Letter 9 from Alessandro Volta to 3rd Earl Cowper

5th May 1781, Pavia

By Gill Cordingley & Maria Porter

Volta’s visit to Tuscany was a big success. He met Cowper’s wife and was on good terms with Dr Guadgani and the Earl himself.  Dr. Guadgani often worked in Cowper’s laboratory. After the visit to Tuscany, he wrote to Count Karl Joseph Firmian, the Austrian representative of the Hapsburgs, who lived in Milan. (Volta’s visit had been funded by a state grant so that he was under an obligation to report back to Firmian.) The report says that Volta and Guadagni had worked together in Cowper’s cabinet, using expensive machines from England and also with some of Volta’s own inventions. He had taken his instrument maker, Abbate Re with him and Guadagni had promised to send Volta some drawings of the apparatus.

The learned paper that he had intended to take to Tuscany was not finished at the time of his visit. He is now enclosing it and he hopes also to send a eudiometer to Cowper which is being made by Abbate Re.

Altezza

Finalmente trasmetto a V.A. la p.a parte della dissertazione da tanto tempo promessaLe. Che dirà Ella di un tale ritardo, e del non averLe io più scritto dacchè ebbi l’onore di vederLa in Firenze, e di godere di tanti Suoi favori? E che diro per iscusarmi? Altro dir non posso se non che avendo dato a copiare il mio Scritto a un giovane studente, accadde ch’egli prima, di poi io fummo assenti da Pavia lungamente. Si aggiunge poi anche dalla sua e dalla mia parte qualche trascuratezza; giacchè non voglio dire che le occupazioni mie, sebben maggiori del solito in quest’anno, non mi permettessero assolutamente di ritoccare e mettere in netto una dissertazione già bella e finita da quasi un anno. Quanto al mio lungo silenzio con V.A. posso assicurarLa esserne stata unica cagione il prolungare di mese i mese, e di settimana in settimana, sperando sempre d’aver lo Scritto da mandare.

 Qui acclusa, come V.A. vedrà, non c’è che la p.a parte. La 2.a che compie la dissertazione, ed è assai più interessante è finita essa pure, e deve sol essere ricopiata; ma affè che questa volta non tarderò tanta a mandarla: tra due settimane o un mese al più Ella sicuramente l’averà.

L’Ab. Re sta attualmente lavorando all’ Eudiometro ad aria inf. per V.A. che Le accompagnerò tra non molto con una sufficiente descrizione.

Da Londra per mezzo del Sig. Magellan ho ricevuto diverse Macchine; tra queste la macchina dinamica inventata dal Sig. Atwood, con cui si fanno moltissime sperienze, e quelle specialmente del moto accelerato e ritardato con una precisione ed esattezza mirabile. Il Sig. Magellan mi ha fatto l’onore d’indirizzare a me la descrizione di tal macchina. Io non so se a V.A. sia nota questa Macchina e questa operetta.

La supplico de’ miei umilissimi, e divotissimi complimenti a S.A. Miledi, e di cento saluti al caro dottor Guadagni: Le chieggo nuovamente scusa; a col più profondo ossequio me raffermo di V.A.

Pavia li 5 Maggio 1781

Umill.mo Obb.mo Servitore

Alessandro Volta

Your Highness

I eventually send to Your Highness the first part of the dissertation which I have promised you for a very long time. What will Your Highness say about such lateness and the fact that I have not written to you since I had the honour of seeing you in Florence and to enjoy so many favours from you and what can I say to excuse myself, I cannot say more than having given my MS to a young student to copy, it happened that first he then myself were absent from Pavia for a very long time. Further both from his and my part there has been some negligence: because I am not saying that my occupations, although greater than usual in the past year, would not at all allow me to retouch and outline better a dissertation which was practically finished almost a year ago. As for my long silence with Your Highness, I can assure you that the only reason was the waiting month after month, week after week, always hoping to have the MS ready to send.

As Your Highness can see, only the first part is enclosed, the second which completes the dissertation and which is far more interesting, is also finished and has only to be copied out: this time I will not take so much time in sending it; in two weeks or a month at the latest, you will certainly have it.

L’Abbate Re* is at the moment working on the gas Eudiometer for your Highness, which I will send you shortly with a sufficient description.

I received various apparatus from London through Sig. Magellan, among them; the dynamic apparatus invented by Mr. Atwood, with which you can make a great deal of experiments and those especially of accelerated and retarded motion with admirable precision and accuracy. Sig Magellan honoured me by sending me the description of such apparatus, I do not know whether this apparatus and its workings are known to Your Highness.

I beg to forward my most humble and devoted compliments to Her Highness, Milady, and hundreds of greetings to the dear Dr. Guadagni, I apologise again; and with profound obsequies I once more declare myself to Your Highness

Pavia 5 May 1781

Your Most Humble and most Obedient Servant

Alessandro Volta

* Abbate Re was Volta’s instrument maker

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