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Mémoire sur la Fermentation appelée Lactique.


Paris, Mallet-Bachelier, 1858. Large8vo. Unopened and uncut in the original printed wrappers. Ex-libris [Meyer Friedman] pasted on to verso of front wrapper. In pristine, near mint, condition. 15 pp. Housed in a half calf clamshell box with gilt lettering to spine. ¶ First printing, in the extremely scarce off-print (separately paginated), of this landmark paper which founded scientific bacteriology, immunology and microbiology in general. The work constitutes "[t]he first demonstration of the connection between a specific fermentation and the activity of a specific microorganism ... the beginning of bacteriology as a modern science" (Garrison & Morton). "In this epochal paper [Pasteur] first published his research on lactic fermentatiom [...] A great milestone in biochemistry" (Neville , vol. II, p. 274).

Until the publication of the present paper, fermentation had been described in all the textbooks as a chemical process, but Pasteur had now shown it to be caused, in the case of lactic acid fermentation, by a living organism. Skeptical also of the chemical theory of alcoholic fermentation, he went on to disprove the theory by demonstrating that yeast is the living agent of the process. Furthermore, he established that specific microorganisms are responsible for specific biological processes and, by inference, that specific germs may be the agents of specific diseases. Pasteur thus laid the foundation for the germ theory of disease.

This paper "contains most of the central theoretical and methodological features of his biological theory of fermentation, in particular the concept of fermentation as a product of the growth of yeast, the idea that air is source of microscopic yeasts and other micro-organisms, and the notion of specificity, in which each fermentation could be traced to a specific micro-organism. Pasteur was able to isolate, observe and propagate the yeast responsible for lactic fermentation, and to demonstrate that its activity was dependent on its environment. Pasteur's concept of fermentation as a biological process challenged the chemical theory of fermentation put forth by Liebig, which Pasteur was able to disprove with his experiments on alcoholic and acetic fermentation." (Norman 1653).

The consequences of Pasteur's discovery was wide reaching and did not only revolutionize the field of medicine: "French winemakers, troubled by the souring of wine, especially in exporting, presented their problem to Pasteur. He found that wine diseases could be controlled by heating the liquid for a definite time at a certain temperature." (Milestones of Science). He also helped the silk industry by pointing out a silkworn decease; the French beer brewers were helped by Pasteur's knowledge on fermentation in their competition with the German brewers.

The paper was first published in Annales de Chimie et de Physique, Third Series, Vol. 52. Almost simultaneously in the Annales de Chimie et de Physique and the Mémoires de la Societé des Sciences, De l'Agriculture et des Arts de Lille and Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences.

Norman 1653.

(Garrison-Morton 2472; Dibner, Heralds of Science, 198; One Hundred Books Famous in Science 82 - none of them referring to the offprint, merely the periodical-issues)

92 195 SEK

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