Station Four: Wilkins Donations (Science)

William Harvey

Exercitationes de generatione animalium (1651)


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 William Harvey's Exercitationes de generatione animalium

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William Harvey's (1578-1657) major work on animal reproduction was in reality a miscellany of interconnected essays chiefly on experiments on eggs conducted and written up at different points from the 1630s on. The final collection was eventually seen through the press by Harvey's friend the physician George Ent (1604-1689) in 1651, about four years after the manuscript itself had been handed over to its editor. Ent's preface takes the form of a reported discussion between Ent and a reluctant Harvey, wearied of controversy, but persuaded to part, eventually, and somewhat teasingly, with his work. 'Thanking him many times, and bidding him farewell, I departed, like another Jason, enriched with a golden fleece ... ' Harvey's work is divided into seventy-two discreet essays or exercitationes, three additional tracts, and a long preface setting out his views on method. In this preface Harvey insisted that his master was still Aristotle: throughout his career Harvey remained suspicious of the new philosophers and particularly of what he thought of as the shortcomings of mechanism. There are other interesting donated copies of this edition in Oxford, for instance the St John's copy, presented by Edward Wreay in 1652; and the Bodleian copy, originally from the Ashmolean (Ashm. 1612), is inscribed 'Bibcæ Chymcæ donavit Tho: Bateman. A.M. et Coll. Univ. Socius' - i.e. donated by Thomas Bateman of University College, who took his M.A. in 1680, to the 'chemical library' housed in the laboratory in the basement of the original Ashmolean Museum on Broad Street. In the same year as the London edition the Elzeviers printed a duodecimo edition of the text in Amsterdam; some copies have a 'London' title-page prefixed to the Amsterdam imprint, bearing Octavian Pulleyn's name again. This pocket-sized edition was common in England too: Bodleian, Lister B 94, for instance, was owned and extensively marked in red crayon by the prominent F.R.S. and physician Martin Lister. In 1653, Pulleyn published a translation of the work into English.