(Cambridge: Thomas Buck, Printer to the Universitie of Cambridge, 1652). 185 x 145 mm. (7 1/4 x 5 5/8"). 6 p.l., 239,  pp. FIRST EDITION.
Inoffensive contemporary calf, neatly rebacked, covers with simple blind-ruled frame with thistle cornerpieces, smooth spine with blind-stamped floral sprig at head and tail. With one folding leaf containing a table of gems and their attributes. Wing N-1145; ESTC R483403. Corners somewhat bumped, extremities a little rubbed, one-inch loss of leather to tail edge of front board, boards with a half dozen small scratches and minor chafing, but the restored binding entirely sound. A few corners with a faint dampstain, occasional very small stains (mostly marginal, but a few touching the text) or smudges, but these imperfections very minor, and on the whole a very good copy, clean, fresh, and rather bright throughout.
This is the first printing of the first book written in English on gemstones. Nicols (fl. 1652) prefaces his work with a warning to the reader against attempting to use gems for supernatural purposes, lest one be ensnared by the devil, and then provides a table classifying stones by size, rarity, hardness, color, and clarity. The first section of the text is devoted to a general history of origins of gems, relying on material from the works of Boethius de Boot and Pliny. Nicols then discusses ways to polish, refine, and present stones, and warns of tricks the unscrupulous may use to fool the unwary buyer. The section ends with an examination of the supernatural effects of stones, and how to tell if this is divinely or diabolically inspired. The second part of the work details the properties, uses, and value of various stones, beginning with transparent gems like diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds, and proceeding through opaque specimens like lapis lazuli and marble, then ending with common but useful stones, including flints and whetstones. There were two further English editions of the work, in 1653 and 1659, and German editions in 1675 and 1734. This is the only work by Nicols, of whom little is known apart from his association with Jesus College, Cambridge, proclaimed on the title page here. This is not an excessively rare work, but copies with contents this fine are hard to find. (ST15639)
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PJP Catalog: NY20BF.058