Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Rare book now on display in the Library

I have just put a different book in the glass display cabinet - please come and have a look at this amazing work!

The rare book on display from our collection is: Hooke, Robert. Micrographia restaurata: or, the copper-plates of Dr. Hooke's wonderful discoveries by the microscope, reprinted and fully explained. Whereby the most valuable particulars in that celebrated author's Micrographia are brought together in a narrow compass and intermixed, occasionally, with many entertaining and instructive discoveries and observations in natural history. London: John Bowles; 1765.

Balfour Library class mark: Folio 101.

The book is open at: Plate 26, The great-bellyed, or female Gnat. This is a spectacular copperplate engraving depicting a gnat under the microscope. All of the plates in this work gave readers an amazing insight into the miniature world of animals for perhaps the first time.

Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was an English instrument-maker, experimentalist and natural philosopher. In 1653 or 1654 he went to Christ Church, Oxford, initially as a chorister, but then serving as assistant to Robert Boyle. Hooke assisted Boyle with his experiments on the spring and the weight of air and was thus exposed to active scientific research.

In 1662 Hooke was working as curator for experiments for the newly formed Royal Society of London, his task being to provide three or four experiments at each meeting. Hooke published the demonstrations and commentaries he gave at these meetings in works such as the Micrographia, or, Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses, with observations and inquiries thereupon (1665). This book initiated the field of microscopy; Hooke applied his microscope to inanimate and animate objects, revealing remarkable features about their structure. His talent for drawing and attention to detail is evident in the many plates included in the volume, especially those of the fly, gnat and flea, and his text provides clear and precise descriptions of observations, and also explanations of the things observed.

Many of the observations he recorded in Micrographia were new. For example in his observation on the structure of cork he became the first scientist to describe cells (he coined that term because plant cells, which are walled, reminded him of monks’ chambers), and he was the first to describe the compound eye of the fly.

Forty years after Hooke’s death, Micrographia had become difficult and expensive to obtain. The Micrographia was reissued in 1745 in a condensed form. This version, Micrographia Restaurata (Micrographia Restored) contains all of Hooke’s original engravings, most of which were printed from the original copper plates. The commentary is shorter and simpler than the original, but preserves the important features of Hooke’s original observations.


Patri J. Pugliese, ‘Hooke, Robert (1635–1703)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 18 April 2012]

Sutton, John (Apr 2001) Hooke, Robert. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0002424]