Robert Hooke’s Micrographia Conserved

Engraving of a louse clinging to a human hair, from Hooke's Micrographia.

Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, first published in 1665, is one the landmark works of science. It opened up the new discipline of microscopy, and revealed in remarkable detail the previously hidden world of the miniature and the microscopic: Blake’s ‘infinity in the palm of your hand’. For the first time in human history, it was possible to see the mouthparts of a flea, the compound eyes of a fly, and the individual cells of a plant. As well as describing the objects he studied, Hooke also illustrated the microscope and many other instruments he devised for his experiments. Micrographia exemplified a new approach to science, based upon close observation and deduction, rather than supposition and beliefs inherited from the ancient world.

The Library holds two copies of the first edition of Micrographia, one of which formerly belonged to James Reddick Partington (1886–1965), professor of chemistry and historian of science, who bequeathed his library to the University of Manchester. Sadly the ex-Partington copy was in very poor condition, and had to be withdrawn from use. We were therefore delighted last year when the family of Vernon David B.Sc. (1920-2010) agreed to fund the restoration of the volume in his memory.

Vernon David (1920-2010)
Vernon David (1920-2010)

Vernon David read chemistry at Manchester University between 1938 and 1941. He had arrived in Britain as a child refugee from Germany in 1933, and his studies at Manchester were supported by the International Student Service. As an ‘enemy alien’ he was interned in the Isle of Man during the first term of his final year, but with the support of the university, students and other internees he was able to continue to study while detained, and he graduated at the end of the year with First Class Honours. On graduating he was assigned to Shell where he had a long and distinguished career until his retirement in 1979.

During the project senior conservator Jim Duff removed surface dirt from the textblock, consolidated and reconstructed the corners, consolidated friable edges of textblock pages and in-filled where necessary using Japanese tissue. Fold outs were also repaired and refolded where necessary. Board edges and newly repaired corners were covered with toned Japanese tissue to blend in with the original leather. Finally, a new phase box was constructed to house the item.

We are grateful to Rob and Sue David, Maggie and Julian Sale, and Liz and Steve Richardson for generously funding this work.

For further information on ways of contributing to the work of the Library, visit the Support Us page of our website.

0 comments on “Robert Hooke’s Micrographia Conserved

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: