Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Asbestos Books: Dr Bruckman's Incombustible Paper

A bookseller in the UK, Keith Fletcher of Hertfordshire, writes to tell me of the following curious item he currently has in stock, Charles Owen’s An Essay towards a Natural History of Serpents (London: Printed for the Author, 1742). Keith’s note on the book is tremendously good, and more than worth posting here:
"A wide-ranging study of snakes and other reptiles including salamanders, chameleon, and crocodiles. The author’s considerable erudition leads him into the investigation of the pharmacology of poisons, not just of snakes but animals, insects and plants as well. He treats also the folklore of his subject and, for instance, when discussing the salamander’s resistance to fire digresses for a full page (p.95) on the subject of asbestos and ‘incombustible paper’. “Whoever would be further informed about this wonderful incombustible stone, may peruse Dr. Bruckman, Professor at Brunswick, who has publish’d a Natural History of the Asbestos, or Incombustible Paper; and what is most remarkable has printed four copies of his book on this paper, which are deposited in the Library of Wolfembuttle” (p.95). [Keith comments: I find nothing in the on-line catalogue of the Herzog August Biblioteck at Wolfenbuttel - but surely they weren’t lost in a fire!]"

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