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(1753 – 1815)

(Born: London, England, 1753; Died: Bloomsbury, England, 21 May 1815) English chemist & physicist.

From 1769 to 1776, Nicholson sailed under East India Company, becoming financially secure in the process. By 1780 he had settled in London, where he became engaged in various scientific studies, translated books from the French, and in April 1797 issued the first number of his popular Journal, the first scientific periodical published in England.

Biographical references: Allibone, Dictionary of English Literature, 1859-71. Barr, E. Scott, "Anniversaries in 1965 of interest to physicists," American Journal of Physics, 33 (1965), 76-91 [79-81, portrait]. BBA: I 817, 84-96. DNB: 14, 473-5. DSB: 10, 107-9. Waller, Dictionary of Universal Biography, 1857-63. Watt, Bibliotheca Britannica, 1824. WBI.

1. English, 1795 [First edition].
A | Dictionary | of | Chemistry, | Exhibiting the present State of the Theory and Practice of that Science, its | Application to Natural Philosophy, the Processes of Manufactures, | Metallurgy, and numerous other Arts dependant on the Properties and | Habitudes of Bodies, in the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Kingdoms. | With a | considerable number of tables, | Expressing the Elective Attractions, Specific Gravities, Comparative Heats, Component | Parts, Combinations, and other Affections of the Objects of Chemical Research. | Illustrated with engravings. | [double rule] | By William Nicholson. | [double rule] | In two volumes. | Vol. I. [-II.] | [rule] | London: | Printed for G.G. and J. Robinson, Paternoster-Row. | M.DCC.XCV.

2 vols. [Vol 1] 4°: π1 A-4D4 (J2 signed); 292l.; [i]-viii, [1]-576 p. (A-Ore). [Vol 2] 4°: π1 4E-7D4 7E2; 279l.; [2], 577-1132 p., 4 plates (unsigned, of furnaces and apparatus, and the chemical signs). Page 798 as `778'.

Contents: [Vol 1] [i-ii], Title page, verso blank.; [iii]-vii, "Preface."; viii, "Enumeration of the Tables contained in the present Work."; [1]-576, Text.

[Vol 2] [2 pgs], Title page, verso blank.; 577-1072, Text.; 1073-1095, "Appendix."; [1096], Blank.; 1097-1110, "Additions."; [1111], "Errata" and "To the Binder."; [1112], Blank.; [1113]-1116, "Index of Names."; [1117]-1132, "Index of Things."

Very scarce. This is the first appearance of a useful chemical dicationary that incorporated information about mineralogy. It was written with preferential treatment given to the new chemistry, but phlogistic ideas are also presented. Nicholson produced another edition in 1808 and then the work was continued on by Ure in his dictionary [which see].

Bibliographical references: Annals de Chimie: 22 (1797), 105 [review]. BL [44.h.4]. Bolton, Bibliography of Chemistry, 1893: 70. Catalog of the Edgar Fahs Smith Collection: p. 347. Cole, Chemical Literature, 1988: no. 974. Edelstein, Catalog of the History of Chemistry, 1981: 1703. Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: no. 2947. NLM 18th Century Books (Blake): 324. Partington, History of Chemistry, 1961-70: 4, 19-20, 32. Roller & Goodman, Catalogue, 1976: 2, 243.

2. English, 1808 [2nd edition].
A | Dictionary | of | Practical and Theoretical | Chemistry, | with its application to the | Arts and Manufactures, | and to the | Explanation of the Phaenomena of Nature: | including throughout | the latest discoveries, and the present state of | knowledge on those subjects. | [double rule] | With plates and tables. | [rule] | By William Nicholson. | [rule] | Printed for Richard Phillips, No. 6, Bridge-street. | [rule] | 1808.

8°: π2 B-3F8; 410l.; [820] p., 13 plates. No pagination.

Contents: π1, Title page, verso "Richard Taylor and Co., Printers, Shoe Lone."; π2r, "Advertisement."; π2v, Blank.; B1r-3E7v, Text.; 3E8r, Sectional title page, "[double rule] | Appendix | [double rule]."; 3E8v, "Contents of the Appendix."; 3F1r-3F8r, Text of appendix.; 3F8v, Tables.

Very scarce. Although this would normally be called a second edition, it is not so labeled on the title page. In fact, this was essentially a new book, extensively rewritten and enlarged to bring the text up to date. Nicholson has drawn heavily on the Chimie Appliquée aux Arts of the French chemist, Jean-Antoine Chaptal [1756-1832], which Nicholson had translated into English in 1807. The Appendix contains various tables and reproduces Davy's Bakerian Lecture of November 19, 1807 on the decomposition of the fixed alkalis by electricity. After Nicholson's death, Andrew Ure was engaged by the publisher to write a new chemical dictionary that went though translations and many editions during the 19th century [which see].

Bibliographical references: BL [1143.i.34]. Bolton, Bibliography of Chemistry, 1893: 70. Brock, History of Chemistry, 1993: p. 273. Catalog of the Edgar Fahs Smith Collection: p. 347. Cole, Chemical Literature, 1988: no. 975. Partington, History of Chemistry, 1961-70: 4, 20. Roller & Goodman, Catalogue, 1976: 2, 280.

Dictionary of Chemistry, on the Basis of Mr Nicholson's ... (London, 1821, and other editions).
See under: Ure, Andrew.