YOUNG, Thomas.

The Bakerian Lecture: On the Theory of Light and Colours. [And:] An Account of some Cases of the Production of Colours, not hitherto described. [In:] The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, parts 1 and 2 for the year 1802, pp. 12–48 and plate 1, and 387–397 respectively.

London: Printed by W. Bulmer and Co… And sold by G. and W. Nicol… 1802

2 parts in two volumes, 4to, pp. (vi), (ii), 212, 26, 4 engraved plates; pp. iv, (213)–535, (1) blank, (8), 13 plates. Original drab blue wrappers (spine of part 1 chipped, spine of part 2 slightly worn at ends), uncut and unopened. Preserved in a quarter blue morocco box. Paper slightly browned, otherwise fine copies in original state. Bookplates of H.F. Norman, M.D.; bookplates of David L. DiLaura.

FIRST PRINTINGS, and rare copies in the original wrappers, as issued. “The Bakerian Lecture delivered in November 1801 is an epoch-making contribution to the theory of light in all its phases. Hooke, Huygens and above all Newton had discussed the nature of light in the seventeenth century. Huygens propounded the wave theory in 1690, whereas Newton was predominantly in favour of a corpuscular theory…” (PMM). Young, however, proposed and demonstrated a theory that ‘radiant light consists of undulations of the luminous ether’, that is, a wave theory of light. In “An account of some cases of the production of colours”, Young opens with the clear statement of what would come to be known as Young’s interference principle, giving definite evidence for the wave theory of light. He then describes an experiment he performed, later known as the ‘double slit’ experiment, that has been called most beautiful experiment in physics. It indicated that light consists of waves, as the distribution of brightness can be explained by the alternately additive and subtractive interference of wavefronts. “…Young calculated and reported the wavelength and frequency associated with prismatic colours. They are remarkably accurate” (DiLaura). Printing and the Mind of Man 259. Dibner 152. G&M 1488 (first paper). DiLaura, Bibliotheca Opticoria, 593. Norman catalogue 2275 and 2276 (these copies).


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