The Arsenal of Eighteenth-Century Chemistry

The Laboratories of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794)


The substantial collection of Antoine Laurent Lavoisier’s apparatus is not the only surviving collection of eighteenth-century chemical apparatus and instrumentation, but it is without question the most important. The present study provides the first scientific catalogue of Lavoisier’s surviving apparatus. This collection of instruments is remarkable not only for the quality of many of them but, above all, for the number of items that have survived (ca. 600 items). Given such a wealth and variety of instruments, this study also offers the first comprehensive attempt to reconstruct the cultural and social context of Lavoisier’s experimental activities.

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Marco Beretta, Ph.D. (1994), Uppsala University, is Professor of History of Science at the University of Bologna. He has primarily worked on the history of chemistry from antiquity to the early modern period. He has published several books and articles on Lavoisier.

Paolo Brenni (1954-2021) graduated in experimental physics at the University of Zürich. He then worked in Florence for the CNR, the Museo Galileo and the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica. He restored various collections of historical instruments and wrote several articles on the history of scientific instruments.
“This book catalogs the surviving laboratory equipment of the chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743–94). [...] The volume concludes with a bibliography of primary sources and a comprehensive inventory, including the institutions now holding the instruments. This is a beautiful book that would be at home in any chemistry or history of science collection.”

--P. Larsen, University of Rhode Island
Robert G.W. Anderson

Marco Beretta, Paolo Brenni


Part 1: Lavoisier’s Laboratory Networks

(Marco Beretta)


1 The Chemical Laboratories in Paris (1743–1776)
 1.1 Chemistry Comes to Paris
 1.2 Rouelle’s Laboratory
 1.3 Laboratory Life with Macquer and Baumé

2 Lavoisier’s Approach to Chemical Instrument Making
 2.1 Lavoisier’s Early Education in Science
 2.2 Chemical Instrument Making in Paris before 1770
 2.3 Lavoisier and Chemical Instrument Making
 2.4 Parisian Instrument Makers at the Arsenal
 2.5 Second-Hand Instruments
 2.6 The Laboratory Notebooks
 Table of Lavoisier’s Laboratory Notebooks

3 Lavoisier’s Sites of Experimental Practice: From the Field to the Laboratory (1764–1794)
 3.1 Sites of Experiments
 3.2 The Arsenal

4 The Cost of Lavoisier’s Laboratory
 4.1 Was Chemistry Cheap or Expensive?
 4.2 The Cost of Lavoisier’s Laboratory
 4.3 The Cost of Labour
 4.4 Deconstructing the Legend

5 The Chemical Revolution on Stage: Lavoisier’s Collection of Instruments (1789–2020)
 5.1 The Chemical Revolution on Show (1789–1836)
 5.2 Instruments Enter French Politics: The Private and Public Fate of Lavoisier’s Collection (1836–1900)
 5.3 The 1943 Exhibition: Lavoisier vs Nazi Germany

Appendix 1: Inventory of Lavoisier’s Residence and Laboratory on the Boulevard de la Madeleine (1796)
Appendix 2: Inventory of Lavoisier’s Laboratory by Nicolas Leblanc (1794)
Appendix 3: Inventory of Lavoisier’s Precision and Chemical Instruments (1794)
Appendix 4: Select Inventory of Marie Anne Lavoisier’s Residence in the Rue d’Anjou (1836)
Appendix 5: Inventory of Lavoisier’s Instruments Acquired by the Conservatoire des arts et métiers in 1864
Appendix 6: Biographical Dictionary of Lavoisier’s Instrument Makers and Suppliers of Chemicals

Part 2: Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Lavoisier’s Instruments in the Musée des Arts et Métiers

(Marco Beretta, Paolo Brenni)

Introduction to the Catalogue

 Measures of Length
 Measures of Volume
 Measures of Weight

Astronomy, Surveying, Drawing and Mathematics
 Surveying Instruments
 Drawing and Geometrical Models

Experimental Physics
 Hydrostatics and Hydraulics
 Magnetism and Electricity


 Heating Apparatus and Common Laboratory Tools
 Chemical Apparatus
 Chemical Glassware
 Chemicals, Minerals and Various Substances



General Bibliography
Index of Inventory Numbers
Index of Names
University libraries, Science museums libraries, historians of science, science museum curators
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