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De re metallica


De re metallica (Latin for On the Nature of Metals (Minerals)) is a book cataloging the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals, published in 1556. The author was Georg Bauer, whose pen name was the Latinized Georgius Agricola.[1] The book remained the authoritative text on mining for 250 years after its publication.

Agricola had spent nine years in the Bohemian town of Joachimsthal, now in the Czech Republic. (Joachimsthal is famous for its silver mines and the origin of the word "Thaler.") After Joachimsthal, he spent the rest of his life in Chemnitz, a prominent mining town in what was then Saxony. Both Joachimsthal and Chemnitz are in the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains.

One of the primary problems this book addressed was the removal of water from the mines. The limit Agricola documents for raising water from the mines via a pump is 32 feet. It could then be dumped into another level and pumped from there. The investigation of this problem (and its popularization) would spark a discussion leading to the discovery of air pressure. Also included in this volume are discussions of the geology of ore bodies, surveying, mine construction, and ventilation.

De Re Metallica was not limited to mining. It also covered assaying, refining, smelting, and marketing. It covered the creation of saltpeter, and the use of different acids in the refining process, as well as alchemy, timbering, and even some on the diseases of miners and smelters.

Although Agricola died in 1555, the publication was delayed until the completion of the extensive and detailed woodcuts. The book was costly and limited in distribution: in many areas it was chained in churches, so that the priest could translate from Latin for parishioners. [2]One of the rare editions (printed in 1657 in Italy) of this book can be found[3] in the library of the Franciscan monastery of Kreševo.

In 1912, the first English translation of De Re Metallica was privately published in London by subscription. The translators were Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer (and later President of the United States), and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, a geologist and Latinist. The translation is notable not only for its clarity of language, but for the extensive footnotes, which detail the history of mining law in England, France, and the German states; mining safety, including historical safety; and known minerals at the time that Agricola wrote De Re Metallica.

Subsequent translations into other languages, including German, owe much to the Hoover translations, as their footnotes detail their difficulties with Agricola's baroque vocabulary.

See also

  • Connections (TV series) Episode 3: Distant Voices
  • Scientific literature


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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "De_re_metallica". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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