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BAER, Karl Ernst von (1792-1876)

De ovi mammalium et hominis genesi. Epistolam ad Academiam imperialem scientiarum Petripolitanam.
Lipsiæ, sumptibus Leopoldi Vossii, 1827.

Bound with:
Purkinje, Symbolæ ad ovi avium ... (see separate entry).

First edition of Baer’s 'On the Origin of the Mammalian Ovum’, a classic in the history of embryology, written in the form of a letter addressed to the Academy of Science in St. Petersburg. His paper, not issued until January 1828, announcing his discovery of the mammalian ovum, went almost unnoticed in Germany until September 1828 when Anders Retzius at the memorable meeting of naturalists and physicians in Berlin asked Baer to demonstrate his discovery. Baer discovered the egg of the mammal in the ovary in 1826/1827, bringing to completion a search begun at least as early as the seventeenth century. William Harvey had unsuccessfully attempted to find eggs of the deer in the uterus. Regnier de Graaf thought at first that the follicles that bear his name were eggs, but he later discovered in the uterus of a rabbit an egg in a later stage of development, which was smaller than the Graafian follicle. Albrecht von Haller, who carefully investigated the matter, assumed that the egg was formed out of the follicular fluid through coagulation. It was in 1826 during his time in Königsberg working with Karl Friedrich Blumenbach, that Baer first found the true egg in Burdach’s house dog, a bitch sacrified for the investigation; subsequently he found eggs in a number of other animals. Thus he concluded that “every animal which springs from the coition of male and female is developed from an ovum, and none from a simple formative liquid”.

Collation: Pp (8) incl. half-title, 40, (2) corrigenda. One hand-coloured engraved plate.

Binding: Contemporary marbled boards, Purkinje’s Symbolæ at the front and Baer’s Epistola at the back, with their printed front wrappers pasted on to front and back covers respectively. The type of marbled paper points to a German bookbinder and the volume was most likely bound for Rudolphi who had a great library of 14 000 volumes.

Provenance: An extraordinary association copy inscribed in German by Purkinje to his brother-in-law, Karl Edvard Rudolphi, in Breslau, 17 October, 1830. Another inscription (in Latin), dated Berlin 18th June 1831, is by the distinguished Berlin Professor Karl Asmund Rudolphi, who presents his son’s copy to Anders Retzius. The volume later passed to Anders Retzius’ son Gustaf Retzius (1842-1919), the main part of whose library was donated to the Karolinska Institute. Further details in Hagelin.

References: Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science, 9 b; Grolier, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine 59: Printing and the Mind of Man, 288; Dibner, Heralds of Science, 196; DSB, I, 385-89; Corner, 'The Discovery of the Mammalian Ovum’ in Lectures on the History of Medicine, 1926-34, pp 401-06; Nordenskiöld, History of Biology, 363-65; Hagelin, KIB, 152-53; Waller 594.

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