De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition

De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition Facsimile Edition

Venice (Italy) — 1550

From ore mining to goldsmithing to the hardening of steel: the world's first treatise on metallurgy with 84 precise woodcuts of the various processes and technical principles of metalworking

  1. Vannoccio Biringuccio (ca. 1480 – ca. 1539) was an Italian metallurgist from the Tuscan city of Siena

  2. During the years 1507–1508 he traveled through Italy and Germany, visiting the great mining centers

  3. 84 detailed, highly accurate engravings demonstrate various processes and technical principles

De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition

De la Pirotechnia was the world’s first treatise on mining and metallurgy and constitutes one of the first technical manuals. It was written by the Italian metallurgist Vannoccio Biringuccio (ca. 1480 – ca. 1539), who was closely connected with the Petrucci family who ruled his native Siena at the time. Biringuccio’s treatise, whose title translates into English as “Of the Art of Fire”, was published posthumously in Venice in 1540, enjoying such success that the printer issued a second edition in 1550, and a third in 1559, which was published under the shortened title Pirotechnia. The second edition, presented here, is identical to the first in terms of format, structure, engravings, and initials. Various processes and technological principles are explained with the aid of 84 detailed, highly accurate engravings.

De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition

The first printed book concerning metallurgy was written by Vannoccio Biringuccio (ca. 1480 – ca. 1539), an Italian metallurgist from the Tuscan city of Siena. Biringuccio’s treatise was published posthumously in Venice in 1540, enjoying such success that the printer issued a second edition in 1550, and a third in 1559, which was published under the shortened title Pirotechnia. The work was translated into English in the 20th century by Cyril Stanley Smith (1903–1992), a British metallurgist, historian of science, and a senior chemist on the Manhattan Project. “Of the Art of Fire” is the world’s first treatise on mining and metallurgy and constitutes one of the first technical manuals. Biringuccio assembled knowledge accumulated across centuries and combined it with his own personal experience as a metallurgist. Various processes and technological principles are explained with the aid of 84 detailed, highly accurate engravings. The second edition, presented here, is identical to the first in terms of format, structure, engravings, and initials. The book was acquired inter alia at auction from the library of Honorato Juan, Bishop of Osma (d. 1566) by express mandate of King Philip II (1527–98) in the year 1567. The work is bound in embossed greenish gray calf leather and has been lovingly preserved for 500 years in the Royal Library of El Escorial Monastery.

A Renaissance Metallurgist

Biringuccio was born in Siena and baptized on October 20th, 1480, son of Paolo Biringuccio and Lucrecia di Bartolomeo. His father, an architect, was superintendent of the urban and architectural works of Siena, being closely linked to the Petrucci family, the lords of this city. With the support of Pandolfo Petrucci (1452–1512), Biringuccio began working at the Bocchenggiano iron mine, and later in the Monte Avanzo silver mine in Carnia. During the years 1507–1508 he traveled through Italy and Germany, visiting the great mining centers, observing and experimenting with everything related to metallurgy, foundries and even alchemy. After Pandolfo Petrucci died in 1512, his son Borghese appointed Biringuccio operator of the communal Armory in 1513, and in the following year he was awarded the right to run the Sienese mint for five years. A 1515 uprising forced Biringuccio to flee Siena along with the ruling Petrucci family, going first to Rome, then Naples, and finally to Sicily in 1517. Biringuccio returned to Siena in 1523 along with Fabio Petrucci, who assumed government of the city. In 1524 he was granted a monopoly on the production of saltpeter across all of Siena. During another rising two years later on July 25th, 1526, he directed the artillery in the siege of his hometown and in the assault on the Camolia gate specifically, but the Petrucci’s efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. He went on to travel through Germany, and came to serve the Republic of Florence. He returned to Siena in 1530, working as an architect on the Duomo. At the request of Pope Paul III (1468–1549), he returned to Rome in 1536, where he died unexpectedly in the following year.

The Art of Fire in Ten Books

Pirotechnia is constituted by ten books subdivided into chapters:
BOOK I. General rules for discovering metallic minerals, techniques for digging mines, and the necessary instruments. Refutes the claims of alchemy concerning the transmutation of metals.
BOOK II. Semi-minerals, glass, gems, and the manufacture of glass.
BOOK III. The fusion of metals and how to separate them.
BOOK IV. The separation and purification of gold and silver.
BOOK V. Gold, silver, copper, lead and tin alloys.
BOOK VI. Large bronze foundries for artillery pieces and bells.
BOOK VII. Various types of furnace used in the melting of metals, production of firearms.
BOOK VIII. The art of “piccola del gitto”, i.e. the casting of small artistic objects.
BOOK IX. Distillation, “alchimicha art”, pottery, preparation of brick and mortar, goldsmithing, iron forging, coin minting, and the manufacture of metal mirrors.
BOOK X. The manufacture of gunpowder, explosives, and fireworks.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
De la Pirotechnia - Zweite Ausgabe
Size / Format
334 pages / 19.7 × 14.5 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1550
Language
Illustrations
84 large illustrative xylographs and various decorative initials
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition – RBME Mª 8-II-3 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Detail Picture

De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition

Waterwheel and Bellows

As medieval metallurgy advanced, smiths required higher and higher temperatures. Waterwheels were used to power the bellows in blast furnaces, which first appeared in Scandinavia ca. 1100. They were primarily used for creating cast iron, which had many applications ranging from simple tools to doors, canons, and even entire bridges. Alloying elements such as carbon and silicon can be added to the glowing molten iron to change its properties. Furthermore, a water wheel never grows tired and eliminates the need for unskilled laborers to work the bellows.

De la Pirotechnia
Single Page

De la Pirotechnia - Second Edition

Title Page

The long and elaborate full title of the work is presented on this wonderfully decorated page with countless metallurgical instruments and creations as well as heraldic elements including a lion with a banderole in the bas-de-page and a crowned female figure at the top of the page named VENETIA. Holding a pair of scales, she appears to be sitting on a pair of lions between a sailing ship and a suit of classically styled armor.

The rest of the woodcut border shows the various applications of “pyrotechnics” for mining, smelting, and various other commercial enterprises. Some of the objects include hand tools, a wheelbarrow, bells, copper stills for distillation, cannons, and an anvil. This wonderfully detailed and diverse collection of objects related to metallurgy is a celebration of all that medieval smiths were able to accomplish.

De la Pirotechnia
Facsimile Editions

#1 De la Pirotechnia

Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2010

Publisher: Circulo Cientifico – Madrid, 2010
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Tooled leather binding
Commentary: 1 volume by José Carrasco Galán, Eleonora Arrigoni, Enrique De Miguel Fernández, Alejandrino Gallego Rodríguez, and José L. G. Sánchez-Molero
Language: Spanish

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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