Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pale Atoms


including translations of the
Edinburgh, London, and Dublin Pharmacopoeias

by John Murray, M.D.

This is the sixth edition of Murray's book, published in 1834. The hand-tinted frontispiece with its graduated dots in many pale colors illustrates Combining weights or relative magnitudes of Atoms. These foxed and brittle pages did not consent to be scanned, or not without a fight. But even in this dim reproduction the chart of Atoms retains some portion of the faded charm I saw in it when the book fell open today in the library where I work in San Francisco. Most likely, several hundred copies of the basic black-and-white frontispiece-engraving were handed over to an impoverished gentlewoman who would have been hired to enliven the tiny spheres lightly with watercolors at home, ten sheets for a penny.