Treasure of the month - October 2008
The Mysteries of Nature and Art
This illustration is the frontispiece to the third edition of John Bate's The Mysteries of Nature and Art. First printed in 1634, it was so popular that a second, expanded, edition quickly followed in 1635. This third edition is commonly held to be of a poorer print quality but contains additional woodcuts. This copy, rebound in 1958 and with the pictorial bookplate of Lord Lovaine on the front pastedown and the inscription of Joseph Taylor on the titlepage, belongs to the Robinson Library's Bradshaw Collection.
The Early Modern Period was one of invention and a great many technical manuals were published at this time. Bate's encyclopaedic compendium contains one of the earliest British representations of a kite and was one of the first books to have a complete section on fireworks. It comprises chapters on water works, fireworks (including instructions on how to make rockets, fire lances and flying dragons), on drawing and a final chapter on "extravagants" such as 'how to make a light burn under water', 'how to write without ink that it may not be seen unless the paper be wet with water', strange ways of catching fish and birds (including 'how to make birds drunk so that you may take them with your hands') and remedies for deafness, toothache, nosebleeds . . . even 'how to make excellent trosses or cakes to purifie the ayer in the time of the Plague'.
Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was inspired to make working mechanical models and mathematical toys after reading this and similar books in his youth.
Bate, J. The Mysteries of Nature and Art. In four severall Parts. The first, of Water-Works. The second, of Fier-Works. The third, of Drawing, Colouring, Limming, Paynting, Engraving, and Etching. The fourth, of sundry Experiments. 3rd ed.
(Printed for Andrew Crooke, 1654).
Bradshaw 509 BAT