Tables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences

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by James Ferguson

Tables and Tracts
FergusonTablesAndTracts1767 TitlePage.jpg

Title page from Tables and Tracts, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author James Ferguson
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published London: Printed for A. Millar and T. Cadell
Date 1767
Edition First
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages xiii, 328
Desc. Octavo (21 cm.)
Location Shelf N-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

James Ferguson (1710-1776) was an astronomer, painter, inventor, author, and lecturer who was born to a poor family in Scotland in 1710.[1] His knowledge on astronomy and mechanical models was largely self-taught.[2] His early life was spent working for various wealthy individuals as a clock maker and maintainer, a machinist, and a limner (painter of paint or ink portrait miniatures).[3] Around 1736, Ferguson attempted to practice medicine, however this failed partly to his bills not being paid.[4] Ferguson's career turned towards inventing, writing, and lecturing in 1743.[5] Ferguson published his first book, The Use of a New Orrery, in 1744. His career as an author would span almost three decades with his major books being published from 1746 to 1775.[6] Tables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences was Ferguson's fourth major book and was published in 1767.[7]

Tables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences, is a collection of tables and tracts from various manuscripts and Ferguson on the "useful arts and sciences."[8] Ferguson presents the tables and then goes through an explanation of how to use them. The tables and tracts start off on the calculation of the new and full moon and ends on properties of numbers, circles, and squares.[9] This book touches several topics including astronomy, time, clocks, silk mills, remarkable eras and events, volume, weight, gravity, velocity,and many others.[10] Tables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences is about educating the use of tables and tracts for various different subjects.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Plate I: Spherical Armillary.

Although not listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library, George Wythe mentions this book in a letter to Thomas Jefferson dated April 22, 1790, "I have not been able, after long inquiry, to obtain the writings of Phlegon, mentioned by Fergusen in his tables and tracts."[11] On the basis of this letter, three of the Wythe Collection sources list James Ferguson's Tables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences. Both the Brown Bibliography[12] and George Wythe's Library[13] on LibraryThing include the first edition (1767), while Dean's Memo[14] suggests the second edition (1771). We do not know conclusively that Wythe owned this title — he may have used someone else's copy — but the evidence is strong enough to warrant its addition to the Wythe Collection. Unfortunately, we cannot determine from Wythe's mention of the book which edition he used. When the specific edition cannot be determined, the library prefers first editions and the Wolf Law Library purchased a copy of the 1767 edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in modern calf with ruled spine featuring red & gilt morocco label. Purchased from Zephyr Used & Rare Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also

Plate III: A Magic Circle of Circles.


  1. Clive Davenhall, “James Ferguson: A Commemoration,” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, no. 13(2010): 179-186,
  2. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London."James Ferguson, F.R.S." Royal Museums Greenwich. (Accessed November 13, 2018).
  3. Davenhall."James Ferguson: A Commemoration."
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ferguson, James.Tables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences.(London:A. Millar and T. Cadell, 1767), iii-iv.
  9. FergusonTables and Tracts Relative to Several Arts and Sciences,v-xiii.
  10. Ibid.
  11. George Wythe to Thomas Jefferson, 22 April 1790
  12. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  13. LibraryThing, s.v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on January 3, 2020.
  14. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 15 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).