volume. A4, B-2T8 [Lacks 2T8, blank].viii, [6], 274, [10], 90, [8], 184 pages. Lacks portrait replaced in facsimile on old paper, full-page engraved title to 'Discovery', numerous text cuts. Contemporary calf, rebacked with banded spine, gilt with title on blue morocco label, some foxing, a pleasing copy. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
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    John Wilkins (1614-1672), theologian and natural philosopher, "Wilkins's interest in the latest developments affecting natural philosophy was apparent in his earliest publications. In 1638 he published The discovery of a new world, or, A discourse tending to prove, that ('tis probable) there may be another habitable world in the moon. He added to this in 1640 his Discourse concerning a new planet; tending to prove, that ('tis probable) our earth is one of the planets. Powerful and influential works of popularization, these books aimed to expound and defend the new world picture developed by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. The first book argued that the earth was not uniquely different from other heavenly bodies, while the second tried to remove philosophical and religious objections to the earth's motion and show how it might be physically possible. In 1641 Wilkins published Mercury, or, The secret and swift messenger: shewing how a man may with privacy and speed communicate his thoughts to a friend at any distance. Concerned primarily with means of encoding or otherwise protecting the secrecy of communications, orally or in writing, it also discussed how messages may be secretly and swiftly conveyed over great distances. In the course of this work Wilkins briefly considered the possibility of a "Universal Character" that would be legible to readers in any language. This was a theme to which he would later return...In 1648 Wilkins published Mathematical Magick, or, The Wonders that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry. The first part of the book, on mechanical powers, showed how simple machines like the lever, pulley, and screw could be used to bring about remarkable effects, while the second part, on mechanical motions, discussed among other things flying machines, the submarine, automata, and perpetual motion. Offered as a practical manual rather than as a work of theoretical exposition, it can nevertheless be seen as a foreshadowing of the mechanical philosophy and of the increasing importance of the geometrical approach to an understanding of nature. It was influenced by the work of Guidobaldo del Monte and Marin Mersenne, and formed an attractive and highly effective medium of popularization... During these years Wilkins also produced what is perhaps his most significant work, his Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language. This was published in 1668, though it seems that he began work on it with the help of Seth Ward shortly after their collaboration on Vindiciae academiarum. Calls for a universal language had increased as a result of the flourishing of vernacular literature and an increasing dissatisfaction with Latin, partly with regard to the difficulty of learning it, but also with regard to its ambiguities and complexities. Wilkins rejected the approach of those who believed that the supposed language of Adam might be recovered, but tried to develop an artificial equivalent based upon a classification of knowledge. The vocabulary of this new language was to be built up by systematic modifications of the basic generic terms that were deemed to cover all the major categories of existence. A knowledge of the system would enable the reader, or listener, not just to recognize the signification of a word but also to understand how the referent fitted into the entire scheme of things. This is what made Wilkins's artificial language "philosophical", not just universal in the sense that a unanimously agreed upon lingua franca would be." [Oxford DNB]

    This volume contains: ESTC t110678. Sotheran I,5409. Poggendorf II,1328. Graesse VI,2:452. Roller/Goodman 580. Nicolson 265.

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    October, 2014
    8th Wednesday
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