Like the Thordarson Collection (acquired just after World War II), the Duveen Collection was acquired by the University of Wisconsin to enrich its library holdings in support of historical studies of science and technology.
In his first year studying chemistry at Oxford, Denis I. Duveen began acquiring early books on chemistry and related disciplines, and intensified his collecting while working at the Collège de France in the years just before World War II. He stored the collection (in precarious conditions) in occupied France while he returned to Britain to participate in the war effort, recovered the collection after the Allies’ victory, and relocated to the United States where he established Duveen Soap Corporation in New York. He then published a catalog of his collection, refocused his collecting efforts on the work of Lavoisier, and sold the rest of his collection of alchemy and early chemistry (minus the Lavoisier materials) in 1951 to the University of Wisconsin. The Duveen Collection of early chemistry and alchemy now forms part of the holdings of the Department of Special Collections.
Finding Titles in the Duveen Collection
The Duveen Collection in Special Collections contains nearly 2500 titles, of which nearly half were published before 1700. Titles in the Duveen Collection are all cataloged in the online library catalog with call numbers beginning Duveen D. Special Collections also holds a number of Duveen’s articles and offprints on chemistry and its history, as well as the typescript manuscript (in multiple loose-leaf binders) of his Bibliotheca alchemica et chemica.
Among the outstanding works in the Duveen Collection are such highlights as
- Heinrich Khunrath’s Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae of 1595 (Duveen D 897 flat), now available in the UW Digital Collections;
- Isaac Newton’s profusely annotated copy of George Starkey’s Secrets reveal’d (Duveen D 1328), now available in the UW Digital Collections;
- and the English translation of Carl Wilhelm Scheele’s Chemical essays as annotated by Joseph Black (Duveen D 1522).
On the occasion of his visit to Madison in 1955, Denis Duveen presented the university with an early Wedgwood portrait plaque of Joseph Priestley, which today hangs in the Special Collections reading room.
For more about Duveen and his collection, see such works as
- Denis I. Duveen, Bibliotheca alchemica et chemica: An annotated catalogue of printed books on alchemy, chemistry and cognate subjects in the library of Denis I. Duveen (London: E. Weil 1949; London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1965).
- Samuel A. Ives and Aaron J. Ihde, “The Duveen Library,” Journal of chemical education, 29 (1952), 244-247.
- Denis I. Duveen, “Contemporary collectors XI: The Duveen Collection,” The book collector, 5:4 (winter 1956), 331-342.
- John Neu, ed., Chemical, medical, and pharmaceutical books printed before 1800, in the collections of the University of Wisconsin Libraries, compiled by Samuel Ives, Reese Jenkins, and John Neu (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965).
- Obituary: Denis Ian Duveen, Ambix, 43:1 (March 1996), 31.
- Roger Hahn, “Eloge: Denis I. Duveen,” Isis, 87:3 (September 1996), 500-501.