The first systematic treatise on mining and metallurgy
De re metallica libri XII. - De animantibus subterraneis liber.
Basel: Hieronymus Froben and Nicholas Episcopius, 1556.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Folio - over 12 - 15" tall. Very Good. Item #003764
March 1556. Folio (332 x 223 mm). , [2: blank], 538 [i.e. 502],  pp. With woodcut printer's device on title and final leaf verso, large woodcut initials, 2 folding woodcut plates bound after i2 (the first folded in at fore-margin), 273 woodcut illustrations and diagrams in text (many full page); bound without blank leaf alpha6. Signatures: [alpha]6, a-z6, A-Z6, Aa-Bb6 (-alpha6). Contemporary French calfskin, spine with 6 raised bands and tooled with small gilt flourons in compartments, boards with blind fillets and gilt fleurons including 4 smaller at corners and a large in the center; the spine expertly rebacked preserving most of the original compartment leather, corners restored, all edges gilt, original endpapers preserved (leather over boards spotted, wear to extremities, upper board slightly bowed, endpapers soiled and spotted, lower joint split c. 5 cm at head). Internally clean and crisp throughout with just very minor occasional spotting and soiling; early edge repair at fore-margin of 4 leaves u3-6 (done at the time of binding likely using-up the paper of the blank leaf and not affecting illustrations or text), small hole (paper flaw) in blank area of leaf z1; minor edge chippig at head of three leaves A3-5; errors in pagination and signatures pen corrected; minor brown-staining of two leaves K1-2; light damp-staining at top gutter of gatherings P and Q. Provenance: M. Duperray, Rouen (inscribed on front pastedown "Duperray Rhotomagensis 1677"), inscriptions "J. Gale" and "Pigault" on title-page; further illegible inscription on title and on p. 285. An exceptional, very wide-margined copy, rarely found with the plate woodcuts unaffected by the binders knife as here. ----
FIRST EDITION OF 'THE FIRST SYSTEMATIC TREATISE ON MINING AND METALLURGY AND ONE OF THE FIRST TECHNOLOGICAL BOOKS OF MODERN TIMES' (PMM). "Agricola - he latinized his name from Georg Bauer - studied at Leipzig, Bologna and Padua, became town physician of the mining centre of Joachimsthal in Bohemia and physician at Chemnitz in Saxony from 1534 until his death. Living in mining regions all his life made it possible for him to study mining practices at first hand and these direct observations made his books particularly valuable and effective. Mining has been practised from primitive times; gold and silver, copper and lead have been used for thousands of years, and even iron, a late-comer, is prehistoric. Though the actual consumption of metals was slight in the Middle Ages as in preceding epochs, craftsmen then wrote the first coherent treatises on the treatment and fabrication of metals (e.g. the Schedula Diversarum Artium of Theophilus Presbyter). In the late Middle Ages there were very important advances in mining and metallurgy, reflected first in the Probierbüchlein of c. 1510 (the first printed book on the subject), then in Biringuccio's fine Pirotechnia (1540) and finally in this great work of Agricola's, by far the most authoritative account of south German technology. The De Re Metallica embraces everything connected with the mining industry and metallurgical processes, including administration, prospecting, the duties of officials and companies and the manufacture of glass, sulphur and alum. The magnificent series of two hundred and seventy-three large woodcut illustrations by Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch add to its value. Some of the most important sections are those on mechanical engineering and the use of water-power, hauling, pumps, ventilation, blowing of furnaces, transport of ores, etc., showing a very elaborate technique. In Book V, and also in the De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum, Basle, 1546, Agricola made an important contribution to physical geology. He recognized the influence of water and wind on the shaping of the landscape and gave a clear account of the order of the strata he saw in the mines. Writing on the origin of mountains, he describes the eroding action of water as their cause with a perspicacity much in advance of his time. The most important of Agricola's many other treatises was the De Natura Fossilium (also Basle, 1546), which has earned him the title of 'Father of Mineralogy'. After the classical writings of Pliny and Theophrastus on the subject, mineralogy during the Middle Ages was chiefly concerned with the medicinal and magical properties of stones. Agricola supplied a new scientific classification of minerals based on their physical properties. He described eighty different minerals and metallic ores (including twenty new ones), their mode of occurrence and mutual relation. The De Re Metallica was frequently reprinted and is said to have reached China in the seventeenth century. Interest in it was revived in the eighteenth century by Abraham Gottlieb Werner; and in 1912 it was translated into English by Herbert Hoover, afterwards President of the United States" (PMM 78).
References: Dibner 88, Horblit 2b, PMM 79, Norman 20, Adams A-349; Brunet I, 113; Duveen pp.4-5; Hoover 17; E. Darmstaedter, Georg Agricola, München, 1926.
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