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Orr's Circle of the Sciences

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Orr's Circle of the Sciences

Orr's Circle of the Sciences was a scientific encyclopedia of the 1850s, published in London by William Somerville Orr.

Circle of the Sciences, illustration from the introductory section of the work

William S Orr & Co.

Engraving of Richard Owen, Lorenz Oken. Originally at p. 161 of the first volume (1854) of Orr's Circle of the Sciences, it was reproduced as on this plate in Owen's The Principal Forms of the Skeleton and the Teeth (1856), which was the standalone publication of two of Owen's articles.

William S. Orr & Co. was a publisher in Paternoster Row, London. It put out the British Cyclopædia in ten volumes of the 1830s.[1] It also was in business selling engravings (for example the Kenny Meadows illustrations to Shakespeare),[2] and maps, such as a mid-century Cab Fare and Guide Map of London (c. 1853).[3]

The firm was a general commercial publisher, with a specialist area of natural history, and also published periodicals.[4] It was innovative in its use of wood engraving, in its 1838 edition of Paul et Virginie.[5] In children's literature, it published Christoph von Schmid's Basket of Flowers in an English translation of 1848, in partnership with J. B. Müller of Stuttgart.[6]

William Somerville Orr

Orr himself was a publishers' agent from the 1830s, and was a close associate of Robert and William Chambers.[7] He printed a London edition of Chambers's Edinburgh Journal by mid-1832.[8] The arrangement used stereotype plates, and brought the circulation up to 50,000.[9] By 1845 the circulation was declining from its peak, and Orr wrote to Chambers explaining that the market was changing.[10] In 1846 Chambers terminated the arrangement with Orr.[11]

Punch magazine, set up in 1841, brought in Orr to help with distribution to booksellers and news agents.[12] Orr died in 1873.[13]

Orr's Circle of the Sciences

Orr's Circle of the Sciences was announced first as a part publication, a series in weekly parts, price 2d. beginning 5 January 1854.[14] The series editor was John Stevenson Bushnan, who also wrote the introductory section of the first volume.[15]
Volume Year Title Content
1 1854 Organic Nature, vol. 1/The Principles of Physiology On the Nature, Connection, and Uses of the Great Departments of Human Knowledge, John Stevenson Bushnan
On the Physiology of Animal and Vegetable Life, John Stevenson Bushnan
On the Principal Forms of the Skeleton, Richard Owen
On the Principal Forms and Structures of the Teeth, Richard Owen
On the Varieties of the Human Species, Robert Gordon Latham[16][17]
2 1854 The Mathematical Sciences Simple Arithmetic, Algebra and the Elements of Euclid, John Radford Young
Planes, Spherical Trigonometry, Series, Logarithms, and Mensuration, John Francis Twisden
Practical Geometry, Alexander Jardine[18]
3 1855 A System of Natural History
Vol. 1 Botany and Invertebrated Animals
Botany, Edward Smith
Zoology, William Sweetland Dallas[19]
4 1855 Elementary Chemistry John Scoffern.[20] The author explains in the introduction that the work was based on a revision of William Henry's Treatise on Chemistry.
5 1855 Geology, Mineralogy and Crystallography Science of Physical Geography and Geology, David Thomas Ansted
Crystallography and Mineralogy, Walter Mitchell and James Tennant[21][22]
6 1855 Organic Nature Vol. III/A System of Natural History
Vol. 2 Vertebrate Animals
William Sweetland Dallas;[23] Edward Smith's name is on the title page, but for "Botany".[24]
7 1856 Practical Astronomy, Navigation, Nautical Astronomy and Meteorology Nautical Astronony and Navigation, John Radford Young
Practical Astronomy, Hugh Breen
Meteorology, John Scoffern and Edward Joseph Lowe[23][25]
Lowe's participation is mentioned in his Royal Society obituary.[26]
8 1856 Practical Chemistry Electro-deposition, George Gore
Photography, Marcus Sparling
Chemistry of Food, translation by Edward Bronner from the German of Jacob Moleschott, Lehre des Nahrungsmittel für das Volk[27]
Adulterations of Food, John Scoffern[23][28]
9 1856 Mechanical Philosophy Mechanical Laws, Theory of Equilibrium, Mechanical Powers, Statics, Dynamics, and Hydrostatics, Walter Mitchell
John Radford Young
Mechanical Drawing, Strength of Materials, Construction of Machinery, the Steam Engine, and Textile Machines, John Imray[29]


  1. ^ The British Cyclopædia of the Arts, Sciences, History, Geography, Literature, Natural history, and Biography. Wm. S. Orr and co. 1838. p. 9. 
  2. ^ .Kenny MeadowsBritish Museum database,
  3. ^ Ralph Hyde (1975). Printed Maps of Victorian London 1851–1900. William Dawson & Sons. p. 76.  
  4. ^ Jim Endersby (15 May 2008). Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science. University of Chicago Press. p. 198.  
  5. ^ Michael F. Suarez, S.J.; H. R. Woudhuysen (October 2013). The Book: A Global History. Oxford University Press. p. 241.  
  6. ^ Jürgen Barkhoff; Gilbert Carr; Roger Paulin (1 January 2000). Das schwierige 19. Jahrhundert: Germanistische Tagung zum 65. Geburtstag von Eda Sagarra im August 1998. Mit einem Vorwort von Wolfgang Frühwald. Walter de Gruyter. p. 563.  
  7. ^ Aileen Fyfe (6 January 2012). Steam-Powered Knowledge: William Chambers and the Business of Publishing, 1820-1860. University of Chicago Press. p. 112.  
  8. ^ Howard Cox; Simon Mowatt (March 2014). Revolutions from Grub Street: A History of Magazine Publishing in Britain. Oxford University Press. pp. 5–6.  
  9. ^ Laurel Brake; Marysa Demoor; Margaret Beetham (2009). Dictionary of Nineteenth-century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland. Academia Press. p. 106.  
  10. ^ Joanne Shattock; Michael Shattock, eds. (1982). The Victorian Periodical Press: Samplings and Soundings. Leicester University Press. p. 245.  
  11. ^ Professor Miles Ogborn; Professor Charles W J Withers (28 November 2012). Geographies of the Book. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 68.  
  12. ^ Alan R. Young (2007). Punch and Shakespeare in the Victorian Era. Peter Lang. p. 27.  
  13. ^ Charles Darwin (1990). The Correspondence of Charles Darwin: 1856-1857. Cambridge University Press. pp. 615–.  
  14. ^ Notes and Queries Number 213, November 26. 1853. p. 531. 
  15. ^ John Stevenson Bushnan, The principles of animal and vegetable physiology: a popular treatise on the functions and phenomena of organic life: to which is prefixed a general view of the great departments of human knowledge (1854), p. iii;
  16. ^ Richard Owen; Robert Gordon Latham; Edward Smith; William Sweetland Dallas (1854). Orr's Circle of the Sciences: A Series of Treatises on the Principles of Science, with Their Application to Practical Pursuits. Organic Nature .... W. S. Orr and Company. 
  17. ^ William Somerville Orr; Richard Owen; Robert Gordon Latham (1854). The Principles of Physiology. W. S. Orr and Company. 
  18. ^ William Somerville Orr (1854). Orr's Circle of the Sciences: The mathematical sciences. W. S. Orr and Company. 
  19. ^ William Somerville Orr; Richard Owen; Edward Smith; Robert Gordon Latham, William Sweetland Dallas (1855). Orr's Circle of the Sciences: A Series of Treatises on the Principles of Science, with Their Application to Practical Pursuits. Organic Nature .... W. S. Orr and Company. p. 207. 
  20. ^ William Somerville Orr (1855). Orr's circle of the sciences: a series of treatises on the principles of science, with their application to practical pursuits. W. S. Orr. 
  21. ^ William Somerville Orr (1855). Orr's Circle of the Sciences: Inorganic nature] Geology, mineralogy, and crystallography. W. S. Orr and Company. 
  22. ^ "Mitchell, Walter (MTCL834W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  23. ^ a b c Edward Smith (1855). Structural and systematic botany. p. ii. 
  24. ^ William Somerville Orr (1855). Orr's circle of the sciences: a series of treatises on the principles of science, with their application to practical pursuits. W. S. Orr. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ Obituary Notices of Fellows Deceased, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Vol. 75, (1904 - 1905), pp. 19-380, at p. 102. Published by: The Royal Society. Stable URL:
  27. ^ New Sydenham Society (1860). A Year-book of Medicine, Surgery and their Allied Sciences, for 1859. Printed for The New Sydenham Society. p. 69. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ William Somerville Orr (1856). Orr's Circle of the Sciences: Mechanical philosophy. W. S. Orr and Company. 

External links

  • William Somerville Orr, Online Books page
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