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AGRICOLA, Georgius.

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, adiunctis Latinis, Germanicisque appellationibus ita ob oculos ponuntur, ut clarius tradi non possint. Eiusdem De animantibus subterraneis Liber, ab Autore recognitus: cum Indicibus diversis, quicquid in opere tractatum est, pulchrè demonstrantibus.

Basel: Hieronymus Froben and Nicolaus Bischoff, March 1556 Stock Code: 80925
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One of the first technological books of modern times

First edition. "The first systematic treatise on mining and metallurgy and one of the first technological books of modern times" (PMM). The book is extensively illustrated with a fine series of almost 300 woodcuts, some signed with the monogram "RMD", generally attributed to Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch (fl. 1525-1572) or, less commonly, Blasius Weffring. Preparation of the woodcuts delayed publication until four months after the author's death.

Mining as an industry underwent dramatic changes in medieval Europe, with the centre of technological development being central Europe. From his base in Saxony, the prodigiously scholarly Georgius Agricola (the Latinized name of Georg Pawer) was ideally placed to discuss the technologies used, the chemistry behind the processes of mineral extraction, and - reflecting his role as town physician at Joachimsthal, a centre of mining and smelting works - the health and daily routine of mine workers. One of the prime issues confronting medieval miners (and one which Agricola explains in detail) was the removal of water from mining shafts. Written over a 20-year period between 1530 and 1550, the 12 books have an earlier treatise on subterranean zoology, De animantibus subterraneis (first published Basel: 1549), appended, and "embrace 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" (PMM). The twelfth book deals with the production and refining of crude oil and bitumen.

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Folio (317 x 219 mm) in sixes, complete with blank leaf [alpha]6. Seventeenth-century calf, skilfully rebacked with original spine laid down, relined, spine gilt in compartments, red morocco label, double gilt rules. Housed in a dark brown flat-back cloth box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Woodcut title device, repeated on Bb6v, 2 woodcut plates (edges folded in), woodcut illustrations and diagrams in the text, white-on-black initials. Roman, Greek, and gothic types.


Binding rubbed and with light scoring, early manuscript notes at head of title; an excellent copy, clean and well-margined, of an important book not uncommonly found in poor state.


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