Catalogue Number: 21
Treatise on the eye: The manner and phenomena of vision
Sub-Category: Significant book (Aitken collection)
Author: PORTERFIELD, William
Year Of Publication/Manufacture: 1759
Time Period: 18th C and earlier
Place Of Publication/Manufacture: Edinburgh
Publisher/Manufacturer: A Miller, G Hamilton, J Balfour
Description Of Item: Two volumes, brown cover (not original), 215 x 135 mm. Vol I 450 pages with fold out illustrations at the end. Vol II 435 pages also with fold out illustrations, Vol I includes the gross anatomy of the eye and adnexa, the properties of light and image formation, theories of accommodation and experiments with an optometer. Vol II is on vision: with further comment on accommodation progressing to myopia and presbyopia, variations of pupil size, and eye movements. It ends with the phenomena of vision - binocular single vision, colour, size, distance and shape perception, and motion.
Historical Significance: William Porterfield (1696-1771) was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He was Librarian and Secretary from 1722-1725 and President from 1748-1752. He was a Professor of Medicine. He wrote two articles on eye movements in the Edinburgh Medical Essays and Observations of 1737 and 1738 describing the scanning movements of the eye, the ways the eyes move together and its internal motions. He coined the term 'accommodation' and invented the optometer. The Treatise presents a survey of the then contemporary knowledge of vision and the eye, and placed them in comparative and historical contexts. [Source: Wade NJ Symposium 18th and 19th C Edinburgh Neuroscience July 2005]. This is the first important British work on the anatomy and physiology of the eye. It contains numerous original experiments and observations about the physiology of the eye. It influenced later writers including Young and Helmholtz.
How Acquired: Donated by Michael Aitken, honorary archivist
Date Acquired: 1989
Condition: Good. Old library stamps
Location: Nathan Library. Aitken collection