Acta Philosophica Societatis Regiae in Anglia (6 vol., 1672-1681) [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society]. HENRY OLDENBURG, CHRISTOPH SAND, TRANS.
Acta Philosophica Societatis Regiae in Anglia (6 vol., 1672-1681) [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society]

Acta Philosophica Societatis Regiae in Anglia (6 vol., 1672-1681) [Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society]

“Charles the Second, by the grace of God King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c., …. We have long and fully resolved with Ourself to extend not only the boundaries of the Empire, but also the very arts and sciences. Therefore we look with favour upon all forms of learning, but with particular grace we encourage philosophical studies, especially those which by actual experiments attempt either to shape out a new philosophy or to perfect the old. … Know ye … that henceforth for ever there shall be a Society consisting of a President, Council, and Fellows, who shall be called and named The President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for improving Natural Knowledge (of which same Society we by these presents declare Ourself Founder and Patron) ….” — Second Charter of the Royal Society (1663)

“On Monday, March 6, 1665, a new publication appeared in London. Dedicated to the Royal Society and claiming to give ‘some accompt of the present undertaking, studies, and labours of the ingenious in many considerable parts of the world.’ Philosophical Transactions contained in its sixteen pages an eclectic mixture of articles, observations, and extracts from letters. … [It] was not only the first scientific journal in the world, but also became the longest running and arguably the most important. ‘If all the books in the world, except the Philosophical Transactions, were destroyed,’ wrote the great English biologist T.H. Huxley in 1870, ‘it is safe to say that the foundations of physical science would remain unshaken.’” — Adrian Tinswood, “The Royal Society & the Invention of Modern Science” (2019)


From the time it was created at a 1660 meeting attended by a dozen academics and interested amateurs at Gresham College in London following a lecture by Christopher Wren, the Royal Society of London was devoted to an observational and experimental approach to unlocking the secrets of nature. “[T]he demonstration, sponsorship, discussion, and promotion of experimental learning was at [the Society’s] heart.” (Tinswood, op. cit.) The motto chosen for the Society by John Evelyn — nullius in verba (roughly, “nothing by [mere] words,”) — reflected the Society’s philosophy of requiring that conclusions be supported by first-hand observation and the meticulous collection and recording of data. Its Fellows and correspondents around the world devised and carried out a wide variety of investigations in geology, meteorology, astronomy, physiology, and other fields; and reported the results in the Philosophical Transactions. Some of the experiments may have been absurd or misguided by modern standards; many, however, contained the seeds of important later developments. The Transactions also provided readers with reviews of important books (for example, Hooke’s Micrographia and Redi’s Esperienze intorno alla Generazione degl'Insetti), and obituaries of eminent scholars. It was an essential factor in maintaining the momentum of the revolution in science that had begun some 120 years earlier with the work of Vesalius and Copernicus.

The first issue of the Philosophical Transactions was published in 1665. A few years later, it occurred to the Society that it — and science — would benefit from the wider dissemination of the discoveries reported in the Transactions to the non-English-speaking countries of the Continent. The work offered here — Acta Philosophica Societatis Regiae in Anglia — was the result of that effort. Published in Amsterdam between 1672 and 1681, it provided a Latin translation — Latin then being the international language of the world’s savants — of the contents of the Philosophical Transactions from 1665 through February 1671. (The annual publication cycle of the Transactions ran from March through February, since Lady Day — March 25 — was considered the official English New Year until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752.) The translations are bound here in six duodecimo volumes, each covering a one-year period. They incorporate numerous beautiful engraved plates, many of them folding.

The translation is the work of Christoph Sand, an Amsterdam intellectual, editor, translator, publisher, and follower of Spinoza, who is referred to in the volumes as “C.S.” “Sand was a frequent correspondent of Oldenburg’s, translating... the Philosophical Transactions into Latin, which were published in Amsterdam... Sand went to considerable trouble over his translation, sending lists of queries to Oldenburg, only to be sharply criticized in a review... in the Philosophical Transactions itself. The translations then ceased.” (Anna Marie Roos, The Correspondence of Dr. Martin Lister, vol 1, pp. 641. (Sand also died in 1680, which may have been the real reason the project ended.)

Acta Philosophica includes articles covering a wide range of interesting and important subjects. A sampling of these is provided below, with individual articles identified by issue number, date, Latin title, and the corresponding English title. (The English titles are taken from the scans of early volumes of the Transactions that are available on the Royal Society’s web site. Years are given in modern notation; i.e., treating January 1 rather than March 25 as New Year’s Day.)

–Issue No. 1 (March 6, 1665). “De observatione facta in Anglia, de macula quadam in aliqua Striarum Planetae Jovis” (“A Spot in one of the Belts of Jupiter”)

Id. “Character nuper editus ultra mare, Excellentis Viri, non ita pridem defuncti Tolosae, ubi fuit Parlementi Consiliarus …” (“The Character, lately published beyond the Seas, of an Eminent person, not long since dead at Tholouse, where he was a Councellor of Parliament.”) An obituary of Fermat.

–Issue No. 2 (April 3, 1665). “Relatio M. Hookii Micrographiae, aut Physiologicarum descriptionum Minutorum Corporum, inventarum ope Telescopiorum” (“An Account of [Robert Hooke’s] Micrographia, or the Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies, Made by Magnifying Glasses”).

–Issue No. 6 (November 6, 1665). “De Jesuitae Kircheri Mundo Subterraneo.” (“Of the Mundus Subterraneus of Athansius Kircher”). Athanasius Kircher was “an exemplary figure in understanding the transition from ancient to modern ways of thinking about the world. He was a man who immersed himself in the currents of scholarship at the height of the seventeenth century while publicly proclaiming the value of traditional learning and faith. Most importantly, he was a fascinating by-product of the Society of Jesus: a Catholic natural philosopher in the age of Galileo, Descartes, and a young Newton, a Jesuit priest whose goal was to incorporate aspects of the new natural and experimental philosophy and a fuller understanding of ancient … philosophies of knowledge into the traditional Aristotelian-Ptolemaic worldview upheld by the Catholic Church following its condemnation of heliocentrism in 1616 and the trial of Galileo in 1633. … The Mundus subterraneus (1665) was the first encyclopedia to systematically explore the forces that shaped the world below the surface, including the nature and location of volcanoes, earthquakes, ocean currents, and the formation of fossils.” DSB).

–Issue No. 7 (December 6, 1665). “De ortu & progressibus, modi derivandi Liquores immediate in Massam Sanguinis” (“An Account of the Rise and Attempts, of a Way to conveigh Liquors immediately into the Mass of Blood”) Early experiments with intravenous injection.

–Issue No. 8 (January 1666). “Quaedam Obervationes circa Jovem. De umbra cujusdam ejus Satellitum visa Telescopio transire corpus Jovis” and “De fixa macula in Jove: qua demonstrator conversion circa suum axem” (“Some Observations concerning Jupiter. Of the shadow of one of his Satellites seen, by a Telescope passing over the Body of Jupiter” and “Of a permanent Spot in Jupiter: by which is manifested the conversion of Jupiter about his own Axis”)

–Issue No 9 (February 1666). “De Commercio literario procurando, pro invention Verae distantiae Solis & Lunae a Terra, per Parallaxes Observatas sub eodem Meridiano, vel prope eundem” (“Of a Correspondency, to be procured, for the Finding out the True distance of the Sun and moon from the Earth, by the Paralax, observed under (or near) the same Meridian”)

–Issue No. 10 (March 1666). “Observationes continuatae circa Barometrum, aut potius Stateram Aeris” (“Observations continued upon the Barometer, or rather Balance of the Air”)

–Issue No. 14 (July 2, 1666). “Relatio: De Novi generis Barscopio, quod vocari quae staticum; & de quibusdam Praerogativis & Comoditatibus, quibus Mercuriali praestat: communicate abhinc aliquanto intervallo temporis, ab Honorando Roberto Boyaeo” (“Of a New kind of Baroscope, which may be called Statical; and of some Advantages and Conveniencies it hath above the Mercurial: Communicated, some while since, by the Honourable Robert Boyle”)

–Issue No. 15 (July 18, 1666). “Novum Experimentum Frigorificum demonstrans, Quomodo in momento notabilis Frigoris gradus possit produci, sine ope Nivis, Glaciei, Grandinis, Venti, aut Nitri, idque quovis annui tempore” (“A new Frigorifick Experiment shewing, how a considerable degree of Cold may be suddenly produced without the help of Snow, Ice, Haile, Wind, or Niter, and that at any time of the year”)

–Issue No. 20 (December 17 1666). “Methodus Observata in Transfusiae Sanguinis ex Uno Animali in aliud” (“The Method observed in Transfusing the Bloud out of one Animal into another”) Numerous articles on the transfusion of blood appeared in the Transactions during the period covered in these six volumes, of which this was the first. It describes a method developed by the London physician Richard Lower. Lower “performed the first successful transfusion at Oxford in late February 1665, transfusing blood ‘from an artery of one animal into a vein of a second.’ The Royal Society soon heard of these results, and in early 1666, after several months’ interruption due to plague and the London fire, society members were busy making their own investigations into transfusion. In June 1666 John Wallis, who had been present at Lower’s successful experiment at Oxford the previous February, reviewed Lower’s success; and the society, through Boyle, requested a full account from Lower. This was officially received in September, replicated at the society in November, and printed in Philosophical Transactions (December 1666). By mid-1667, Lower had joined the society.” (DSB).

–Issue No. 22 (February 11, 1667). “Tentamenta, quae proposuit Dominus Boylaeus Doctori Lowero, ut ipse faceret, ad Promotionem Transfusionis Sanguinis ex uno Animali viventi in aliud; promisa Num. 20, pag. 389” (“Tryals proposed by Mr. Boyle to Dr. Lower, to be made by him, for the improvement of Transfusing Blood out of one live Animal into another; promised Numb. 20, p. 357”)

–Issue No. 34 (April 13, 1668) “Quadratura Hyperbolae per infinitam seriem Rationalium Numerorum, una cum ejus Demonstrationae, per Nobilissimum dominum Vicecomitem Brouncker” (“The Squaring of the Hyperbola, by an infinite series of Rational Numbers, together with its Demonstration, by that eminent Mathematician, the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Brouncker”)

–Issue No. 35 (May 18, 1668) “Novum Inventum circa Visionem” (“A New Discovery touching Vision”) The first documented observation of a “blind spot” in the human visual field.

Illustrated throughout with fine engraved plates. Amsterdam: Henricus & Theodorus Boom, 1672 - 1681. 12mo (approx, 3x5.25 inches), contemporary half-calf over marbled boards. Complete in six volumes. Only very minor wear; a beautiful set.


Price: $14,500 .

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