Saturday, August 29, 2015

Of the Invention of Telescopes and Microscopes, with their First Improvements

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I happened to run across an article by Joseph Priestley  [Priestley, Joseph, LL.D, F.R.S., Of the Invention of Telescopes and Microscopes, with their First Improvements,The Literary and Biographical Magazine and British Review, vol.10 (June,1793): pp. 407-11.].

What I found so interesting with this article was that I could not find it listed in any of the standard bibliographies of his works; not even in the on-line Wikipedia bibliography on Joseph Priestley, which, importantly, is the most up to date (I have subsequently corrected that situation), nor in Robert Schofield book which is considered the authoritative biography on Priestley with an excellent bibliography.  It seems rather odd that a person with such a distinguished career and elaborate corpus of works as Priestley would have a publication missing from his bibliography for more than 210 years after his death, and 221 years after he wrote the article.  

I note, however, that while there was a section on the very subject of the article with the exact same title I found in his book: The History and Present State of Discoveries Relating to Vision, Light, and Colours, London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1772,pp.55-81, there is enough of a difference between the two works that this work should have been recorded as part of his bibliographical legacy. Further, it should be noted that there is a full 21 years difference between the publication dates of the book and the journal article. Finally, it is worth noting that it doesn't make any sense to have excluded it, based solely upon the fact that it appeared in such a prominent British publication with his authorship clearly identified.

One final note about the article, versus its content, is that while the title as stated above is what appears at the head of the magazine article, all subsequent pages of the article carry the banner "On the Invention of Telescopes and Microscopes" [emphasis added].

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