One of the Most Beautiful Scientific Books of the 19th Century

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

I no longer own a copy of this book, but at least I did find a version of it at Google Books–the rather walk-about title completely conceals the fabulous stuff within it. The  Chemical atlas: or, the chemistry of familiar objects, by Edward Livingston Youmans, published in New York City by Appleton in 1856 is the sort of title that you could easily skip by if you weren’t familiar with it or its author. Youmans is certainly a man worthy of high respect, and I like him a lot: in his career as an author and editor, he was (in addition to much else) the founder of two significant scientific publications that I have long enjoyed: the International Scientific Series (1871), which was a rapid/cheap reprint of important contemporary science which also sought to fairly compensate its authors (at a time where they were even more ripped-off than they can be today); and the great Popular Science Monthly (1872), which was a very meaty sci-tech instrument before it got to be more ‘popular” than “scientific” decades after Youman’s death in 1887. 

Youmans candle


But it is his thin and lovely chemistry-of-stuff book from 1856 that I’d like to share right now. I do not know who was responsible for the design and the illustration of the book, which is I think exemplary and unusual for the time. Even if Youmans did not design the images, he did have the very good sense to include them in his book.  It would be nice to have this book back at some time, along with a few of the other gorgeous works of the 19th c,  like Oliver Byrne’s Elements of Euclid (1847) and Ernst Haeckel’s impossible Kunsformen der Natur (1904, but started in 1899 so it still classifies as a 19th c work), to name a pair.

  • Some good, concise, biographical info on Youmans:

  Youmans light


Youmans field


  • Source:  Google Books

By: Ptak Science Books
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