De Re Metallica Libri XII. Quibus Officia, Instrumenta, Machinae, ac omnia denique ad Metallicam spectantia, non modo luculentissimè describuntur, sed & per effigies, suis locis insertas, adjunctis Latinis, Germanicisque appellationibus ita ob oculos ponuntur, ut clarius tradi non possint. Eiusdem de Animantibus Subterraneis Liber, ab Autore recognitus: cum Indicibus diversis...
by AGRICOLA, Georgius
Woodcut printer's device on title & on verso of last leaf, two folding woodcut plates (the second just shaved at head as usual), & about 270 splendid woodcuts (many full-page) in the text. 6 p.l. (sixth leaf blank), 502 pp., 37 leaves. Folio (319 x 210 mm.), cont. panelled calf (joints cracked but strong with some early repairs, head & foot of spine a little chipped), on the fore-edge the arms at head of the Davila family & at foot the arms of the dukes of Alba with the title in the center of the fore-edge, three (of four) brass corner-pieces (one of which is defective), one (of two) brass catches. Basel: [H. Froben & N. Episcopius], 1556. First edition, and a fine, crisp, and large copy of "the first systematic treatise on mining and metallurgy and one of the first technological books of modern times...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 adds 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."-Printing & the Mind of Man 79. Agricola mentions a large number of minerals, many for the first time, and describes and illustrates numerous mining and metallurgical processes, many of which are still in use. The separate parts of the machinery are shown. Book V contains Agricola's 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 famous woodcuts depict various mining and metallurgical machinery, men at work, and the first illustration of a railway (p. 276 -- trucks containing ore on wooden rails). PROVENANCE: This copy comes from the important but relatively forgotten library of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, third Duke of Alba (1507-82), known as the best general of his generation and one of the greatest generals ever. He received a humanistic education at the ducal court of the House of Alba where he learned Latin, French, English, and German. Although one of the earliest Spanish noblemen to absorb and appreciate the tenets of the Renaissance, he was considered to be "an educated anti-intellectual and a cosmopolitan xenophobe."-Maltby, Alba: Biography of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Third Duke of Alba, 1507-82, p. 20. Alba formed an important library, now dispersed and largely forgotten. It was a so-called "vertical library" with the characteristic design of the title and coats-of-arms of the Davila and dukes of Alba families painted on the fore-edges of each volume. At the head of the title is written in brown ink the library's shelf mark "Est. 11 F [the 11 F is crossed out and changed to:] 3A G." Another shelfmark, which we are unable to decipher, is faintly written on the upper left hand corner of the upper cover. With the book label on the second preliminary leaf: "Biblioteca del excmo. Señor Marques de Astorga." The library of the third Duke of Alba passed to his daughter Beatriz Alvarez (b. 1534), who married Álvaro Pérez Osorio, fifth Marques de Astorga (d. 1567), whose family also had a notable library and archive. The Alvarez library remained in the Astorga family until the 19th century when it was purchased by Thomas Thorpe in about 1825. Approximately 4000 books were purchased from Thorpe by the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh; Phillipps and Heber also made important acquisitions. Thorpe then sold some manuscripts at auction (R.H. Evans, 2 March 1826). Another group of Astorga books and manuscripts was sold at auction in Paris in 1870. From the library of Otto Schäfer, with his stamp, sold to him by H.P. Kraus about 1960. A fine and crisp copy preserved in a slipcase. ❧ Dibner, Heralds of Science, 88. D.S.B., I, pp. 77-79. Hoover 17. Horblit 2b. Partington, II, pp. 46-55. Sparrow, Milestones of Science, p. 8 & pl. 26. Astorga library: J.H. Loudon, "The Astorga Collection of Spanish Books now in the National Library of Scotland," Le IIIème Congrès International de Bibliophilie, Actes et Communications (Barcelona: 1971), pp. 89-93. . (Inventory #: HillBibl-5288)
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