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Vannoccio Biringucci
BIRINGUCCI, Vannoccio.

BIRINGUCCI, Vannoccio.
(1480 - 1539)

(Born: Sienna, Italy Born:, baptised, 20 October 1480; Died: Rome, Italy, August 1539) Italian metallurgist & chemist.

As a young man, Biringuccio travelled throughout Italy and Germany, inspecting metallurgical operations, and working in them. After running an iron mine and forge at Boccheggiano for Pandolfo Petrucci, the ruler of Siena, he was forced to leave when Petrucci was overthrown. At some point he was in charge of a silver mine in Carinthia (until 1508). He was in Milan for a time and then in Ferrara in the service of Alfonso d'Este. When he returned to Siena with Petrucci, he was appointed (by Petrucci) to a post with arsenal at Siena and in 1513 director of the mint. In 1516, after the fall of the Petrucci family, he was exiled again. He returned with the Petrucci once more in 1523, and was exiled again in 1526. In the fighting in 1526 at Siena he commanded the artillery. Thereafter he served the Venetian and Florentine republics, and cast cannon and built fortifications for the Este and Farnese families. At some point he also served Pier Luigi Farnese, Duke of Parma. In 1531, with a new reconciliation he returned to Siena as senator and as architect and director of building construction at the Duomo. In 1534 he was appointed head of the papal foundry and director of papal munitions and captain of the papal artillery. His reputation is derived from the posthumous publication of his Pirotechnia (1540).

Biographical references: ABI: II 65, 308-312; II S 11, 110. Dizionario Biografico Italiani. Lippmann, E.O.v., "Biringuccio und Agricola", Isis, 26, (1936), 37-8. Mayerhöfer, Lexikon der Naturwissenschaften, 1958-75: 474-5. Mieli, A., "Vannoccio Bringuccio e il metodo sperimentale", Isis, 2, (1914), 90-9. Mieli, Gli Scienziati Italianì, 1921: 1, 20-4. Nouvelle Biographie Générale (Hoefer). Partington, J.R., "Biringuccio and Agricola", Isis, 26, (1936), 37-8. Partington, J.R., "Vannuccio Biringuccio (early 16th century)", Isis, 24, (1935), 121. Provenzal, Bio-Bibliografici di Chimici Italiani, 1938: pp. 5-10. WBI.

De la Pirotechnia, 1540

1. Italian, 1540 [First edition].
[Contained within an elaborate woodcut frame showing various metallurgical apparatus:] De La Piro- | technia. | Libri. X. Dove Ampiamen | te si tratta non solo di ogni sorte & di- | uersita di Miniere, ma anchora quan | to si ricerca intorno à la prattica di | quelle cose di quel che si appartiene | a l'arte de la fusione ouer gitto de me | talli come d'ogni altra cosa simile à | questa. Composti per il. S. Vanoc- | cio Biringuccio Sennese. | Con Priuilegio Apostolico & de la | Cesarea Maesta & del Illustriss. Sena | to Venero. M D XL. [with rule over year].

4° (in 8s): [ornament]8 A-X8; 176l.; no pagination but text leaves foliated. Title within ornamental border containing publisher's device. Colophon: Stampata in Venetia per Venturino Roffinello. Ad instantia di Curtio Nauo. & fratelli. Del M.CCCCC.XL. Page size: 211 x 150 mm.

Contents: [1 pg/=[ornament]1r], Title page.; [1 pg/=[ornament]1v], Dedication with a large device on the bottom half of the page.; [4 pgs/=[ornament]2r-[ornament]3v], "Tavola." (=table of contents).; [10 pgs/=[ornament]4r-[ornament]8v], Text "Liber Primo."; l. 1-l. 168 (=A1r-X8r), Text.; [1 pg/=X8v], Blank.

Rare. Published posthumously, this book is the first printed treatise covering the whole field of metallurgy, but it is also full of mineralogy, applied chemistry, gunpowder manufacture, military arts, typecasting and fireworks information. It is a practical work, mostly of original observations and based upon first-hand information gathered by the author during his lifetime of employment in mines, forges, mints, cannon foundries, and munitions works. Atypical of his time, Biringucci is not prone to mystical speculation in his descriptions, and consequently the book is one of the most remarkable records of sixteenth century technology. Unfortunately, Biringucci was gone by the time the manuscript reached publication, and consequently, some of the topics covered are not as clear as perhaps the author could have made them, had he lived.

The prologue of the text deals with the signs that indicate the occurrence of minerals. Among several indicators are the abundance of water since metals are formed in water and a test for mineralization by evaporating the water and subjecting the residue to assay by fire. Book I describes the ores of gold, silver, copper, lead, tin, iron, steel (which he thought was very pure iron) and brass. Book II covers the semi-minerals such as mercury, sulfur, antimony, marcasite, vitriols, alum, arsenic, orpiment and realgar, common salt, saltpeter, sal ammoniac, sal alkali, emery, borax, magnet, etc. Book III describes the preparation of ores for assaying and smelting. Book IV concerns the separation of gold and silver, with detailed instructions for preparing nitric acid from saltpeter and pure alum. Book V describes common metal alloys and Book VI provides full instructions for casting bronze, including canon and bells. Books VII-VIII deal with foundry work, furnaces and casting. Book IX provides the first published description of the amalgamation process for extracting silver from its ores, by grinding in a mill with sublimate, verdigris, common salt, vinegar and mercury. Book IX deals with distillation, while Book X on pyrotechnics describes the preparation of incendiary mixtures, such as gun powder manufacture, bombs and other explosive devices.

Biringucci's description of metal alloys and their casting excels those of Ercker and Agricola, and his sections on glass, steel and the purification of salts by crystallization were copied by Agricola in his famous De Re Metallica (1st ed., Basilae, 1556). For its account of the methods of casting medallions, statues, and bells, the Pirotechnia is important in art history. Its also contains an important account of typecasting. In chemistry Biringucci includes the first account of silver amalgamation, and early descriptions of antimony, cobalt blue and manganese.

Facsimile reprint, 1914: De la pirotechnia, 1540. Edizione, critica condotta sulla prima edizione, corredata di note, prefazioni, appendici ed indici, ed ornata dalle riproduzioni del frontespizio e delle 82 figure originali a cura di Aldo Mieli. Vol. I. [All published]. Bari, Societa Tipografica Editrice Barese, 1914. lxxxv, 198 p., illus. Published as: Classici delle Scienzi e della Filosofia. Serie Scientifica, 1.

This was to be a definitive modern edition, but unfortunately ended with chapter 6 of Book II. A valuable account of Biringucci's life and analysis of the background and contribution of the Pirotechnia are included.

Facsimile reprint, 1977: De la pirotechnia 1540. Vannoccio Biringuccio a cura di Adriano Carugo. Milano, Il polifilo, 1977. 8°: lxxxvii p., 168 l., illus. Includes index. Bibliography, p. lvii-[lviii]. Reprint of 1540 first edition, with an introduction in Italian and English.

German transl., 1925: Pirotechnia. Ein Lehrbuch der chemisch-metallurgischen Technologie und des Artilleriewesens aus dem 6. Jahrhundert. Uebersetzt und erläutert von Otto Johannsen. Braunschweig, Vieweg, 1925. 8°: [i]-xvi, [1]-544 p., 85 illus. A complete translation of the 1540 first edition by Otto Johannsen.

English transl., 1942: The | Pirotechnia | Of | Vannoccio Biringuccio | Translated From The Italian | With An Introduction And Notes | By | Cyril Stanley Smith | & | Martha Teach Gnudi | New York | The American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers | 1942. 8°: xxvi, 476, [2] p., frontispiece, illus., diagrs.

Published as part of the Seeley W. Mudd Series in an edition of 1,000 copies. The frontispiece is a facsimile of the title-page of the first edition of 1540. Bibliography, p. [462]-465.

English, 1959, reissue: New York, Basic Books, 1959. A photographic copy of the 1942 printing with additions to the bibliography.

Contents: [i-ii], Half title page, verso blank.; [iii-iv], Title page, verso blank.; [v]-vi, "Foreword To The First Issue."-signed Harvey S. Mudd, April 1942.; [vii]-viii, "Foreword To The Reissue."-signed Cyril Stanley Smith, November 1958.; [ix]-xxv, "Introduction."; xxvi, "Acknowledgements."; [1 pg], "Fire."; [1 pg], Facsimile of 1540 title page.; [1 pg], Title page of 1943 edition.; [1 pg], Blank.; [1], "De La Pirotechnia."; [2], "Curtio Navo, ..."; [3]-7, Table of contents.; [8], Blank.; [9]-12, "List Of Illustrations."; [13]-25, "...Preface To The First Book."; 26-446, Text of translation.; [447]-456, "Appendix A. Figures from other sources."; [457]-458, "Appendix B. Weights and Measures."; 458-461, "Appendix C. List of Editions."; [462]-466, "Appendix D. Bibliography."; [467]-477, "Index."; [1 pg], Blank.

Bibliographical references: Adams, Cambridge Books, 1967: B-2080. Brunet: 1, 954. Cockle, Bibliography of Military Books, 1900: 931. Darmstädter, Berg-Büchlein, 1926: p. 80. Dibner, Heralds of Science, 1955: 38. Discovery: 22 (1961), 36-7 [review]. Hoover & Hoover, Agricola, "De Re Metallica", 1912: 614-5. Hoover Collection: no. 129. Isis: 34 (1943), 514-6. [review]. Johannsen, O., "Biringuccio und seine `Pirotechnia'", Beiträge zur Geschichte Technische Industrie, 16, (1926), 153-61. Journal of Chemical Education: 36 (1959), 532-A638 [review]. McKie, D., "Sir Thomas Browne and Biringuccio's `Pirotechnia'", Nature, 163, (1949), 628. Mieli, Gli Scienziati Italianì, 1921. Mortimer Italian Books: no. 66. Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: 467. Norman Catalog: no. 238. Parkinson, Breakthroughs, 1985: p. 37. Partington, History of Chemistry, 1961-70: 2, 31-7. Roller & Goodman, Catalogue, 1976: 1, 120. Smith, C.S., "Biringuccio's `Pirotechnia' - a neglected Italian metallurgical classic", Mining & Metallurgy, 21, (1940), 189-92. Wellcome Catalog (Books): 1, no. 873.

2. Italian, 1550 [2nd edition].
Pirotechnia. Li diece libri della pirotechnia, nelliquali si tratta non solo la diuersita delle minere, ma ancho quanto si ricerca alla prattica di esse: e di quanto s'appartiene all' arte della fusione ouer getto de metalli, e d' ogni altra cosa a questa somigliante. Composti per il S. Vannuccio Biringuccio ... [Vinegia, Per Giouan Padoano, a instantia di Gurtio di Nauò] 1550.

8°: [Cross]8 A-X8; 176l.; [16] p., 167 numbered leaves, [2] p., illus. Leaves 126 and 164, misnumbered 124 and 146. Title within ornamental border containing publisher's device. Leaves printed on both sides. Colophon: In Vinegia, per Giouan Padoano, a instantia di Gurtio (i.e., Curtio) di Nauo. MDL.

Very scarce. The text has been reset in a newer type and the illustrations are from the same blocks as the first edition.

Bibliographical references: BM/STC Italian: p. 106. Brunet: 1, p. 357. Hoover Collection: no. 130. Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: 468. Shaaber, Sixteenth Century Imprints, 1976: B-416.

3. Italian, 1558/9 [3rd edition].
[Contained within an elaborate woodcut frame showing various metallurgical apparatus:] Pirotechnia. | Li Diece Libri Della | Pirotechnia, | Nelli quali si tratta non solo la diuersità del- | le minere, ma ancho quanto si ricerca alla | prattica di esse: e de quanto s'appar- | tiene all'arte della fusione ouer | getto de metalli, e d'ogni | altra cosa à questa so | migliante. | Composta Per Il S. | Vannucoio Biringoccio, | nobile Senese. | Col Privilegio Apostolico, | e della C. Maestà, e dell' Illustriß. Senato Veneto. | [rule] | M D LVIII.

8°: *8 A4 B-X8; 176l.; [8], 168 numberedl., illus. Title within ornamental border containing publisher's device of Curzio Navo; publisher's device on leaf 168r. Colophon: In Vinegia per Comin da Trino di Monferrato. M D LIX. Page size: 202 x 148 mm.

Contents: *1r, Title page.; *1v, "Al Molto Reverendo Monsig."; *2r-*3v, "In Cominicia La Tavola Di Tvtto Il | ..." [=table of contents].; *4r-*8v, "Il Proemio Nella Pirote- | ctnia Del Signor Vannvccio."; Folios, 1-168r (=A1r-X8r), Text.; 168v (=X8v), Blank.

Very scarce. Utilizes the same blocks as the first editon of 1540.

Bibliographical references: Gamba: 1261. Hoover Collection: no. 131. Roller & Goodman, Catalogue, 1976: 1, 120. Shaaber, Sixteenth Century Imprints, 1976: B-417. Wellcome Catalog (Books): 1, no. 874.

4. Italian, 1559 [4th edition].
Pirotechnia | Dell's. Vannuccio Biringuccio | Senese; Nella Qvale Si Tratta Non | solo della diversita delle minere, ma ancho di | quanto, si ricerca alla pratica di esse. E di | quanto s'appartiene all'arte della | fusione, ò getto, de metalli. | Far Campane, Arteglierie, | fuochi artificiati, & altre diuerse | cose utilissime. | Nuovamente Corretta, Et Ristam- | pata. Con la tavola della cose notabili. | [ornament] | In Venetia | Appresso P. Gironimo Giglio, e compagni. | [rule] | M. D. LIX.

8°: a-z8 aa-xx8; 352l.; [1]-345, [7]l., 84 text woodcuts (reduced, reverse copies of earlier cuts; showing various furnaces and tools in use). Printer's device on title. Historiated initials. Page size: 148 x 95 mm.

Very scarce. Unlike the previous Navo editions, this is the first text to be printed in italics. It is based upon the 1550 edition, but the illustrations have been recut by an inferior artistian, and commonly fail to show sufficient detail.

Bibliographical references: BM/STC Italian: p. 106. Brunet: 1, 357. Mortimer Italian Books: no. 66. Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: 469. Shaaber, Sixteenth Century Imprints, 1976: B-418.

5. Italian, 1678 [5th edition].
Pirotechnia | del Signor | Vannvccio Biringvccio | Senese, | Nella quale si tratta non solo della diuersità delle Minere, | ma anco di quanto si ricerca alla pratica di esse, e che | s'appartiene all' arte della fusione, | ò getto de Metalli. | Far Campane, Artigliarie, fuochi artificiati, & altre | diuerse cose vtilissime. | Nuouamente corretta, e ristampata, con le Figure appropriate | à suoi luoghi, e due Tauole l'vna de Capitoli, | e l'altra delle cose Notablli [!]. | [rule] | Dedicata | All' Illustriss. & Eccellentiss. Sig. e Padron Colendiss. | Il Signor Marchese | Givseppe Montecvccoli. | [ornament] | In Bologna, per Gioseffo Longhi. | [rule] | Con Licenza de' Svperiori.

8°: a-b8 A-Pp8 Qq11; 331l.; [32], [1]-630 p., 84 illus. Title within rule borders including coat of arms of dedicatee, Giuseppe Montecuccoli. Edited by Natale Doriguzzi, who also signs the dedication

Contents: [2 pgs], Title page, verso blank.; [5 pgs], Dedicaton.; [1 pg], "Licence."; [23 pgs], Preface.; [1 pg], Blank.; 1-615, Text.; 616-622, Contents.; 623-630, Index.

Very scarce. This edition is dedicated by the publisher, Natale Doriguzzi, to the Marchese Giuseppe Montecuculi, brother of the famous Raymond [1608-1680]. It follows the 1559 edition in general format and size. Once again the illustrations have been recut, and are again inferior to the first editions.

Bibliographical references: BL [957.b.37.]. Cole, Chemical Literature, 1988: no. 155. Duveen, Bibliotheca Alchemica et Chemica, 1965: p. 641. Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: 470. NUC [NB 0501075]. Wellcome Catalog (Books): 1, 170.

French editions

6. French, 1556 [French transl., 1st edition].
La pyrotechnie, ov art dv fev, contenant dix livres, avsqvels est amplement traicté de toutes sortes & diuersité de minieres, fusions & separations des metaux: des formes & moules pour getter artilleries, cloches & toutes autres figures: des distillations, des mines, contremines, pots, boulets, fusees, lances, & autres feuz artificiels, concernants l'art militaire, & autres choses dependantes du feu. Composée par le Seigneur Vanoccio Biringuccio Siennois. Et traduite d'Italien en François, par le feu maistre Iaques Vincent ... A Paris, Chez Claude Fremy a l'Enseigne S. Martin, rue S. Iaques, 1556.

4°: *4 a-z4 A-Kk4 Ll6; 234l.; [4]l., 228 (i.e., 230) numb.l., illus. Title vignette.

Rare. although the royal privilege is dated 1552, this book was not published until 1556. It is a translation by "feu maistre" Jaques Vincent, and is dedicated to Jehan de la Marche. The text is excellently printed and the illustrations well copied. However, the translation is not particularly good, having omissions, condensations and misinterpertations. It was the three French editions that most English writers have used for source material, thereby providing a false interpertation of Biringucci's ideas.

Bibliographical references: Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: 471. Shaaber, Sixteenth Century Imprints, 1976: B-419.

7. French, 1572 [French transl., 2nd edition].
La pyrotechnie, ov Art dv fev, contenant dix livres, avsqvels est amplement traicté de toutes sortes & diuersité de minières, fusions & separations des metaux, des formes & moules pour getter artilleries, cloches & toutes autres figures, des distillations, des mines, contremines, pots, boulets, fusees, lances, & autres feuz artificiels, concernants l'art militaire, & autres choses dependantes du feu, composée par le Seigneur Vanoccio Biringuccio Siennois. Et traduite d'Italien en François, par le feu maistre Iaques Vincent. A Paris, Chez Claude Fremy, 1572.

8°: [4], 168l., illus.

Very scarce. The text is reset in a smaller type from the French 1556 edition.

Bibliographical references: Neu, Chemical, Medical & Pharmaceutical Books, 1965: 472. Wellcome Catalog (Books): 1, no. 875.

8. French, 1627 [French transl., 3rd edition].
La Pyrothécnie, ou Art du Feu, contentant dix livres. Ausquels est amplement Traicté de toutes fortes & diversité de Minieres, Fusions & separations des Metaux: des Formes & moules pour jetter Artilleries, cloches & toutes autres figures: des distillations, des Mines, contremines, pots, boulets, fusees, lances, & autres feux artificiels, concernans l'Art Militaire, & autres choses dependantes du Feu. Composée en Italien ... Et depuis Traduite en François par Jacques Vincent. Rouen, Chez Jacques Cailloüé, 1627.

4°: [2]l., 228 (i.e., 230)l., [2]l., illus. Woodcut vignette on title, 84 small panel woodcuts in the text (mostly numbered), woodcut initials and head- and tail-pieces.

Scarce. The work was first translated into French in 1556.

Bibliographical references: Kress Catalogue: S.581.

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