Book Collecting

I’ve always loved collecting books.  My parents’ house was full of books, and even when there wasn’t money for anything else, there was enough for another book.  I started collecting in earnest in junior high school when I became interested in science, and expanded the collection to include history, mathematics and space exploration.  

Around 1960, chemistry textbooks became increasingly focused on preparing students for the SAT tests and as a substitute (they called it preparation for) college chemistry.  To make room for quantum mechanics and chapters on orbitals, they had to take out how tires are made, how chlorine makes your water safe, and the basics of what’s necessary for a fire to burn.  As a result, the majority of students forget the rote memory of something-about-quantum-states six months after leaving school, and don’t have a clue about basic real-world chemistry.

When I taught high school chemistry, I brought in boxes and boxes of the books from the 40s and 50s that I had bought, and told my students, “If you want to have a really cool science project for the semester, read these to see how to really make something!”

The books below reflect my interest in chemistry and in particular how to do “magic” effects with it.  Also, the history of science in general.  I also have an interest in aviation and space exploration, and have collected books and artifacts related to those fields as well, including Galileo’s first book on sunspots.

Magical Experiments

Arthur Good (1892)

Chemistry and Chemical Magic

V.E. Johnson (1912)

Half Hours of Scientific Amusement (1890)

A.C. Gilbert’s Autobiography


Gilbert Chemical Magic (1920)

Evening Amusements

F. Planche (1880)

Chemical Magic

Johnson - 1920

Edison Experiments

You Can Do! (1960)

Magic with Chemistry

Palder (1966)

Twentieth Century Magic

Nevil M. Hopkins (1904)

Boy's Own Conjuring Book (1870)

Science Magic

Kenneth Swezey (1952)

Science Tricks for Fun

Kenneth Swezey (1952)

Magic with Science

W. Gibson (1968)

Gerard's Herbal


Chemical Amusements

Frederick Accum (1818)

Title page of

Rational Recreations

W. Hooper (1782)

Houdini’s copy of

Rational Recreations

W. Hooper (1782)

Arts & Sciences

Encyclopedia (1789)

Chemical Symbol Chart


Istoria e dimostrazioni intorno alle macchie solari

Galileo Galilei (1613)

Galileo’s Sunspot drawings

(made in 1612)

Observations made over a

period of one month in 1612

(published 1613)