Introductio at Veram Astronomiam, seu lectiones astronomicae habitae in Schola Astronomica Academiae Oxoniensis.

  • Keill, John
  • Oxoniae [Oxford]: E Theatro Sheldoniano 1718
  • ESTC T143354.


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FIRST EDITION, 8vo, pp. [viii], xv, [i], 495, [1] + 2 folding plates. Numerous woodcut diagrams within the text. Contemporary dark calf, panelled in blind, edges sprinkled red. Toned, some spotting. Sometime rebacked in morocco, no front flyleaf, hinges neatly relined. Booklabel of Calgarth Park (see below) to front pastedown, occasional substantial annotations in pencil and ink.


The first publication of these introductory lectures on astronomy by the Scottish mathematician and disciple of Newton John Keill (1671-1721). Keill went from Edinburgh University to Balliol College, then on to become Savilian Professor of Astronomy, in which capacity he gave these lectures; they were translated into English in 1721.
This copy belonged to Richard Watson (1737-1816), Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Watson had studied mathematics, and 'knew nothing at all of Chemistry, had never read a syllable on the subject; nor seen a single experiment in it; but [he] was tired with mathematics and natural philosophy' (Anecdotes, 28–9, quot. in ODNB), and so he became Professor of Chemistry in 1764. He moved on later to the regius chair of divinity (for which he was equally untrained), further attaining from political influence the bishopric of Llandaff, a sinecure for which he did little. An inheritance from a friend allowed him to purchase the estate of Calgarth, near Windermere, where he built Calgarth Park, and he was more involved in Lake District life, sparring with Wordsworth in print and corresponding with Coleridge.
This particular volume is an unusual survival: Watson was in the habit of destroying his papers and other evidence suggests he was more interested in personal advancement than scholarship, but this example proves that he engaged seriously with contemporary astronomical learning. His annotations include measurements, calculations, extensions of diagrams, underlining, and a number of substantial comments in English (Watson was never particularly proficient with Latin). Other books from his library that have appeared on the market in the past few decades (including a Sceptical Chymist) have not featured any significant annotation.
A number of Watson's books were listed in Zeitlinger's 1921 Bibliotheca Chemico-Mathematica catalogue for Sotheran's, plenty of them fine presentation copies and likely unread, whereas this, item 10023, is 'with numerous MS. notes by Richard Watson, F.R.S. (1737-1816) absentee Bishop of Llandaff, and his Calgarth Park booklabel'.

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