BERKELEY, George. ~ Recherches sur les vertus de l’eau de goudron, où l'on joint des Réfléctions Philosophiques sur diverses autres sujets... Avec deux Lettres de l'Auteur... Amsterdam: Pierre Mortier, 1745.
8vo (164 × 91mm.), pp. xxiv, 343, . Woodcut ornaments. Contemporary calf, gilt panelled spine with flower tools, red morocco label. Small chip to head of spine. An excellent copy, clean and crisp in a nice contemporary binding.
First edition in French of Siris, a Chain of philosophical Reflections and Enquiries concerning the Virtues of Tar-water (1744) and of Berkeley’s two letters on the subject to Thomas Prior.
‘In 1744 appeared one of [Berkeley’s] most controversial works. Siris is a reconciliation of medicine with metaphysics, best known for its advocacy of the medicinal value of tar water, a native American preventative distilled from pine resins. Having conducted his own experiments Berkeley made specific claims for its beneficial effect in alleviating fevers, gout, scurvy, and dropsy. In trying to understand the cosmical principles that might explain this he conceived the possibility, which others took up with greater alacrity, that its properties might be those of a universal panacea, operating as condensed light. Siris had exceptional sales, primarily as a home medicine guide, for a few years and was translated into most western European languages, but its medical claims also provoked criticism’ (Oxford DNB).
Siris is, however, more than just a medical work and the consideration of tar-water led Berkeley into a lengthy chain of reflections on the principles of the universe and of divine providence. Blake p. 43; Wellcome II, p. 149; Rochedieu p. 23.