A New Foundation for Chemistry: Lavoisier's Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, Preliminary Discourse and Part One

Translated from the 1789 edition by Chester Burke and Matthew Holtzman

Running commentary by Howard J. Fisher

7" x 10", 180 pages, Appendix on weights and measures, Glossary, Index.
Original publication date: October, 2022.
For pricing and ordering information, see the ordering section below.

New Foundation coverOne of the most revolutionary scientific works ever written, and also one of the most accessible, Antoine Lavoisier's Elementary Treatise on Chemistry established the constancy of weight in chemical reactions, revealed the composition of water (previously thought to be an element), and set forth a clear concept of the nature of gases.  Lavoisier presents experimental facts in expressions that are vivid, exact, and often poetical. As a result, the Treatise is still, after more than 200 years, a model of clarity and scientific reasoning.     


  • First new English translation since 1790
  • Original engravings from the first French edition, by Mme. Paulze-Lavoisier
  • Explanations of unfamiliar terms, obsolete procedures, and more, by Howard J. Fisher 

About the translation

 There is much variety among the Green Lion translations, but one feature they hold in common is a deep respect for the original text. In particular, we are committed to a translation of this text that reveals and traces Lavoisier’s thought and voice as much as possible. This means capturing nuances of diction, imagery, and metaphor that may bear precisely on the way Lavoisier was thinking about the phenomenon he describes.  The translation should stand on the solid ground of the original, perhaps most of all when we are not sure why that ground has the shape that it displays. It should speak to those who study the poetry of Lavoisier, as well as those who study his science.

About Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794) revolutionized chemistry through two key insights: the importance of precise measurements of weight in chemical reactions, and idea that sound science had to begin with a rational system of names. He supported these insights with beautifully designed experiments, performed using superbly crafted equipment. Although he is chiefly known for his achievements in chemistry, he was also devoted to promoting social good. Because of his involvement in the collection of royal taxes, he was executed by the French revolutionaries in 1794.

About the illustrator, Marie Anne Paulze-Lavoisier

Marie Anne Paulze-Lavoisier (1758–1836) was the daughter of Jacques Paulze and Claudine Thoynet. Her father was a minor noble and a colleague of Antoine Lavoisier in the Ferme-Générale, a major private tax-collecting company. She married Antoine as a young teenager in an arrangement designed to thwart an importunate and influential suitor; nevertheless, the marriage proved very successful. She soon became interested in her husband's work, and quickly mastered laboratory techniques, becoming her husband's research assistant for the remainder of his life. A trained artist (student of Jacques Louis David), she engraved the figures that adorned the text of the first edition of the Traité, which are included in the present translation.

Sample pages

Below are links to PDF versions of the Annotator's Introduction and a sample page of the translation, with examples of the annotations and of Paulze-Lavoisier's engraved images.

About the Author

Howard J. Fisher is a Tutor Emeritus at St. John's College in Santa Fe, and is also an Associate Editor at Green Lion Press. He has for many years helped students study scientific classics in St. John's College's unique source-based laboratory curriculum. His other books include Faraday's Experimental Researches in Electricity: Guide to a First Reading, Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism: The Central Argument, and Antoine Lavoisier, Oxygen, Acids, and Water: Eight Chapters from the Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, all published by Green Lion Press.

Ordering Information for A New Foundation for Chemistry: Lavoisier's Elementary Treatise on Chemistry, Preliminary Discourse and Part One translated by Chester Burke and Matthew Holtzman, running commentary by Howard J. Fisher

Sewn softcover, ISBN 978-1-888009-54-5, 
list price: USD $20.00.

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