An introduction to a general system of hydrostaticks and hydraulicks...

London: for T. Astley, S. Austen and L. Gilliver, 1729.

First edition of the best contemporary survey of hydraulic engineering in Britain in the early eighteenth century. “His great Introduction to a General System of Hydraulicks and Hydrostaticks, in two extensively illustrated volumes, appeared in 1729. It is his major and most scientific work, and was clearly of great importance to him; as a milestone in the development of industrial processes, especially the creation of the network of canals from mid-century, it deserves an honourable place” (ODNB). “Book one opens with a historical account, followed by speculations about the origin of springs and the means of discovering them. This is followed by a discussion of the method for taking levels and of conveying water by pipes, conduits, aqueducts, etc. The second book treats of hydrostatics with remarks on the force of the air and on mill-Book three is concerned with hydraulics and discusses the siphon, pumps, crank-work, and steam engines for raising water, including that of Newcomen. Finally, book four deals with the calculation of the flow of water, with special notes on artificial fountains” (Roberts & Trent, p. 309). Switzer was among the leading estate and garden designers of his time, and this book was a natural development of his horticultural writings. About 30 of the plates show hydraulic installations such as fountains and cascades in the great estates of France and Italy.

“Stephen Switzer (1682-1745), landscape designer and writer on gardening and water-works, was baptized on 25 February 1682, the second of two sons of Thomas Switzer, a native of Hampshire. He was brought up in Stratton, near Winchester. His mother died soon after his baptism and his father died in 1697, leaving his estate, excepting £20, to the elder son. With his £20, the younger son was expected to purchase an apprenticeship. By 1698 he was at the famous Brompton Park Nursery, London, under George London (d. 1713) and Henry Wise (1653-1738), Royal gardeners.

“Switzer’s early projects while with London and Wise included the transformation of gravel pits at Kensington Palace into a garden amphitheatre (1704-5), and Wray Wood at Castle Howard (1704-5). As assistant to Wise, Switzer was park quarries supervisor at Blenhiem (1705), planted 10,000 hedge yews, dug the foundations for Vanbrugh’s bridge, and formed the river Glynde into an irregular canal. By 1710, Switzer had left Blenheim and his association with London and Wise, and moved to Lincolnshire, where he wrote The Nobleman, Gentleman and Clergyman’s Recreation (1715), a book on gardening, and designed and built gardens at Grimsthorpe, and probably Bresby and Belleau. After 1715, Switzer worked with Allen Bathurst (1685-1775) at Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and Riskins, Buckinghamshire. By 1718 Switzer was living in Newbury, Buckinghamshire, where he designed Caversham, near Reading, for William Cadogan (1675-1729). At Hampton, near Leominster (c. 1723), Switzer dug a new river in the park at a high level providing a head of water for the garden fountains and a reservoir for irrigating unwatered park lands to the north. Unlike Kent and many other garden designers, Switzer worked in plan and to levels.

“Some time between 1718 and 1724, Switzer visited Holland and again, in 1729, he visited Italy, Holland and Denmark. By 1724 he was living and working at Spy Park, Wiltshire, by which time he had married Elizabeth. In the same year he designed expensive waterworks for The Drum, outside Edinburgh, and published his Practical Fruit Gardener, dedicated to Boyle. He undertook the design of a water garden for William Lord Brooke at Braemore, Hampshire, in the late 1720s. In 1726, Switzer, his wife and son Thomas were living in Pewsey, Wiltshire, but by August 1727 had removed to Kennington Lane, London, and opened a seed shop in Westminster Hall. Seed selling was a lucrative business and by 1731 Switzer had opened a nursery on Millbank. He published pamphlets to instruct the purchasers of his seed and continued his design work with annual tours in England. Switzer was associated with agricultural improvers, and in 1731 was a corresponding member of the Society for Improvement of Knowledge in Agriculture, a mostly Scottish group founded by James Murray, Duke of Atholl. Switzer began a short-lived agricultural magazine (1733-4), the Practical Husbandman and Planter, which boasted a distinguished list of subscribers.

“Switzer’s Hydrostatics and Hydraulics (1729), reissued in 1734 as An Universal System of Water and Water-Works, is a work of over four-hundred pages with sixty plates including illustrations of experiments and technical information, as well as engines, machines and garden water features. It includes views of the wheels of both London Bridge and Chelsea water works, along with Captain Savery’s ‘engine for raising water by fire’. Switzer intended to present ‘the properest Methods for raising and distributing Water for the Use of Country Seats, Towns Corporate, &c.’ as well as the theory and practice of hydrostatics. The book relies of the works of Boyle and Wallis, De Caus, Marriotte, Gravesande, Desaguliers, Watts and Hauksbee as well as earlier sources and Switzer’s own experience. Switzer was guided by Samuel Lindsey, chaplain to William, Lord Brooke, at Braemore, Hampshire, and had access to the library of Charles Boyle (1676-1731), Earl of Omery, 1st Lord Marston, at Marston, Somerset, his ‘Friend and Master’. It was the earliest work in English to attempt to address all the practical engineering aspects of the use and control of water, encompassing historical aspects, theoretical principles, and practical advice on the construction of fountains, distribution systems, and reservoirs. Only three earlier books on the subject were published in English (Thomas Salusbury’s translation of Benedictus Castellus’s works (1661), Desagulier’s translation of Marriotte (1718), and John Leak’s translation of Isaac de Caus’s New and Rare Inventions of Water-works, largely based on Solomon de Caus’s 1615 Les Raison des Forces Mouvantes.) None is so comprehensive as Switzer’s and none is so firmly based on British experience” (Skempton et al., pp. 676-7).

“Perhaps the most important scientific, as opposed to engineering, contribution of Switzer’s book is to the theory of the terrestrial water cycle. “Stephen Switzer, famous for his water gardens, waterworks, and landscape designs, is an example of early 18th century thinking that summarizes contemporary understanding of the terrestrial water cycle as a theoretical and practical system. He appeals to a hydrostatic balance to argue for the importance of the reverse hydrologic cycle as the origin of springs but with some ideas about the temporal behavior of springs that goes beyond the simple model. In his book An Introduction to the General System of Hydrostaticks and Hydraulics (1729), Book I, Chapter II: Of the Origin and Rise of Springs, he surveys the ancient and contemporary schemes to arrive at his proposal for the true source. First, he rejects Aristotle’s idea that rising air from the abyss condensing on the cold wall of mountain caves, as unlikely based on a simple proportion … He then promotes the microcosm–macrocosm analogy with a twist (p. 15): ‘the circulation and ascension of waters in the bowels, and on the surface of the earth, as the blood does in the body, or rather as the sap does in a tree.’ Note that his hydrostatic balance includes a mechanism for the ascension of water from the deep, as a capillary siphon comparable to how trees take up water in their roots and discharge through their leaves, ‘accounted for by the … Laws of Pulsion, having its first source from the sea, and being arrived through all the permeable parts and subterraneous channels of the earth, … til it breaks out on the sides of hills, and traverses its way, even to its return into the sea again.’ Switzer describes in some detail the experiments of Edme Mariotte (1686) in the Seine river catchment and who, along with earlier experiments by Pierre Perrault (1674), are generally credited with confirming the modern hydrologic model of balance. Switzer at first objects to ‘hidden causes’ as an explanation for the origin of springs. The hidden causes of Marriotte are the excess of rain and snowmelt that infiltrate the earth and return to the surface as groundwater to form springs. Switzer accepts that this may occur in some parts of the world but rejects the idea as the main cause. … Next Switzer introduces ‘the ingenious’ Dr. Edmund Halley, whose paper concerning the origin of springs was published in Transactions of the Royal Society (1692). Switzer describes Halley’s accounting of springs that owe their origin to that great quantity of vapors which are drawn out of the ocean by the heat of the sun, ‘when the sun departs the horizon, [the vapour] descends again in the same great quantities … on the tops of hills and mountains….’ Switzer then goes on to say ‘Although vapours have so great an effect, as to supply some of those parts of the [tropical] world, … they have no occasion of rain itself, … nor do vapours contribute much (if any at all) to furnishing of springs or brooks [in England].’ The crux of Switzer's argument for the origin of springs is found in Hydrostaticks Chapter III (p. 32), where he sets conditions on the behavior of springs associated with different sources:

First. Springs which are temporary and do not flow continuously: those which flow regularly, yet are uncertain as proceeding from rain [ephemeral springs]; those which are certain and periodical [intermittent springs]; those that are irregular which flow or are deficient septenially or decennially.

Second. Those springs which are perennial and flow without ceasing or fluctuation: those which are limpid pure and unmixed: those which are mixed and abound in salt, and are warm as seen in hot baths: those which are cold and mineral as in medicinal cold waters.

“Switzer has introduced a range of time scales into the hydrologic cycle, describing springs that respond rapidly to rain events; springs that respond to the annual cycle of dry [summer drought] and wet seasons [snowmelt or seasonal rain]; springs which vary on a 7 or 10year cycle; and finally perennial springs of nearly constant flow with types that range from pure, to mineral and warm springs. It is only the Second type that he reserves for the reverse hydrologic cycle with the implied independence of springs to the fluctuations in weather and climate. The First type accepts the modern view and makes a clear proposal on how the time scales of precipitation, weather, and climate impact the origin of springs and rivers” (Duffy).

ESTC T60644. Duffy, ‘The terrestrial hydrologic cycle: an historical sense of balance,’ WIREs Water 4 (2017). Roberts & Trent, Bibliotheca Mechanica, 1991. Skempton, Chrimes & Telford, A Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers in Great Britain and Ireland: 1500-1830, 2002.



Two volumes 4to (255 x 198 mm), pp. [vi], xxxii, [iv], 133, [15], [129], 130-274, 10; [viii], [275], 276-352, [4], [353], 354-413, [14], with engraved frontispiece and 61 engraved plates (all but one folding, numbered 1-60 plus one plate numbered V at p. 368). A very good copy in uniform contemporary Englich calf without any restoration.

Item #5089

Price: $6,500.00

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