The first academic lectures on chemistry published in England - With a Defense of Newton’s theory of matter

CHEMISTRY. Freind, John (1675-1728)

Chymical Lectures: in which almost all the operations of Chymistry are reduced to their true principles, and the laws of nature. Read in the Museum at Oxford, 1704. Englished by J.M. To which is added, an appendix, containing an account given of this book in the Lipsick Acts...

London: Printed by Philip Gwillim, for Jonah Bowyer, 1712


Octavo: (xvi), 200 pp.


Contemporary paneled sheep, spine with gilt centers and red morocco label (joints cracked but firm, head of spine worn). Pale stain in lower corner of front endpapers and (faintly) first two leaves, otherwise a very clean and crisp copy. Armorial bookplate of the earl of Macclesfield on front pastedown, and blindstamp on title. Title within double ruled border.

First English edition of the first academic lectures on chemistry published in England. The author, one of the first writers to identify themselves with Newton's ideas concerning chemical phenomena, was the first holder of the Readership in Chemistry established at Oxford in 1704, and he lectured in the Ashmolean Museum, emphasizing the importance of accurate experimentation. George Wilson had earlier given chemistry lectures in London, on which his "Compleat course of chymistry", 1698, was based.

“In 1704 Freind was appointed professor of chemistry at Oxford, and delivered a series of lectures which were published in 1709 as 'Praelectiones chymicae', dedicated to Isaac Newton. In these he attempted to explain chemical phenomena in terms of atoms and a Newtonian short-range force, following the work of John Keill... A second edition of Freind's 'Praelectiones chymicae' was published in Amsterdam in 1710, leading to a critical review in the Leipzig Acta Eruditorum (by Christian Wolff but with important contributions by Leibniz). Freind replied in a Latin letter in the Philosophical Transactions in 1711 in which he defended Newton’s theory of matter. The German criticism was part of the wider debate between partisans of Newton and Leibniz on the origins of the calculus. Freind’s defence of the Newtonian position undoubtedly paved the way for his election to the Royal Society in March 1712. In that year he issued an English translation of 'Praelectiones chymicae' that included his reply. As Friend makes clear in his reply, he was fully aware of Leibniz' involvement, and mainly directs his response to him, rather than to Wolff.

"A talented surgeon, Friend was admitted a candidate of the Royal College of Physicians on 30 September 1713 and a fellow on 9 April 1716. He rapidly became among the most successful of London's physicians… At the height of his career, Friend fell ill and died of a fever, on 26 July 1728, aged fifty-two."(ODNB)

See Musson & Robinson, Science and technology in the Industrial Revolution, p. 32. Neville, I, p. 480, with a long note. Partington II, p. 480. This edition not in Cole or Duveen