Lettere del Signor Don Alessandro Volta patrizio comasco, e decurione regio professore di fisica sperimentale reggente delle pubbliche scuole di Como membro della Societŕ di Fisica di Zurigo e dell’Accademia R. delle Scienze di Mantova sull’aria infiammabile nativa delle paludi

Autore VOLTA, Alessandro (1745-1827).
Tipografo Giuseppe Marelli
Dati tipografici Milano, 
Prezzo 5000.00
Lettere... sull’aria infiammabile nativa delle paludi

Dedication copy

8vo (201x126 mm). 147, (3) pp. Collation: a-h8 i10 χ1. With 14 engravings in text: title vignette, 6 headpieces illustrating experiments, and 7 text vignettes by Ant. Longonus. Woodcut decorated initials.This is one of the rare copies with an added leaf at the end (as singleton) which contains the motto: “Didicistis, nihil forte im Physicis intellectu difficilius, quam quidnam proprie sit illud corporei, quod unice combustils sit in materia combustili. Boerh. de Alim. dic. Ign. Exp. XIII.” Contemporary colored cardboards with ink title on spine (faded and worn). Author's dedication on the front flyleaf: “Dono dell' chiarissimo Autore a Pietro Cernezzi oggi 17. Marzo 1777.” Pietro Cernezzi, the scion of a family from Como whose nobility dating back to 1447 was confirmed in 1817, was a member of the Como city Council in 1813 (Bollettino delle Leggi del Regno d'Italia. Parte II. N° 17 al N° 22) and had a long correspondence with Volta. Damp stain to the lower outer corner of gatherings a-f, which progressively fades, another damp stain to the upper inner corner of gatherings a-c. A good, genuine copy in its first binding.

FIRST EDITION of this important work, in which the author exposes to his friend Carlo Giuseppe Campi his research on methane gas, which had previously been confused with hydrogen. The work stimulated further experiments which subsequently led to the discovery of the composition of water.

The discovery of hydrocarbons is of utmost importance in the history of chemistry. The first and most important hydrocarbon, from which all other hydrocarbons – and indeed all organic compounds – derive, is contained in marsh gas, which was then called methane. It was in 1776 that Volta discovered marsh gas following an accidental observation made by father Campi. In seven letters, dated from Como between November 1776 and January 1777, Volta describes the new gas and the locations in which he found it.

“The discovery of marsh gas [...] is described by Volta [...] He distinguished it from the inflammable air from metals (hydrogen) by its azure-blue flame and slower combustion, and by its requiring 10-12 vols. of air for detonation. A much larger electric spark was necessary to ignite marsh gas than to ignite hydrogen. Volta, who invented the electric pistol, thought detonating gas could be used as a propellant” (Partington, History of Chemistry, III, p. 814).

Duveen, p. 606; Poggendorff II, 1231. DSB XV, pp. 74-76. Riccardi, Sulle opere di Alessandro Volta, p. 22 (11): “Raro libretto”. Scolari, Alessandro Volta, p. 79 (40). Polvani, Alessandro Volta, pp. 155-166; Honeyman, 3072.

  • Lettere... sull’aria infiammabile nativa delle paludi
  • Lettere... sull’aria infiammabile nativa delle paludi
  • Lettere... sull’aria infiammabile nativa delle paludi
  • Lettere... sull’aria infiammabile nativa delle paludi