An Oxford Atheist in Search of the Sources of the Nile

Vossius, Isaac. De Nili et aliorum fluminum origine.

Den Haag, Adrian Vlacq, 1666.

4to. (16), 170, (4) pp., final blank f. With 2 large folding maps. Contemporary vellum.


First edition of this early study on the sources of the Nile by the Dutch classicist and librarian Isaac Voss (1618-89). The maps show north-eastern Africa from Zanzibar to the Nile Delta (with large parts of the Arabian Peninsula) and a detail thereof, focusing on the tributary region of Lake Tana in Dembiya, Ethiopia. Also includes an "Appendix ad scriptum de natura et proprietate Lucis. Accedit epistola ad amicum, de potentiis quibusdam mechanicis" (p. 77-170), an early and little-received discussion of the nature of light, refraction, colours, optics, mechanics, and even comets (for a note on Voss's work on Snel's law of refraction of light rays, cf. DSB XII, 501).

Slight browning, spine defective. Early 19th c. title inked to corner of upper cover. Provenance: 1) in the collection of the cleric and abolitionist Francis Wrangham (1769-1842), later Archdeacon of the East Riding, with his 1804 ownership to t. p.; 2) in 1810/11 the book was in the collection of Percy B. Shelley's friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg (1792-1862), famously expelled from Oxford together with the young poet for having published the treatise, "The Necessity of Atheism" (his ownership "T. Jeff.n Hogg, Univ. Coll., Oxon." on pastedown); 3) in 1898 the volume passed into the library of the Swiss-born U.S. officer Edward Louis Berthoud (1828-1910), best known for his role as chief engineer and secretary of the Colorado Central Railroad during its expansion throughout Colorado in the 1870s (his stamp and ms. ownership to t. p. and the reverse of the plates); 4) acquired on 12 Feb. 1903 by the Colorado chemist Charles Skeele Palmer (1858-1939) (his ownership on t. p.); 5) Ida May Lewis (ownership, dated 1945, on pastedown). With irreverent ms. notes at the end of the dedication (to King Louis XIV) by either Berthoud or Palmer: "Vossius give us a rest"; under the author's signature: "A Brick".


Ibrahim-Hilmy II, 312. OCLC 8556942. Cf. Gay 2317 (Paris ed.).