Chambers, Ephraim (1680 - 1740)

While the details of the life of Ephraim Chambers remain sketchy, library records of his literary work provide some important clues. These records* show that Chambers, was the author, publisher, editor, or translator of a number of books and Periodicals or Magazines.

Title pages from The Literary Magazine

One of his earliest works on record (1723) is a translation of Sebastian Le Clerc's 1714 publication,"Traite d'Architecture".

"....translated by Ephraim Chambers with plates engraved by John Sturt. Its popularity over the next twenty-five years was due to its being the only systematic treatise in English on the decorative part of architecture, ornaments, mouldings, arches, doors, and the like. Copies were found in early America. It was in the libraries of Peter Harrison of Newport and the Salem Library Company, Massachusetts."

Then, early in 1726 we find Chambers seeking investors to finance the printing of his Cyclopaedia.....

Proposals for printing by subscription, Cyclopaedia: or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences; ... In two volumes. By E. Chambers gent

Publisher London : printed for John Darby, Daniel Midwinter, John Senex, Robert Goslin, John Pemberton [and 5 others in London], 1726, 2p ; fol

Note: Dated at head: London, Jan. 17. 1726 The work was published in 1728

Also in that same year, 1726, Chambers is sited as translator of another important publication "The Practice of Perspective" published by Bowles and Bowles, London, the French original by Jean Dubreuil.

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The practice of perspective, or, An easy method of representing natural objects according to the rules of art ... The whole illustrated with one hundred and fifty copper-plates / written in French by a Jesuit of Paris ; since translated into German ... and into English ... And now, a second time, into the same language, by E. Chambers

Publisher: London : Printed for Tho. Bowles and John Bowles, 1726, 150 p. 24 cm

Note: Text and full page illustrations on opposite pages, numbered in duplicate; divided into 5 parts, each part with special half-title, not included in paging

"This work was probably the most influential book of the 17th and 18th centuries on perspective written for the layman. Known as the "Jesuit's Perspective," it was first published in French in 1642-49 and remained a standard text for over a hundred years. It was widely read in colonial America."

In 1727 another translation,

Main Author: Boerhaave, Herman, 1668-1738
Title Details: A new method of chemistry; including the theory and practice of that art: laid down on mechanical principles ... To which is prefix'd a critical history of chemistry and chemists / Translated ... by P. Shaw and E. Chambers with additional notes

Publisher: London : J. Osborn & T. Longman, 1727, 383, 335 p., [16] blank leaves : plates ; (4to)

Note: A translation of the spurious 'Institutiones et experimenta chemiae' (Lindeboom, p. 81).

The first edition of Chambers's Cyclopaedia appears in 1728,

Cyclopaedia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences : containing the definitions of the terms, and accounts of the things signify'd thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical, and the several sciences, human and divine ... the whole intended as a course of antient and modern learning. Compiled from the best authors, dictionaries, journals, memoirs, transactions, ephemerides, etc. in several languages / by E. Chambers

Publisher: London : Printed for James and John Knapton [and 19 others], 1728, 2 volumes, 41 cm (fol.)

Note: First edition The pagination and signatures, in both of which there are numerous inconsistencies and irregularities, are continuous
With 20 engraved plates, many of them folding, consisting of 19 illustrations numbered in sequence, and a frontispiece which is unnumbered. The numbering is omitted from plates 2 and 19

This first edition was very well received and Chambers was soon after elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

click for an enlargement

There appears to be no further publications from the period 1728 to 1734 however Chambers becomes editor of the Literary Magazine in 1735 and 1736 and is well known for his contribution to this successful periodical which was previously known as "The Present State of the Republick of Letters" commenced by Andrew Reid in 1728, It contained not only excellent reviews of English books but papers from the works of foreigners.

Then in 1738, 10 years after the first edition, the second edition of the Cyclopaedia appears, Chambers would have been about 58 and would live but a few more years.

Main Author: Chambers, Ephraim, ca.1680-1740

Title Details: Cyclopaedia: or, an universal dictionary of arts and sciences; containing an explication of the terms, and an account of the things signified thereby, in the several arts, both liberal and mechanical; and the several sciences, human and divine: ... the whole intended as a course of antient and modern learning ... By E. Chambers

Edition: The second edition, corrected and amended; with some additions. In two volumes

Publisher: London : printed for D. Midwinter, A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, J. Senex, R. Gosling [and 12 others in London], 1738, 2v., plates ; 2o

Note: Register is continuous through the two vols. - Illustrations: folded frontispiece depicts learned men at work, other folded plates with miscellaneous diagrams and plans The tail piece in vol.2, sig. 10F reads: Carolus Jephson imprim

Note: "An index of words and articles which are explained under others, and not mentioned in their alphabetical places", new in this edition, occupies the last 9 pages Except for the preliminaries, there is no pagination

Tail-pieces The illustrations are the same as in the first edition. Plate 10 (as well as 2 and 19) is unnumbered

Vol. 1: A-K; -- Vol. 2: L-Z.

After the second edition a third emerged rather quickly and this was printed in Dublin , in 1739 or 1740, Ephraim Chambers was still alive as evidenced by what must have been one of his last works "Additions to the fourth edition of Cyclopaedia: Or, an universal dictionary of Arts and Sciences etc." published posthumously in 1741. Immediately after Chambers death, the Cyclopaedia, appears in a fourth and fifth edition, with the first volume of the fifth edition printed also in 1741, and the second volume printed in 1743. It would be interesting to know the full history behind this rapid succession of editions. A sixth edition appeared in 1750 and a seventh in 1751 (the first volume printed 1751, the second volume in 1752). A two volume supplement came out in 1753 as well as another printing of the seventh edition with 2 supplementary volumes included.

*COPAC v.3 of the Victoria University of Manchester

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