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The single volume here was, at £18,000, one of the star turns of a small group of scientific and mathematical books from the library of an Italian nobleman sold by Forum Auctions.

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A rare sight in their original, if now extremely worn bindings, a copy of Theorie Analytique de la Chaleur of 1822 and four near contemporary French volumes that marked the introduction of the metric system were offered at Forum Auctions (30/24/14.4% buyer’s premium) on September 27.

These works were part of a small group of books from the library of the Marquis Giulio Stanga Carlo Treco (1794- 1832), a man with a passion for physics and mathematics.

Sold at £18,000, a single volume was a large paper first of a work by the French mathematician and physicist Jean Baptist Joseph Fourier that founded the study of heat diffusion on analytical or mathematical principles.

Decimal innovation

A larger group comprises an 1807-10 comprised a three-volume first of Base du Systeme Metrique Decimal..., a work by the astronomers Pierre Méchain and JBJ Delambre that marked the introduction of an international decimal system, and an 1821 first of JB Biot and DFJ Arago’s Recueil d’Observations Geodesiques, Astronomiques et Physiques.

In 1792 Méchain and Delambre had been charged with measuring an arc of the meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona and the results obtained were presented in their ground-breaking publication.

According to the editors of Printing and the Mind of Man: “The length of a metre... was marked on a platinum bar, and... these original bars remained the basic standards until 1875 and are still preserved in Paris.”

The Recueil..., a supplementary work compiled on behalf of the French Bureau des Longitudes, contains the extension of that arc to the Balearic Islands.

Sold for £35,000 was a 1736 first in a contemporary binding of Swift’s Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, or ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ as it is better known.

Relatively unknown, I suspect, but a lot that sold well at £2500, was The Bandit Chief, or Lords of Urvino. Catalogued as a rare Gothic novel, this was a four-volume work issued by the Minerva Press in 1818, and offered here in a period binding that lacked the half-titles and showed some internal spotting, staining and browning.

Forum could trace only one other copy at auction – sold at Sotheby’s in 1993 for £1600.