The 1556 first edition of a masterpiece by Georgius Agricola that helped geologists, miners, and smelters for centuries

Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica

Switzerland — 1556

Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica

Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica

Switzerland — 1556

  1. Georg Bauer (1494–1555), also known as Georgius Agricola, is regarded as “the Father of Minerology”

  2. He dedicated the twenty most fruitful years of his life to writing the treatise, which has been influential for centuries

  3. It is artfully adorned by 227 detailed woodcuts by Basilius Weffring, which took three years to make

Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica

Alternative Titles:
  • Georgius Agricolas De Re Metallica
  • Georgius Agricola. De Re Metallica
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology
Short Description

De Re Metallica is a masterpiece by Georg Bauer (1494-1555), known by the Latinized version of his name: Georgius Agricola. Its content – clear, precise and novel in many aspects – has helped geologists, miners and smelters for centuries. 227 detailed woodcuts by Basilius Weffring, to which he dedicated three years of his life, make the work an artistic treasure as well. Published in 1556, one year after the author’s death, the work has gained the attention and praise of scholars ranging from Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) to the mining engineer and later President of the United States Herbert Hoover (1874-1964). In collaboration with his wife Lou Henry Hoover (1874-1944), a geologist and Latinist, they completed an authoritative translation into English in 1912, upon which numerous subsequent translations were based. This is the authoritative text on geology, mining and metallurgy and forms a cornerstone of those disciplines today.

Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica

Knowledge of mining, minerology, and metallurgy was reserved to a small group of professionals and handed down orally from one generation to another across the Middle Ages. A small, cosmopolitan elite was responsible for the construction of great cathedrals and exploring the mysteries of alchemy. This began to change with the Renaissance culture of learning, aided by the invention of the printing press. De Re Metallica is a masterpiece by Georg Bauer (1494-1555), known by the Latinized version of his name: Georgius Agricola. He dedicated the twenty most fruitful years of his life to writing the treatise, and his knowledge of the classics and his status as physician and apothecary ennobled the study of geology and mining. 227 detailed woodcuts by Basilius Weffring, to which he dedicated three years of his life, make the work an artistic treasure as well. Its content – clear, precise and novel in many aspects – has helped geologists, miners, and smelters for centuries. The first edition is presented here and was published in 1556, one year after the author’s death. An authoritative translation into English, upon which numerous subsequent translations were based, was completed in 1912 by the mining engineer and later President of the United States Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) and his wife Lou Henry Hoover (1874-1944), a geologist and Latinist. The translation includes explanations for Agricola's invention of several hundred Latin expressions to cover medieval German mining and milling terms that were unknown to classical Latin.

“The Father of Minerology”

Agricola was gifted with a wonderful intellect and received the equivalent of a modern primary and secondary education in several schools in Glauchau, Zwickau, and Magdeburg. After his studies at the University of Leipzig, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree and began his professional activity teaching Greek and Latin. In 1523 he began his medical studies at the University of Leipzig to continue in Bologna and Venice. He was chosen as town physician at Joachimsthal in modern Czechia, a center of mining and smelting works. Agricola returned to Chemnitz, another center of mining, in 1530 after being appointed historiographer by Prince Maurice of Saxony (1521-53). There he held important positions related to politics and administration: mayor, counselor of the Court of Saxony and mediator in the Reformation, between local authorities and Emperor Charles V. The Catholic Agricola was forced to resign as mayor by the Protestant population of Chemnitz, allowing him to retire to private life and focus entirely on his scholarly pursuits. The great humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) was a fervent admirer of the innovative works of Agricola. Erasmus, as we can read in Bermannus sive de re metallica dialogus, proclaims the uniqueness of Agricola's writings: "such a lucid mind cannot produce anything mediocre."

A Masterpiece in 12 Books

De Re Metallica is divided into twelve books. In them he tells us:
1. The reasons why the study of geology, mining and metallurgy is interesting.
2. The qualities that a miner must possess. The rod to locate those singular points of the earth where the minerals are concentrated.
3. The veins and deposits.
4. The officers of the mines and working conditions.
5. Surveying, fixing, construction of galleries and the search for minerals.
6. The tools, pumps, drains, machinery and diseases of the miners.
7. Methods of assay of minerals in wood and bone ash cups. The muffle furnaces. The process includes the scorification of the pyrite ores, the use of the touchstone and the needles for tests built with the gold, silver and copper alloy.
8. The preparation of minerals: selection, crushing, milling, washing, roasting, and the amalgamation process for gold.
9. It deals with melting furnaces and the preparation of mercury by descent.
10. It describes the separation of gold and silver by cementation, fusion with sulfur or antimony, and the dissolution of silver in nitric acid.
11. Describes the separation of silver from copper and the construction of furnaces. He also talks about the methods used for the rolling of metals and for the manufacture of parts. End this chapter with the procedures to separate iron from silver.
12. Obtaining common salt from both natural solutions and seawater. Obtaining alkaline substances from the ashes of plants. Methods of extraction and purification of saltpeter, alum and vitriol. The manufacture of glass objects.

Codicology
Alternative Titles
Georgius Agricolas De Re Metallica
Georgius Agricola. De Re Metallica
Date
1556
Language
Content
Agricola's treatise "On the Nature of Metals (Minerals)"
Artist / School
1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica“

Georgius Agricola. De Re Metallica Facsimile

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Georgius Agricola. De Re Metallica Facsimile

1 volume: This facsimile is not complete.
Limited Edition
1000 copies
Commentary
1 volume by Ernst Darmstaedter and Paul Knauth
Language: German
More Information
Reprint of the 1928 German translation by Georgius Agricolas De re Metallica with a foreword to the 1928 and 1961 editions. Both the illustrations and the initials are based on the 1556 Latin edition. The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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