From Alchemy to Chemistry:
Five Hundred Years of Rare and Interesting Books

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rare Book Room Exhibit

LAVOISIER, ANTOINE LAURENT (1743 - 1794). Traité élémentaire de chimie, présenté dans un ordre nouveau et d'après les découvertes modernes. 2 vols. Paris, 1789.

FIRST EDITION, second issue as usual (only 2 copies of the one-volume first issue are known). Lavoisier's text, which laid the foundations of modern chemistry, was divided into three parts. The first part formed an exposition of the new chemistry and discusses, in some cases for the first time, details on the subject of heat, the composition of the atmosphere, the analysis of atmospheric air and its parts, etc. The second part deals with the combinations of acids with bases and with the formation of neutral salts; the third contains a description of the instruments and operations of chemistry. These are beautifully illustrated by the carefully executed plates of Lavoisier's wife, a highly skilled draftswoman, engraver, and painter who had studied under the artist Louis David. In this text, Lavoisier overthrew the phlogiston theory and established the concept of elements as substances which cannot be further decomposed. An important consequence of his work was the law of conservation of mass. "The acceptance of the 'oxygen theory' was enormously facilitated by the defined and logical form given it in his 'Traité de chimie'. Indeed, the history of science scarcely presents a second instance of a change so fundamental accomplished with such ease."

DSB; Norman Library of Science, 1295; Encyl. Brit.

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