Pirotechnia. Li diece libri della Pirotechnia, nelliquali si tratta non solo la diversita delle minere, ma ancho quanto si ricerca alla prattica di esse: e di quanto s’appartiene all’arte della fusione over getto de metalli, d’ogni altra cosa a questa somigliante.

[Colophon:] In Vinegia [Venice]: per Giovan Padoana, a instantia di Curtio di Navo,1550

4to, ff. (viii), 167, (1). Title within ornate woodcut border depicting working apparatus, printer’s handsome woodcut device on recto of last leaf, numerous pictorial woodcuts in the text. Small stain in lower inner corners only occasionally encroaching on the text, otherwise a very clean copy. Eighteenth century marbled boards (ends of spine slightly rubbed), red lettering label and paper shelf label on spine.

Second edition of the only printed work to cover the whole field of metallurgy as known at that time, and the first comprehensive account of the fire-using arts. This work is the fruit of Biringuccio’s actual experience, and embraces virtually the whole field of technology. It is divided into ten books, which deal with (1) metallic ores; (2) the “semi-minerals” (including mercury, sulphur, gems and glass); (3) assaying and preparing ores for smelting; (4) the parting of gold and silver, both with nitric acid, and with antimony sulfide or sulphur; (5) alloys of gold, silver, copper, lead, and tin; (6) the art of casting large statues and guns; (7) furnaces and methods of melting metals; (8) the making of small castings; (9) miscellaneous pyrotechnical operations, including alchemy, distillation, smithing and pottery; and (10) the making of saltpetre, gunpowder and fireworks. “Virtually all of Biringuccio’s descriptions are original. He is important in art history for his description of the peculiarly Renaissance arts of casting medallions, statues, statuettes, and bells. His account of typecasting, given in considerable detail, is the earliest known. The Pirotechnia contains eighty-three woodcuts, the most useful being those depicting furnaces for distillation, bellows mechanisms, and devices for boring cannon and drawing wire... “[It] is a prime source on many practical aspects of inorganic chemistry... Biringuccio’s approach is in strong conflict with that of the alchemists, whose work he evaluates in eleven pages of almost modern criticism, distinguishing their practical achievements from their theoretical motivations... “Biringuccio has been called one of the principal exponents of the experimental method...” (DSB). This is Biringuccio’s only published book and the sole source for his work. This second edition is typographically superior to the first edition of 1540 according to Smith & Gnudi, the translators of the English edition (1942). Hoover catalogue 130. Duveen p. 79. See Dibner 38; Parkinson, Breakthroughs, 1540; Stillwell, The awakening interest in science, VI, 827. Partington, II, pp. 32–37. Singer, History of technology, III, p. 27, etc. Cockle, Military books, 931.


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