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REDI, Francesco (1626–1697)

Esperienze intorno alla generazione degl’insetti. Scritte in una lettera all’illustrissimo signor Carlo Dati.
Firenze, all’Insegna della Stella, 1668.

First edition of Redi’s masterpiece, in which he disproved the doctrine of spontaneous generation in insects inherited from Aristotle. Francesco Redi was personal physician to two Grand Dukes of Tuscany, Ferdinand II and Cosimo III. His learning embraced almost every branch of contemporary intellectual activity. He was a member of the illustrious Academia del Cimento and was also known as a literary scholar and poet. As a biologist he pioneered the study of helminthology, and his work on the reproduction of insects made a great impression on his contemporaries. Redi used the microscope to reveal a previously unsuspected organisation among insects and their capacity to produce eggs. He demonstrated "by means of a series of simple experiments involving sealed, open and gauze-covered flasks of meat, that organic matter remained free of larva when protected from insect contamination. He thus proved that flesh and plants and other things whether putrefied or putrefiable play no other part, nor have any function in the generation of insects, than to prepare a suitable place or nest into which, at the time of procreation, the worms or eggs or other seed of worms are brought and hatched by the animals” (Norman). Redi’s only major error was to claim an exception for gall insects, which he maintained were spontaneously generated by their host plants. This error was left to Malpighi to correct, which he did in 1679.

Collation: Pp (viii) including initial blank and half title, 228. With 28 engraved plates, some folding, numbered Tav. 1-28. and 10 full-page and 2 smaller engraved illustrations in the text. Title printed in red and black with engraved vignette.

Binding: Early Italian vellum, spine lettered in gold. Marbled endpapers. Edges sprinkled in blue and red.

Provenance: With the bookplates of the Lichtenstein Library and of Reading University (stamped “withdrawn”).

References: Garrison-Morton 97; Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science 88; Dibner, Heralds of Science 188; Norman 1812; Nissen, Zool. Buch Illustr. 3319; NLM Krivatsy 9448; Prandi, Bibliografia delle opera de Francesco Redi (1941), 7. Waller 11935 (3rd edition, 1674).

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