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Instruction sur les mesures. Edition original

Hauy

Published by Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, 1793
Hardcover
From Jeremy Norman's historyofscience (Novato, CA, U.S.A.)

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The Metric System: One of the Few Permanent Social Reforms Resulting from the French Revolution [Haüy, René Just (1743-1822).] Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre, uniformes pour toute la république, et sur les calculs relatifs à leur division décimale. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, An II [1793/94]. 8vo. xxxii, 224, [28] pp. Folding plate. 217 x 135 mm. (uncut). Old marbled boards rebacked and recornered in vellum, endpapers renewed. Occasional scattered foxing, but very good. First Edition of the work that introduced the metric system to the world-one of the few permanent social reforms resulting from the French Revolution. In 1788 the French Academy of Sciences, at the suggestion of Talleyrand, proposed the establishment of a new universal decimal system of measurement founded upon some "natural and invariable base" to replace Europe's diverse regional systems. This project was approved by the National Assembly in 1790 and a basic unit or "meter" of measurement proposed, which was to be a decimal unit one ten-millionth of the distance between the terrestrial pole and the Equator. In 1791 the French national assembly voted to replace the old French unit of length (toise) with this new unit. In the summer of 1792 Jean Baptiste Delambre and Pierre François André Méchain embarked from Paris to establish the definitive length of the meter by taking geodetic measurements along the Dunkink-Barcelona meridian. In August 1793, while Méchain and Delambre were still carrying out their task, the French National Assembly "affirmed the decimal system and the meridianal definition of the meter, ordered the continuation of the work, and decreed that the Academy provide for the manufacture, distribution, and explanation of provisional meters for general use while it prosecuted its measurements. This provisional meter was defined as a ten-millionth of ninety times the average degree in France as determined by Lacaille [in 1739-40] . . . It differed from the definitive meter by about a quarter of a millimeter" (Heilbron, pp. 227-228). The definitive meter, as determined by Méchain and Delambre, would not be announced until the publication of Delambre's Base du système métrique decimal (1806-10). The new metric system was set forth in two works issued in Year Two of the Republic (1793/94) by the government's Temporary Commission on Republican Weights and Measures. The first was Instruction sur les mesures, which emphasized mathematics and theory; the second was an abridged version containing a shorter and simpler presentation of the system. On p. xxxii of Instruction sur les mesures the commission announced that these two versions would be followed by a third, which "will only present a précis of the system, and which will be printed partly in octavo format for distribution, and partly as a broadside to be displayed in public places for viewing by all citizens." We have not been able to find a record of this third version. Both Instruction sur les mesures and its abridged version were also issued by several other French publishers throughout the country; these provincial editions, of which we have never seen a definitive listing, are often confused with the true first edition. The unnamed author was French crystallographer René Just Haüy, a member of the Temporary Commission. Norman 1499 (lacking the folding plate). Dibner, Heralds of Science, 113 (citing a copy published in Macon in 1794). Heilbron, "The measure of enlightenment," in Frängsmyr, Heilbron and Rider, eds., The Quantifying Spirit in the Eighteenth Century (1990), pp. 207-242. Bookseller Inventory # 42191

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Title: Instruction sur les mesures. Edition original

Publisher: Imprimerie Nationale, Paris

Publication Date: 1793

Binding: Hardcover

Edition: 1st Edition

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