Publisher Information: Lodi: Tipografia Orcesi, 1835.
Bassi, Agostino (1773-1856). Del mal del segno calcinaccio o moscardino malattia che affligge i bachi da seta e sul modo de liberarne le bigattaje anche le piu infestate. 2 vols. in 1. , v-xi, 67; xiv, 60pp. Lodi: Tipografia Orcesi, 1835-36. 218 x 140 mm. 19th century half morocco, gilt spine, marbled boards, light edgewear. Mild foxing on first and last few leaves, but near fine otherwise. 19th-century engraved armorial bookplate of Baron Bizzini.
First Edition. Bassi was the first to prove that a fatal disease—the silkworm disease known as muscardine or calcinaccio—was caused by a microorganism. His pioneering and influential work, which preceded Pasteur’s by over two decades, helped to destroy the notion of spontaneous generation and laid the foundation for the germ theory of disease.
This work was probably printed in a small edition and has been rare on the market for many years. This is the first copy we have handled in more than fifty years of experience. The work is not in the Bibliotheca Osleriana, the Bibliotheca Walleriana, John Martin’s Heirs of Hippocrates, the catalogue of Harvey Cushing’s library or the H. F. Norman library catalogue.
A lawyer with a strong interest in science, Bassi spent over twenty years studying muscardine, which is characterized by a white efflorescence or dust that appears on the bodies of infected silkworms. Accepting at first the common belief that the disease originated spontaneously, Bassi conducted numerous experiments to discover whether it was caused by environmental factors such as type of feed, atmospheric conditions, breeding methods or excessive acidity. After ruling these factors out, Bassi concluded that muscardine was caused by some external agent, and through a series of microscopic investigations was able to determine that this agent was a parasitic fungus (Beauvaria bassiana), transmitted by contact or by infected food. “Bassi reproduced the muscardine by inoculating healthy worms with the white dust, or with matter from diseased worms. He infected caterpillars of other species and then, in turn, produced the same disease in silkworms again . . .The fine efflorescence, which usually appeared after the death of the animal, was composed of a multitude of minute plants bearing the ‘seeds,’ and only when they developed did the disease become infectious” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Bassi published his results in Del mal del segno, in which he proposed the theory that some contagious diseases, including those affecting humans, had their source in the “germs” of plant or animal parasites.
Our copy of Bassi’s work includes his three-page dedication to the Arciduca Ranieri, not present in a number of copies, including the one in original wrappers at the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon. Some copies of Bassi’s work also include a leaf headed “Al coltivatori dei bachi da seta”; this leaf is not present here. Bulloch, History of Bacteriology, pp. 159-161. Garrison-Morton.com 2352.Book Id: 45256