Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2019 Issue

Mulvihill Collection acquires celebrated Scots astronomer, Mary Somerville


While the Mulvihill Collection focuses mostly on pre-1700 women writers (English, Irish, Dutch), it has recently acquired a special newcomer: Mary Somerville, her 1834 classic, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (London, 1834; 5 plates; 10th ed., 1877). The Mulvihill copy is a deluxe, rebound second edition (1835), with Somerville's additional notes and new preface. A self-trained polymath, "Mrs Somerville" was a respected astronomer and science writer whose talents extended to painting, music, and educating the great J.M.W. Turner on Newtonian color theory. We include her self-portrait here, and we invite you to look up (and look up!) with Mary Somerville. <Click here for article>

Posted On: 2019-09-04 19:13
User Name: chavvy@aol.com

This is as witty as it is informative and illuminating--a delightful account of the process of collecting, as well as an elegant tribute to Somerville. Especially welcome was the final image of the banknote, which brought the past into the present in an unexpected way. Would that all scholarly writing displayed such a welcome lightness of touch....
Margaret D. Stetz
Mae & Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities
University of Delaware

Posted On: 2019-09-05 03:11
User Name: mairin

Posting for collector, E.M. Katz:
Thank you for alerting me to this new essay, Maureen, and
I especially appreciated your good taste in selecting Dr Rosalind
Franklin, as dedicatee (and maybe the guiding Muse on your shoulder, too).
Let me know if your Somerville copy includes any ownership signatures, any
inscriptions, bookplates. And thanks, also, to Rare Book Hub, for hosting
this work. I am not a subscriber, but should be.
Keep in touch. Much admired the essay. E.M. Katz, Berlin / NYC.

Posted On: 2019-09-05 03:15
User Name: mairin

Posting for a collector friend in Rhode Island:
Maureen, Your passionate yet informative piece is nothing short of magical.
You have managed to shed some much needed light on the often overlooked, and sometimes forgotten, scientific contributions of such wonderful women as Mrs. Somerville.
These magnificent contributions to your collection will no doubt keep this flame burning for many years to come. Many thanks for sharing this wonderful story. Masterful.
- DJC, Collector, Rhode Island.

Posted On: 2019-09-05 20:11
User Name: mairin

Posting for my favorite polymath, Daniel R. Harris, Brooklyn, NY / Sarasota, FL.
If this subject receives further attention, best tell readers about Somerville's publisher (her only publisher): the Murray family publishers of London, originally from Scotland. (Yes, the big Murray Archive is listed in the article's Apparatus, glad to see that, an essential resource.)
Murray and the family business took good, faithful care of Somerville's writings over 4
decades -- remarkable, no? And, then, this matter: When it is mentioned, in one of the caption notes, that the telescope "gave the world to the 17th century", I'd replace "the world" with "the universe", or even "the world and the sky". (Maybe.) Otherwise, a strong delivery of useful information & images. (Incidentally, Somerville's self-portrait, on the article's Display Page, shows Turner's influence, I'd say; he was one of her circle. How could she, herself a painter, not be influenced by such an extraordinary talent?) A serious, elaborate file here, constructed over several operating systems & servers -- no simple task! Rare Book Hub served it up nicely, heroically.
- DR Harris / Words Art Music @ http://blog.danielharrismusic.com/

Posted On: 2019-09-11 17:17
User Name: ruricius

What a lovely erudite discussion.... but I'd have expected no less! And made all the more special after having seen and admired the liber ipse!
Ralph Mathisen
Professor of History, Classics, and Medieval Studies
University of Illinois

Posted On: 2019-09-22 19:08
User Name: alice185

A delightful essay and a fine tribute to Mary Somerville, a graceful appreciation of the well deserved serendipity of acquiring the book. It’s also a valuable reminder of current work restoring women to their place in the history of science. Very well done. Alice Browne.

Posted On: 2019-09-24 20:55
User Name: laipar2@aol.com

Much appreciated. Women collectors collecting books by women scientists!
I have recently acquired Louise Bourgeois Boursier, mid-wife to Marie de Medici, the collected works, 1626 to 1645, comprising a rare first edition of her book of secrets, all bound in contemporary vellum.
I am a scholar and a collector and find the book as object and its printing paratexts an essential aid in my research of early modern women writers.

Posted On: 2019-10-29 16:33
User Name: mairin

Posting for Bookseller, Mark Stirling, Nevada

As someone interested in "systems theory", I was drawn at once to
Dr Mulvihill's "Somerville" essay, announced on Exlibris-L, especially
Somerville's argument for a "connexion" among the sciences. This integrative
approach has captivated me for the last several years. The essay's images and
detailed caption notes are a portal to a more comprehensive appreciation of
many interesting subjects. And I like how Mulvihill contextualized her material,
by linking Somerville to earlier figures (Vermeer, Newton, Pepys) and also to Somerville's
contemporaries (JMW Turner, Humboldt, Darwin). The essay demonstrates new
approaches to thinking about many complex subjects. And, of course, beautifully designed,
with close attention to the physical properties and reception of this successful
early-19th-century science book.

Mark Stirling in Nevada
Up-Country Letters / www.upcole.com

Rare Book Monthly

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