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. Near Fine. Item #101847
Folio (320 x 195 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, 273 woodcut illustrations and diagrams in text (many full page). 16th century, possibly Italian, binding in full calfskin, boards with blind fillets, roll-stamps and fleurons; the spine expertly rebacked in early times and with 5 raised bands, gilt-decorated and -lettered in compartments, blue-dyed edges (some scratching and rubbing of covers, joints partially cracked, corners bumped, a few wormholes to spine, boards and endpapers). Internally quite clean, bright and crisp throughout with just very minor occasional spotting and traces of light dampstaining at blank margins; the title-page with minor dust- and fingersoiling and a few wormholes near upper corner; the final 17 leaves of index with larger wormtrack affecting some letters of text, up to three smaller wormholes near gutter of first half; short clean tear at lower blank margin of p. 349/50, another clean tear at lower margin of p.453/4 repaired with paper; the final two numbered leaves with brown spot at upper blank margin; the two plates - as often - a few mm shaved just into image on one side each. Provenance: illegible contemporary inscription on title-page crossed out, a few text corrections in ink. In all a fine copy, collated complete and with ample margins. ----
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). - Visit our website for additional images and further reading!
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