Bibliographical notes on histories of inventions and books of secrets
London, Holland Press, 1981
Two volumes in one (22.5 cm), c. 600 pages (various sequences). Publisher’s blue cloth binding (no just jacket issued). - The “books of secrets” were technical “how-to” books, typically revealing recipes, formulae, and “experiments” associated with the crafts, household and garden, or medicine. These might be instructions for making dyes, pigments, and drugs; directions for preserving fruits or increasing yields in the garden; or chemical preparations useful to a goldsmith or tinsmith. The information they contained was “secret” in the sense that it was likely to have been the property of specialised craftsmen and retained within the guilds. The advent of printing opened up opportunities to publish “secrets” for a profit and a huge number of books were published across Europe. The number of editions drops off sharply after 1700, but some were still being reprinted until late in the eighteenth century. Facsimile reprint of the first collected edition, London 1959. Preface by E.A. Osborne. ¶ Excellent, unmarked copy.