Baker, Henry | An Attempt toward a Natural History of the Polype

  • First edition of this uncommon and charmingly illustrated work on polyps, one of the two body plans of creatures in the phylum of the jellyfish, anemones, and corals (the other type being the medusa). This copy from the library of distinguished collector Robert J. Hayhurst, pharmacist and inheritor of John Hayhurst & Son, a successful chain of retail pharmacies.

    Author Henry Baker (1698-1774) was apprenticed as a bookseller before becoming a successful teacher of deaf people. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society, “a typical natural philosopher of his time, keenly interested in the wonders of nature, as manifesting the power of the creator. From 1740 Baker's literary skills were used in prose, embodying his scientific discoveries... The book that established his name as a scientific writer was The Microscope Made Easy, which appeared in 1742, and achieved five editions in the author's lifetime, as well as translation into Dutch and French” (ODNB). His most important scientific study, for which he was awarded the Copley Medal, was a microscopical investigation of crystal structure.

    “His other main microscopical research involved repeating the experiments on freshwater polyps (Hydra viridis) of Abraham Trembley. Trembley's discoveries, reported to the Royal Society in January 1743, caused a sensation, since the polyps, when cut in two, grew into two complete specimens, a plant-like property strangely combined with the animal-like ability to move and ingest worms. Baker, in association with Martin Folkes, examined the creatures with the microscope, and, with due acknowledgement to Trembley, published in November 1743 An Attempt towards a Natural History of the Polype” (ODNB).

    Reference: Freeman, British Natural History Books 165

  • ...In a Letter to Martin Folkes, Esq; President of the Royal Society... London: for R. Dodsley and sold by M. Cooper and J. Cuff, 1743.

    Octavo. Recently rebound to style in olive calf by Bayntun, spine gilt in compartments, red morocco label, blue speckled edges, new endpapers and blanks. Engraved frontispiece and woodcut illustrations throughout the text. Lacking the advertisements. L4 misprinted as K4. Bookplate of Robert J. Hayhurst. Small paper repairs to the edge of the frontispiece and the margin of the title, not affecting the text or image, contents fresh. A very good copy.