Item #15545 Pirotechnia. Vannuccio BIRINGUCCIO.


Venice: C. Maesta, 1550. 4to. viii, 167, [1] leaves. SECOND EDITION. Title within woodcut border with elaborate woodcut illustrations of various machines and apparatus, numerous text woodcuts as well as elaborate woodcut initials. Eighteenth century vellum backed marbled boards, edges and corners worn; first 8 leaves repaired at upper right corner, some browning, contemporary annotations throughout. Contemporary ownership signature of Giovanni Giulio Bruschi on title (he signs Brusco on the final leaf above the colophon), another signature, Alfonso Ruso (?) with an additional notation partially cut off at the bottom of the title page, and an annotation in pencil of Henry Blumenberg Jr. Dated July 1, 1925, Los Angeles, Cal., on the fly-leaf. Item #15545

Second edition. This was the first printed book dealing with metallurgy. It was “written for the practicing metallurgist, foundryman, dyer, type-founder, glass-maker, and maker of gunpowder, fireworks and chemicals used in warfare. The second chapter is devoted to alum. Here is first mentioned cobalt blue and manganese and the use of sodium chloride for separating gold and silver from baser metals” (Dibner). Biringuccio here gives the earliest account of typecasting and the making of statues, medallions, and bells. “Agricola freely borrowed several sections of the Pirotechnia for use in his later work” (Hoover). All of Biringuccio’s descriptions are original, and his intention with the book was definitely descriptive. He viewed alchemy as “nontechnical and noncodifiable” by its practitioners. The woodcuts depict furnaces for distillation, bellows mechanisms, and devices for boring cannon and drawing wire. "The Pirotechnia is a prime source on many practical aspects of inorganic chemistry. Biringuccio emphasizes the adaptation of minerals and metals to use — their alloying, working, and especially the art of casting, of which he writes in great detail. In this area he is far better than the two other sixteenth-century authors with whom he is inevitably compared, Georgius Argicola and Lazarus Ercker.”

According to Smith & Gnudi, the translators of the English edition (1942), this second edition is typographically superior to the first edition of 1540.

Biringuccio (1480-1539?), after travelling throughout Italy and Germany, inspecting metallurgical operations and running an iron mine and forge at Boccheggiano, was appointed director of the mint at Siena. He later cast cannon and built fortifications for the Este and Farnese families. At the time of his death he was head of the papal foundry and director of papal munitions at Rome.

Price: $8,500.00

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