Given the importance of Micrographia, it is extraordinary that there has been no satisfactory edition since the 18th century. The Folio Society has produced a new limited edition, limited to 750 copies, which aims to rectify this by presenting a handsome and very readable edition of Robert Hooke’s seminal text in its entirety. The Folio Society is also providing full justice to the stunning illustrations that are the source of the book’s enduring fame. The text is based on the first edition of 1665, printed by John Martyn and James Allestry for the Royal Society. Hooke’s engagingly inconsistent approach to spelling and punctuation has largely been retained, although for ease of reading spellings, punctuation and italicisation have been discreetly modernised.
What Robert Hooke achieved in Micrographia, as he only hints at in his delightfully fastidious subtitle ‘Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and enquiries thereupon’ was to bring to light what previous philosophers could only glimpse or theorise about. Combining his supreme talents as a technician and a draughtsman, Hooke constructed powerful new lenses, isolated specimens – in one case, plying an ant with brandy to keep it still – and described what he saw in words and pictures, in the finest detail. Readers in 1665 began to see the world with fresh eyes.
The breathtakingly detailed illustrations of insects and plants – the largest of which is nearly two feet across – have been reproduced at full size from copies of the first and second editions of Micrographia held at the Bodleian Library and the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford. The Folio Society edition is the only one in modern times to present Hooke’s illustrations in their original form as large-scale foldouts. No other edition has presented Hooke’s work in a format so worthy of its content.
So important is this work, in her introduction, Dr Ruth Scurr says, “Hooke knew that small advances in our understanding of the universe’s tiniest structures were the key to the future.”
The Folio Society edition is supplemented by two important texts which elucidate Micrographia and provide different perspectives of its prodigious but controversial author. A Brief Life by John Aubrey (1626–97) is in itself a work firmly in the empiricist tradition of research and observation. A close friend of Robert Hooke, Aubrey helped him with some of his experiments and lived for a period in his lodgings at Gresham College. Aubrey paints an affectionate portrait of ‘a person of great virtue and goodness’, voracious for knowledge from the earliest age, and defends him in his famous dispute with Isaac Newton.
Aubrey’s A Brief Life is preceded by a newly commissioned essay on Hooke’s career and achievements, and the enduring importance of Micrographia, by historian and literary critic Dr. Ruth Scurr.
Details of The Folio Society Edition of Micrographia:
- Limited to 750 copies
- 400 pages set in Caslon type
- Printed on Munken Pure paper
- 38 plates including 5 fold-outs
- Illustrations reproduced from copies of the first and second editions held at the
- Bodleian Library and the Museum of Science, Oxford
- Quarter-bound in leather with cloth sides blocked in silver with a design by Neil Gower based on the eye of a grey drone-fly. Silver top edge
- Cloth covered slipcase blocked in silver
- Book size 13½”× 8¾”
See www.foliosociety.com/micrographia for more details and to order.