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DAVIDSON, William

Oblatio salis sive Gallia lege salis condita. Tractatus salis naturam.explicans necnon mysticum ejus sensum.declarans, ad originem, institutionem et legis salicae

      Paris J. Promé 1641 - FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. (xii) 130. Roman letter. Woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces, “15 sols. Amicorum Antonii Davis” in early hand at head of t-p, bibliographical note in slightly later hand on fly, ms. shelf-mark on pastedown, occasional marginal annotations. Light age yellowing with some mostly marginal spotting, title slightly trimmed with loss of a few letters at outer and lower margins. A good copy in contemporary vellum over boards. First and only edition of this very rare and very curious work by the Scottish alchemist William Davidson, the first British professor of Chemistry. Davidson studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, after graduation emigrating to Paris. He must have also qualified in medicine and pharmacy, possibly at Montpellier, as he subsequently practiced as a physician and apothecary. He was much in demand by the English and Scottish communities in Paris and numbered the English Ambassador and Thomas Windebank, son of the Secretary of State, among his patients. In 1644 a parliamentary decree forbade foreign physicians to practice in Paris but, with the help of Queen Henrietta Maria and his friend Francois Vautier, Davidson was appointed Physician to the King of France. Vautier was also Superintendent of ‘Le Jardin du Roi’, the Royal Botanical Garden of Paris, which opened in 1640, and Davidson was appointed to a new Chair of Chemistry there in 1647, though it is probable that he had held classes there for some years. John Evelyn, who attended a class in 1649, wrote: "I went to heare Dr. D'Avinson lecture in ye physical garden and see his laboratorie, he being Prefect of ye excellent Garden and Professor Botanicus." Davidson’s textbook, ‘Philosophia Pyrotechnica sev Curriculus Chymiatricus (1633 - 1635), was translated into French as Les Elemens de la Philosophie de l’Art du Feu ou Chemie (1651 & 1657) and was one of the earliest chemistry textbooks. Although Davidson was an alchemist, in theory, with religious and metaphysical conceptions, the practical aspects of his work describe many preparations from vegetable, animal and mineral sources and their medicinal applications which show that, in practice, he was a chemist. His interest in solid geometry also resulted in an interest in crystallography and a particular interest, or obsession, with salt. In this work “The Oblation of Salt, or France preserved by the Law of Salt” he refers to a “covenant of salt” quoting references from the Old Testament and talks at length about the medical and culinary properties of salt which he amalgamates with a discussion of the origins and history of Salic Law, the ancient French code that only allows for male succession. Salt was thought to be particularly valuable to the “fonctions masculines”. He also gave lectures and practical demonstrations on chemical medicines such as antimonial, mercurial, and other drugs favoured by the Paracelsians. Later forced out of France he became physician to King John Casimir and Queen Marie Louise of Poland, as well as Keeper of the Royal Garden in Warsaw. We have been unable to find an indication as to the identity Anthony Davis of the t-p though his name indicates he was Welsh. BM STC Fr. C17 D185 p. 128. Ferguson I p.200. Not in Wellcome, Vicaire or Bitting. Worldcat records a single copy in the USA. Duveen records only other works by this author. [Attributes: Hard Cover]

      [Bookseller: Sokol Books Ltd. ABA ILAB]
Last Found On: 2012-05-11          Check current availability from:     AbeBooks


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