A Very Rare Book Featuring "Electrical Arts," "Mechanical Arts," and "Colorful Magic," And Including Folding Color Plates in Amazing Condition


(Leipzig und Jena: bei Adam Gottlieb Schneider, 1791). 197 x 127 mm. (7 3/4 x 5"). 9 p.l., 358. FIRST EDITION.

Attractive contemporary half calf over pink paper boards, raised bands, spine densely gilt in compartments with tulip centerpiece, fleuron sidepieces, and scrolling floral cornerpieces, two tan morocco labels, marbled pastedowns. With hand-colored title page vignette and 11 FINE ENGRAVED FOLDING PLATES, ALL COLORED BY HAND. Insignificant fading to covers, minor foxing confined to short portions of the text, other trivial imperfections, but AN OUTSTANDING COPY, the binding with virtually no wear, the text unusually clean and fresh, and the intriguing colored plates in a remarkable state of preservation.

If there had been infomercials in 1800, the Nuremberg polymath Johann Gütle (1747-1827) would have been actively involved in this kind of promotion. Self taught in physics and mathematics, Gütle was an active entrepreneur who fabricated and sold everything from etched glass to cleaning and beautifying products (among them hair restorer and coloring) to lightning rods--including the first one in his home town. He wrote more than two dozen books dealing with, among other things, mechanics, electricity, surveying, and magic. He ran an active distribution center for his books and products, and he was a travelling showman whose efforts to succeed in retailing had a component of entertainment--a significant fraction of his writings dealing with the diverting amusement of magic tricks. Despite evidence that he could justifiably be labeled a huckster, he was also a talented and versatile handworker mentioned by contemporaries as an important artisan and author (the poet Jean Paul, for example, alludes, with pleasure, to the use of his hair dye), and he made serious efforts to contribute to the scientific betterment of daily life. Chief among his accomplishments was the construction of the original Nuremberg lightning rod, which brought him considerable acclaim. At the same time, Gütle was decried in Heilbronn as a fraud for his unsuccessful medical applications of electricity, which had to have been viewed at the time as macabre. The present work contains sections on "Electrical Arts," "Mechanical Arts," and "Colorful Magic," with the plates at the end of the book depicting the various devices and experiments explained in the text (these plates, in addition to being very detailed and attractively colored, are in almost unbelievably fine condition for a work of this sort). All of Gütle's early publication are quite rare, including the present one: OCLC locates only a dozen copies of our book, and ABPC records just one copy at auction since 1975.