American Chemistry for the Nonscientist

Ewell, Thomas. Plain Discourses on the Laws or Properties of Matter. Containing the Elements or Principles of Modern Chemistry...

New York: Printed for Brisban and Brannan, 1806. 220 by 135mm (8¾ by 5¼ inches). Orig. full sheep, red calf spine label; 269, [3] pp. With the half-title, a glossary of scientific terms, and [3] pp. publisher’s ads. First edition. Illustrated with two full page copper engraved plates (often missing).

Very good. Light rubbing to covers; top (1–1/2″) of half-title cut away (removing the name of a previous owner); signature E browned; plates lightly foxed; previous owner’s name inscribed on fly-leaf.

Described as the first American Chemistry Textbook for the Nonscientist (which may be accurate, depending on how nonscientist” is defined). This book was used as a textbook at William and Mary.

Thomas Ewell (1785–1826) was appointed to the Naval Hospital in New York in 1808 by Thomas Jefferson (who was his brother’s classmate at William and Mary College). Ewell and three others later reorganized the Navy Medical Service in Washington. The dedication leaf of this work reads To Thomas Jefferson, Esq. of Virginia”. In the Preface, the author quotes extensively from letters he received from Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington.

Jefferson wrote: The chemists have filled volumes on the composition of a thousand substances of no sort of importance to the purpose of life; while the arts of making bread, butter, cheese, vinegar, soap, beer, cider, andc. remain unexplained… Good treatises on these subjects should receive general approbation.” p. 8.

Provides insight into Jefferson’s influence on American curriculum.


In stock

Stock Code: 1032B19 Collection:


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