Alembic Blog

A Colourful Diptych Sundial & Compass by Beringer

Our latest acquisition is this lovely combination sundial and compass that was probably produced in the workshop of the German craftsman David Beringer during the late 18th or early 19th century. Previously, sundials of this type were luxury items of engraved ivory or metal, but Beringer was one of the first compass makers to realise that using wood and printed paper would bring the price down and widen the market. His workshop flourished between about 1777 and his death in 1821, and his name became synonymous with portable, wooden diptych and cube sundials.

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Photo Album & Scrapbook by an American Woman in Occupied Japan

My favourite finds as a bookseller are often journals, commonplace books, and scrapbooks that offer a window onto the past as it was experienced by ordinary people. One of our most recent acquisitions of this type is a remarkable photo album and scrapbook compiled in Occupied Japan by Marguerite Barker (below), an American employee of the Far East Asian Services during and after the Second World War. 

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Relics of Rhoda Sale, a Near-Forgotten Female Physicist

In recent decades historians have made great strides in uncovering the hidden history of women in STEM, but many female scientists' stories remain obscure. Most of them were not Nobel Prize winners like Marie Curie, or famous authors such as Rachel Carson, but still talented and hard-working women whose efforts contributed to the progress of science at a time when their gender's participation was often undervalued or rejected outright. We recently acquired an evocative record of one such scientist, the physicist Rhoda Sale.

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An Incredible Chromolithographic Pharmacy Catalogue

The most recent addition to our website is an evocative, late-19th century pharmaceutical catalogue from the Parisian firm Legendre & Saget with 27 large, bright chromolithographic plates, the most beautiful of which depict glassware, ceramic jars, chemical labels, and cosmetic boxes, some with metallic gold and silver highlights.

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Tardigrades and other "Marvels of Pond Life": A Classic Book on Microscopes by Henry J. Slack

By the mid-19th century central London was the teeming metropolis recognisable from Victorian literature, but its outskirts were not yet urbanised and there was ample opportunity for amateur naturalists to explore local woods, heaths, ponds, and streams, many of which have now disappeared. If you chanced on one of those ponds in 1860 you might have found a man eagerly scanning the shoreline, examining the clarity of the water, dipping his walking-stick in to draw out clumps of algae and aquatic plants, and collecting samples in small bottles. Following him home, you would see him sit down at a microscope and carefully prepare slides from these samples, peering into the eye-piece and taking notes, perhaps with his wife at his side sketching the little world in each drop of water.

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A Rare Inscribed Copy of John Herschel's Southern Star Atlas

An important and highly desirable presentation copy of John Herschel's southern star atlas, a key astronomical work.

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Happy Valentine's Day: Images of the Heart from Fritz Kahn's Das Leben des Menschen

Happy Valentines Day! To celebrate, we're sharing images of the human heart from Fritz Kahn's modernist series on human anatomy and physiology, Das Leben des Menschen, published between 1921 and 1931. Though Kahn is best known today for the poster that accompanied this set, Der Mensch als Industrialpalast, it was the books themselves that were his greatest achievement.

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The Original Weather App: A 1915 Pocket Forecaster by Negretti & Zambra

In addition to books, Alembic also stocks a select group of beautiful and unusual scientific objects. One of my favourites at the moment is this charming, early 20th-century "Pocket Forecaster" by Negretti & Zambra

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High Energy Phenomena & Meson Theories by Richard Feynman: Rare Lectures from the Dawn of Particle Physics

Richard Feynman is one of our favourite scientists here at Alembic, and we're pleased to present a true Feynman rarity - a copy of the first and only edition of High Energy Phenomena and Meson Theories, a collection of lecture notes on the emerging field of particle physics, from a course he taught during his first year as a professor at Caltech in 1951.

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The Salamander: Zelda Fitzgerald & The Invention of the Flapper

The tremendous roaring of the 1920s had long faded to a murmur when a woman, not yet old but no longer a luminous celebrity, looked back from a room in a mental hospital and wrote, “I believed I was a Salamander and it seems that I am nothing but an impediment”.

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