Schuh’s Annotated Bio-Bibliography

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(1794 – )

Compendious System, 1794

1. English, 1794 [First edition].
A | Compendious System | Of | Mineralogy & Metallurgy; | Extracted From | The American Edition | Of | The Encyclopaedia, | Now Publishing | By Thomas Dobson, | At The Stone-House, N° 41, South Second-Street. | M DCC,XCIV.

12°: A2 B-Ss6 Tt2; 255l.; [i]-iv, [1]-505, [1] p. Page size: 176 x 98 mm.

Contents: [i-ii], Title page, verso blank.; [iii]-iv, "Contents."; [1]-505, Text.; [1 pg], Blank.

Rare. The third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (15 vols., London, 1787-97), which included biographical sketches and accounts of historical events, is known to have sold over 13,000 copies in the British Empire. The Philadelphia publisher Thomas Dobson [see note below] thought he saw a business opportunity and issued a call for subscribers for an American version. Part of Dobson's incitement was that all materials from paper and ink to type and binding would be of American origin. This brought out a sufficient subscription and publication began in 1790 and was completed 18 volumes later in 1798. However, from the beginning, the venture was strapped for cash and in late 1793 a fire at Dobson's shop further strained the publisher's finances. Beginning in 1794 several publications appeared that are extracts of long articles from the complete Encyclopaedia. These rare books were probably published to help keep Dobson solvent.

The Compendious System of Mineralogy and Metallurgy was one of several books separately published that contain articles from Dobson's Encyclopaedia. The original articles were authored by the famous Scottish mineralogist Robert Jameson, and give a good overview and description of the subjects at the end of eighteenth century. Because of its early date this is the first book published on these subjects in America in English and is preceded only by the 1763 German edition of Barba published at Ephrata, Pennsylvania [which see entry under Barba]. The 1798 title edition ranks as the second mineralogical work published in America in English [see next entry]. However, both editions are rare items and infrequently encountered.

Thomas Dobson. (Born: probably near Edinburgh, Scotland, 1751; Died: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 9 March 1823) American publisher, printer & bookseller. Dobson married in Scotland but emigrated to the United States in the spring of 1784. He opened a bookshop in Philadelphia in 1785 and was soon established as one of the leading dealers of medical, professional and scientific books in the United States. In the post Revolutionary period he was noted for printing America editions of recent British publications. To sell his merchandise, he cultivated close relationships with the local scientific societies and the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where Dobson met many potential customers. Several set backs through the years caused his business to fail and for Dobson to die in obscurity.

Bibliographical references: Arner, R.D., "Thomas Dobson's American Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica," in: Notable Encyclopedias of the Late Eighteenth Century: Eleven Successors of the `Encyclopédie'. ed. Frank A. Kafker. New York, 1994, pp. 201-54. Hazen & Hazen, American Geological Literature, 1980: no. 2502. NUC: 56, 118 [NC 0599857]. Rink, Technical Americana, 1981: no. 770. Sabin, Dictionary, 1868-1936: no. 22555 [complete Encyclopaedia only; Compendius System not listed]. Walsh, Anglo-American General Encyclopedias, 1968: 46. (Dobson) American Dictionary of Printing & Bookmaking, 1894.: 146. ANB: 6, 662-3 [by R.D. Arner]. Arner, R.D., "Thomas Dobson's Rolling Mill for Copper: A Note on the Publisher of the Encyclopaedia," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Jan.-Apr., 1994, 117-36. Drake, Dictionary of American Biography, 1872: p. 274. New England Galaxy and Masonic Magazine: 28 (Mar. 1823), 4 [obiturary].

Compendious System, 1798

2. English, 1798 [2nd edition].
A | Compendious System | Of | Mineralogy and Metallurgy; | Extracted From | The Encyclopedia. | [double rule] | Philadelphia: | Published By A. Bartram. | [rule] | 1798.

12°: A2 B-Ss6 Tt2; 255l.; [i]-iv, [1]-505, [1] p. Page size: 176 x 98 mm.

Contents: [i-ii], Title page, verso blank.; [iii]-iv, "Contents."; [1]-505, Text.; [1 pg], Blank.

Rare. This title edition is the second mineralogical work published in America in English. The text is divided into 3 parts: I. Introduction (pp. 1-40). II. Mineralogical classification with a descriptive mineralogy (pp. 41-322). III. Metallurgy (pp. 323-505).

Bibliographical references: Evans, American Bibliography: nos. 4162 & 33676-33693. Hazen & Hazen, American Geological Literature, 1980: no. 2502. Rink, Technical Americana, 1981: no. 771. Sinkankas, J., "Earliest American Mineralogy", Mineralogical Record, 1, (1971), no. 4, 135.