a newsletter of work in progress on
Robert Boyle (1627-91)
No. 3: December 1999
Vignette by Gravelot from Birch's edition of Boyle's Works (1744)
The third issue of On the Boyle appears just over twelve months after the last. The year that has intervened has been a momentous one for Boyle studies, marked as it has been by the appearance of vols. 1-7 of the long-awaited new edition of his Works. This understandably dominates the current issue, but we have also included our regular features devoted to 'Boyle News' and to recent publications on Boyle. In addition, the issue features an article by Roger Gaskell on a new bibliographical discovery relating to Boyle--a hitherto unrecorded issue of his most famous book, The Sceptical Chymist, dated 1690. Peter Anstey, University of Sydney
Michael Hunter, University of London
Peter Anstey read a paper entitled 'Boyle and the Reformers: are there Reformation Roots to Boyle's Natural Philosophy?' at the Early Modern Thought conference held at the University of Sydney in June 1999. He has just been awarded a U2000 Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Sydney for three years. His book, The Philosophy of Robert Boyle will be published by Routledge in 2000.
Kevin de Berg, who teaches at Avondale College, New South Wales, gave a paper at a conference at Andrews University, Michigan, USA, in June/July entitled 'Integrating Science and Scripture - the Case of Robert Boyle'.
Antonio Clericuzio, when not working on Boyle's Correspondence (see below), is preparing a broader study of atomism and chemistry in the 17th century, forthcoming in 2000, in which Boyle will figure prominently.
The Correspondence of Robert Boyle, edited by Michael Hunter and Antonio Clericuzio with Lawrence Principe and David Money as editorial advisors, is scheduled for publication in six volumes in September 2001. The text will go to press in the summer of 2000. The research assistants on the project are Ben Coates and Ros Davies. Funding is generously being provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Board.
Edward B. Davis is continuing to compile the index to The Works of Robert Boyle, which will form one of the major components of volume 14 of the edition (see On the Boyle, 2, and below).
Roger Gaskell, who has contributed an article to the present issue, has for some years been gathering information for a new edition of J. F. Fulton's Bibliography of the Honourable Robert Boyle, and would be glad to hear of any errors or omissions anyone has noticed. His e-mail address is email@example.com
Michael Hunter's essays on Boyle, published and unpublished, will appear as a volume entitled Robert Boyle (1627-91): Scrupulosity and Science in 2000. He has also prepared a collection of texts stemming from the interest in second sight in the Highlands which Boyle initiated in 1678 and which preoccupied English and Scottish intellectuals over the following twenty-five years; this will be entitled The Occult Laboratory. Both books will be published by Boydell & Brewer.
Harriet Knight has begun work at Birkbeck College, University of London, on a Ph.D. thesis on 'The Theory and Practice of Organising Natural Knowledge in the Work of Robert Boyle and his Contemporaries'. Her supervisor is Dr Stephen Clucas of the English Department.
Jack MacIntosh spent several weeks in London in the summer, working in the Library of the Royal Society on manuscript texts that will be included in his forthcoming edition of Boyle's writings on atheism.
Bill Newman and Lawrence Principe have both had Fellowships at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, Cambridge, Mass., where they have been writing up their research on the collaboration between Boyle and George Starkey. The outcome of their investigations will be published shortly as a pair of volumes, one textual and the other interpretative (see On the Boyle, 2).
Malcolm Oster gave a paper at the International Conference of 17th-century Studies at the University of Durham in July 1999 entitled 'Of Pores and Figures: the Role of Porosity in Boyle's Conception of the Corpuscular Philosophy'.
Jan Wojcik has used her sabbatical in London to investigate various themes in late 17th-century thought, comparing Boyle with Glanvill, More and the nonconformists.
Vol. 1-7 of The Works of Robert Boyle, edited by Michael Hunter and Edward B. Davis, were published in July, and are reviewed below by Peter Anstey. Vols. 8-14 will be published in September 2000. Work is well advanced on these, which cover Boyle's published writings from 1674 to 1744, together with the most important of his hitherto unpublished works in vols. 13-14; vol. 14 will also contain a complete index to all 14 volumes. Scholars can assist the editors in resolving various outstanding queries in vols. 8-14 by looking at the 'Update' page on the Robert Boyle Project web site at http://www.bbk.ac.uk/Boyle.
If you are working on Boyle and your project is not reported here, let us know, so that details can be included in the next issue. Items for inclusion in the next issue of On the Boyle should be sent either to Michael Hunter at Department of History, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), or to Peter Anstey at Department of Traditional and Modern Philosophy, University of Sydney, New South Wales, 2006, Australia (e-mail: Peter.Anstey@Philosophy.usyd.edu.au)
Michael Hunter and Edward B. Davis, eds.,
London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999.
A REVIEW BY PETER ANSTEY
It is a rare event in scholarship that one gets to review an undertaking of the magnitude and quality of the new edition of The Works of Robert Boyle. The first seven volumes of Boyle's Works, edited by Michael Hunter and Edward B. Davis, have now been published and while this is only the first instalment of a fourteen volume set, which will be followed by a separate six volumes of correspondence, it is already the most significant contribution to Boyle scholarship since Birch's edition of Boyle's collected writings in 1744. Volumes 1-7 of the Works contain all of Boyle's publications in chronological order up until 1673. Volume 1 contains a lengthy General Introduction (about which more below) and Textual Note and each volume contains introductory notes on the publications contained therein and a glossary of rare and technical terms at the end.
An effort has been made to present the texts as they were originally published, with original punctuation, capitalisation, and spelling retained. A further mark of this attempt to give a seventeenth century feel is seen in the inclusion of the original errata lists which have been appended to each work (though the texts themselves have been corrected). On the whole the copy text for each work is the first edition which has been collated with subsequent English and Latin editions, variants being noted (normally) in the footnotes with translations of all non-English passages and quotes. Transcriptions of the most important manuscript material relating to each particular work are appended to the introductory notes to the relevant work and these are presented in an easy to read format that is (thankfully) now becoming standard with the publication of early modern manuscript material. Furthermore, where applicable, exhaustive tables of relevant manuscript materials have been included in the introductory notes to each work. Facsimiles of all original plates have been included and each volume has a different frontispiece, such as a facsimile of an original title page of a work included in the volume or of a relevant manuscript folio in scribal hand. Finally, the original page numbers are given at the top of each page.
The General Introduction and Introductory Notes on Works
On reading the General Introduction in volume 1, written by Hunter, one can appreciate just how well integrated the whole project is with the renaissance of Boyle studies that has taken place over the last two decades. The mark of recent Boyle scholarship is everywhere apparent and each section of the General Introduction is sensitively and thoroughly referenced so that the reader knows where to go in order to follow up a further point or to pursue a more detailed study. Moreover, the interaction with pre-existing secondary literature is suitably restrained in tone. The editors have done a commendable job in not revealing their biases and criticisms of others' work. Such editorial restraint is crucial for a work that is to be a standard reference for Boyle research for years to come. Yet there is another feature of the General Introduction, and indeed of the whole seven volumes, that is rather more satisfying than anything else. It is the sense of timeliness that one gets from perusing the text. It is as if multiple and seemingly disparate forces have conspired to bring the whole project together in such a way that now is the right time, the kairos as the Greeks would say, for the works to be republished. Of course there is an intentional element here. Hunter has been working on Boyle for years and he for one has carefully laid the foundations for the Works; first with his cataloguing of the Boyle archive at the Royal Society, then by his series of essay length studies on Boyle's character and intellectual development and finally with the publication of the biographical fragments on Boyle in his Robert Boyle: By Himself and His Friends (London, 1994). Thus the broader scholarly foundations within which the Works project is placed have been carefully prepared by Hunter. Yet Hunter and Davis could not have foreseen the recent wave of scholarship into early modern matter theories and mechanism that has had such revisionist implications for our understanding of natural philosophers like Boyle. Nor could they have predicted the profound impact of Shapin and Schaffer's Leviathan and the Air-Pump (Princeton, 1985) and the manner in which this has introduced Boyle's experimentalism to virtually every scholar and student of science studies. Far less could Hunter and Davis have organised the fortuitous discovery of Boyle's original version of Theodora (forthcoming in vol. 13) or the plethora of other manuscript discoveries that have so enriched this edition and our grasp of Boyle in general. Finally, Hunter and Davis could hardly have asked for a more able group of scholars of the likes of Principe and Clericuzio to be working on the same materials at the same time. It has been a happy concurrence of factors. To be sure, there will be new finds, additions and corrections to supplement these volumes, but the bulk of the archival material has been dredged and the depth and breadth of the secondary literature is such that now is the right time for a new definitive edition of the works.
The General Introduction deals with Boyle's intellectual evolution and the rather complex subject of the production and dissemination of Boyle's writings. Hunter deals with Boyle's lists of his writings which provide dating clues and other vital information for determining the exact process by which his vast oeuvre developed (transcriptions of these lists will be published in the forthcoming vol. 14). Then in a fascinating section he discusses the various 'publishers', printers and booksellers with whom Boyle had dealings. Some interesting patterns emerge from this study, in particular the manner in which Boyle worked with printers in both Oxford and London concurrently and the fact that all but one of his theological works were printed in London whereas natural philosophical works were printed in both cities. The discussion then turns to Latin translations of Boyle's works (a subject that has been unduly neglected until now) and in the final section Hunter discusses the various attempts to publish collections of Boyle's works and Boyle's sometimes less than enthusiastic response to these projects. There are implications for the history of the book that arise from each of these sections but they need not detain us here. The overall effect of this material is to orient the reader with regard to the history of production of the works. Such an orientation is essential not just for comprehending the different structures and styles of Boyle's writings, but even for understanding the critical apparatus. However, little orientation is given with regard to the contents of each work. Nor is this to be found in the Introductory Notes. The notes have a uniform format, dealing first with the process of composition of the work in question, then its publication, Latin editions, impact and sequels and various details about the copy text and collation process. But apart from the most general comments, they provide few clues as to what each work is actually about. These notes would have benefited from a succinct statement of the thematic content and aims of each work and some guides as to how the work in question fits into the Boylean corpus as a whole.
The picture of Boyle that emerges from the General Introduction is one of a character even more complex than hitherto appreciated. Much has already been written on Boyle's reticence about taking oaths, about his casuistry, about his reluctance to acknowledge his sources or to name opponents. So it is already appreciated that Boyle had an extremely complex personality, yet Hunter's study of the production of Boyle's works adds a new and perplexing layer to this personality. The tension between his scrupulosity and literary elegance that so affected his writing style, the intrusion of his casuistry into his natural philosophy, the sometimes bizarre claims made in his apologetic prefaces and the unusual combination of a meticulous attention to detail in the gathering and recording of experimental data and the nonchalance about the production of his texts that conveyed this data, are all difficult to fathom. Thus while the new Works makes Boyle's writings significantly more accessible, I find that the writer of those works is somehow harder to understand than ever.
The quality of the new Works is outstanding and both the editors and Pickering and Chatto are to be congratulated. To bring together such a large corpus of published and archival material and then to order it, integrate it with existing secondary literature, collate the various editions, translate non-English materials and annotate it is a colossal task requiring a veritable team of experts. The painstaking work of Ted Davis in constructing the numerous tables of manuscript material relating to particular works is one of the edition's most unique and useful features. These tables will be indispensable for Boyle scholars and scholars of early modern thought and will obviate the need to navigate one's way through the Boyle Papers when seeking manuscript material for particular works.
A measure of the thoroughness with which this edition has been prepared is illustrated in the way in which the collation process has revealed important variants and additions in subsequent editions of particular works. Easily the most interesting and significant of these in volumes 1-7 is the extended note added to the prefatory 'The Publisher to the Reader' of the 1663 Latin edition of Boyle's Defence against Linus (vol. 3, pp. 6-8). In it Boyle (?) outlines his response to an attack on his own Spring of the Air by Anthony Deusing entitled Considerationes circa Experimenta Physico-Mechanica Illustris Equitis Roberti Boylei, de Vi Aeri Elastica; et Eiusdem Effectibus (1662). I, for one, had never heard of Deusing or his book. But more importantly, Shapin and Schaffer do not even mention Deusing, nor do they list his Considerationes in their bibliography to Leviathan and the Air-Pump. Hunter and Davis have uncovered a new seam in the polemics over the air-pump experiments. It is possibly the most important negative reception that Boyle's Spring of the Air received on the Continent (Deusing was professor of medicine at Groningen) and it is now a desideratum to have a scholarly analysis of Deusing's work and any impact that it had.
It is also worth exploring the implications of this episode for Shapin and Schaffer's portrayal of Boyle's role in the controversies over the air-pump. One thing is clear, this episode reveals a Boyle who was not as proprietorial over the debate as implied by Shapin and Schaffer's interpretation of Boyle as having a carefully crafted strategy for managing dissent. Boyle, assuming he is the author of the remarks, tells us that he has refrained from penning a fuller response because that task was being undertaken by 'a gentleman who, in addition to being quite fitted for such an undertaking, seeing that he is very well acquainted with the author's hypotheses, had been present at a great part of the experiments which are described in that work that we are setting out to defend' (vol. 3, p. 7). Hunter rightly surmises that this was probably Robert Hooke.
The fact that Deusing's work has been relatively unknown to scholars for so long is a salutary reminder of the importance of the Philosophical Transactions as a conduit for ideas across the channel. It is almost certain that had the journal existed in 1663 the Considerationes would have fallen into Oldenburg's hands for review and not have been 'lost' for more than three centuries. It is also a reminder of the Anglophone bias of much Boyle scholarship, a bias that Hunter implicitly acknowledges in his comment (in the Textual Note, vol. 1, p. xcv) on the need for Boyle's reception on the Continent to be better researched. Works such as Du Hamel's De Affectionibus (1670) are strongly influenced by Boyle, but are rarely if ever referred to in the secondary literature. The new Works will usher in a fresh wave of Boyle scholarship and it is to be hoped that Boyle's 'Continental reception' will be at the forefront of this new research.
The importance of the Philosophical Transactions is also apparent in so far as it provided Boyle with a new literary genre for publishing experimental observations and reports as well as Oldenburg's announcements and reviews of Boyle's new works. Furthermore, as Hunter plausibly suggests (vol. 1, p. xxxvii) '[i]t may well have been the experience of publishing his findings as journal articles which suggested the new method of propagating his ideas in briefer, more essayistic form, which Boyle was to exploit' in the 1670s. All of Boyle's contributions to the journal up to 1673 are published in volumes 5-7.
Inevitably there are a few minor errors and points of editorial judgement about which one may disagree. For example, Hunter tells us in the General Introduction (vol. 1, p. lxxxiv) that John Beale was keen for Boyle to produce a series of quarto volumes organised thematically, part of which would work 'from methodological prescriptions through the primary to the secondary qualities'. Now in fact Beale does use the terms 'primary quality' and 'secondary quality' here, but he is not referring to the primary and secondary qualities of the Lockean distinction adumbrated by Boyle. Rather they are (roughly) Aristotle's first and second qualities. Given the fact many readers of the new Works will associate the Lockean primary and secondary quality distinction with Boyle, Hunter's expression here is potentially misleading. As for editorial decisions, it seems that Hunter and Davis have decided to retain the original Greek spelling and accentuation of the copy texts even though this is often incorrect. So we often find graves where there should be acutes (e.g. vol. 1, p. 78 and vol. 5, p. 363) and even a nonsense word (for peristaseis) in the Scaliger quote at the beginning of the section on the origin of forms in Forms and Qualities (vol. 5, p. 339). In contrast to the fluid nature of English in Boyle's day, Greek spelling and accentuation were standardised and even though many printers had trouble with the non-Roman script, there is a strong case for correcting printing errors in Greek, especially when they render a particular word unintelligible.
Using the new Works
At first sight the seven volumes might seem rather daunting, especially given that there are another seven to come. The slimmest of the volumes (vol. 1) is 324 pages with an additional cxxxiv pages of introductory material. However, the size of each volume (234 x 156mm) is far more manageable than Birch. They sit nicely in the hand and have a significantly smaller footprint on the desk. There is no indication of the contents of each volume on the spine and the synoptic contents for the whole edition is only found in volume one, so until the reader is familiar with the edition volume one will be the first port of call. The synoptic contents uses the short titles of each major work of Boyle and does not list individual tractate titles, many of which are widely known by users of Birch and M. A. Stewart's Selected Philosophical Papers of Robert Boyle (Indianapolis, 1991). Furthermore, turning to the list of short titles in volume one (pp. xvi-xx), one finds that many familiar short titles are omitted. For instance, Boyle's 'Theological Distinction' and 'Advices' are not listed. Initially this may pose some problems for those getting oriented with the Works. For example, there is no way of locating the essay 'Theological Distinction' from either the synoptic contents or the short title index. One needs to know that it is appended to The Christian Virtuoso (vol. 11) in order to find it. Yet modern readers of Boyle often know only the title of individual essays and not the title of the work in which they were published. And this is not surprising since, as Hunter has stressed in the General Introduction, in the 1670s Boyle appears to have discovered the suitability of the short essay form and many of his publications from this period are collections of such essays often assembled under the title of 'Tracts'. There is therefore an argument that an exhaustive list of individual tractate titles and their locations should have been included in volume one. The editors however have opted for the more economical option and readers may initially have to spend a little more time than expected locating particular essays. However, the long-term effect of this editorial decision will be that the original context of publication of individual essays will be more widely appreciated.
The short titles used in the new Works should now become standard for those working on Boyle. This in itself will be an important consequence of the edition. For example, the much-quoted work that some have been calling Boyle's A Free Enquiry should now be known as Notion of Nature. Such a standardisation is long overdue. Fulton's Bibliography (2nd edn, Oxford, 1961) of Boyle's works has long been in need of updating and now, in the light of some significant new discoveries in the new Works, it should be used with the utmost caution. For example Hunter and Davis have shown that Cosmical Qualities was published in 1670 whereas Fulton dates it at 1671. Again, (as mentioned in On the Boyle, vol. 2) Saltness of the Sea was actually published in 1673 whereas Fulton dates it 1674. As for M. A. Stewart's Philosophical Papers, this will still have its uses. It remains a handy and relatively cheap collection of Boyle's most important philosophical writings, but for scholarly purposes it should be used in conjunction with the new Works.
One fact of life at the end of the twentieth century is adjusting to upgrades, whether it be new software or new versions of the latest technology. The new Works should in some sense be taken on in the spirit of one who is learning to use a new version of their preferred word processor. Many scholars are comfortable with using the 1772 edition of Birch, as indeed I am myself; we know our way around in it; we have a feel for the lie of its contents; we have learnt its idiosyncrasies, perhaps even annotated it. This must all be left behind now. The new Works supersedes Birch 1772 and all other editions. It is a more accurate text, better laid out, will be better indexed, is better referenced, and easier to use. Some of us may want to keep Birch's edition on our back shelves for nostalgic reasons, but the Pickering Masters Boyle must now be within easy reach. For serious Boyle scholarship and related research, all new work starts from here.
N.B. This is a condensed version of a review to appear in Metascience.
by Roger Gaskell
At a launch of vols. 1-7 of the new edition of the Works on the lawn at the back of Clare College, Cambridge, on 9 September, Michael Hunter explained the genesis and rationale of the edition and appealed for information about two lost issues of Boyle's works. By good fortune Martin Williams, librarian of Queen's College, was at the reception and by an extraordinary coincidence had only recently handled a copy of The Sceptical Chymist dated 1690 in the college library. I have now examined this copy and it is briefly described below.
Between 1684 and 1693 the bookseller Samuel Smith published six natural philosophical or medical works by Boyle. In 1690-1 he also reissued several works originally published by Richard Davis at Oxford, Flame and Air (1672, not in Fulton but there is a copy in CUL, Adams 7.69.5), Saltness of the Sea (1673, F113A), Mechanical Origin of Qualities (1675, not in Fulton but there are copies in the Plume Library, Maldon, and at Eton College), and Languid and Unheeded Motion (1685, F165). In addition the catalogues of Boyle's writings that Smith produced mention issues or editions of The Sceptical Chymist and Some Hidden Qualities of the Air, but until now, no copies have been recorded (see the new Works, vol. 1, p. liv).
Though Hidden Qualities still lives up to its name, the details of the newly discovered copy of The Sceptical Chymist are as follows. Like the others, it is a re-issue of the Oxford sheets with a cancel title-page. It is identical with the second edition, Oxford 1680 (F34) - though without the advertisement leaf found in a very few copies - except that the main title-page is a cancel and there is a paste-on cancel on the title-page of the annexed Producibleness of Chymical Principles. The cancel title has slightly different typography from the original, most noticeably in having the words 'Sceptical Chymist:' in black-letter rather than Roman type. There are some minor changes in punctuation (commas added after 'or' following 'Sceptical Chymist:' and around 'in this edition') and the words 'The Second Edition' are added above the imprint which is as follows:
London: | Printed, and Sold by Sam. Smith, at the Prince's Arms | in St. Paul's Church-yard. 1690.
The imprint on the slip pasted to the title page of Produciblebness
, is the same as that on the main title-page with the omission of the words 'Printed, and': Smith presumably altered the imprint in this way for reasons of economy, as he similarly did in his reprint of Mechanical Qualities
PUBLICATIONS ON BOYLE
Since On the Boyle Issue 2, November 1998
Anstey, Peter, 'Boyle on Occasionalism: an Unexamined Source', Journal of the History of Ideas, 60 (1999), 57-81.
Breathnach, Caoimhghin S., 'Robert Boyle's Approach to the Ministrations of Valentine Greatrakes', History of Psychiatry, 10 (1999), 87-109
Clericuzio, Antonio, 'Alchimie et theories de la matière au xviie siècle', in F. Greiner (ed.), Aspects de la tradition alchimique au xviie siècle (Paris-Milan, 1998), pp. 185-91
Harris, A.L., 'The Funerary Monuments of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork', Church Monuments, 13 (1998), 70-86
Hunter, Michael (guest editor), 'Pychoanalysing Robert Boyle', Special issue of British Journal for the History of Science, September 1999, vol. 32, pp. 257-324, comprising the following articles:
Hunter, M., 'Introduction', pp. 257-60, and 'Robert Boyle (1627-91): a Suitable Case for Treatment?', pp. 261-75
Kahr, Brett, 'Robert Boyle: a Freudian Perspective on an Eminent Scientist', pp. 277-84
Clay, John, 'Robert Boyle: a Jungian Perspective', pp. 285-98
Figlio, Karl, 'Psychoanalysis and the Scientific Mind: Robert Boyle', pp. 299-314
Cantor, Geoffrey, 'Boyling Over: a Commentary on the Preceding Papers', pp. 315-24
Hunter, Michael, and Davis, Edward B. (eds.), The Works of Robert Boyle, 7 vols. (London, 1999):
Vol. 1: General Introduction, Textual Note and Publications to 1660
Vol. 2: The Sceptical Chymist and other Publications of 1661
Vol. 3: Usefulness and sequels to Spring of the Air, 1662-3
Vol. 4: Colours and Cold, 1664-5
Vol. 5: The Origin of Forms and Qualities and other publications of 1665-7
Vol. 6: Publications of 1668-71
Vol. 7: Publications of 1672-3