GEORGIUS AGRICOLA t. DE RE METALLICA. TRANSLATED FROM THE FIRST LATIN EDITION OF with. Biographical Introduction, Annotations and. De Re Metallica By: Georgius Agricola Originally published in , Agricola’s De ReM etallica was the first book on mining to be based on field research. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. A Presidential Classic The original edition of De Re Metallica (On the Nature of Metals, or Minerals) by Georg Bauer, writing.

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The work covers the mining industry and everything related to it and ranks as one of the great scientific works of the Renaissance. It brought the surviving experiential knowledge of the miners together with the classical school of the humanists.

Mining already took place in prehistoric times. At the Limburg Rijckholt mining complex the remains of ancient flint mines are visible which date back to around BC. In the bronze and iron ages the extraction and processing of metal ores became of interest. Powerful states like the Roman Empire could only exist thanks to the availability of sufficient metals and other raw materials. The history of Western civilization is inseparably connected with the mining industry.

The prehistoric mines at Rijckholt already consist of an extensive underground tunnel complex. Nevertheless, initially quarrying predominantly existed at the surface or in shallow open grooves. With the increasing demand for metals more complicated mining systems were created. As tunnels got deeper, drainage and ventilation demands became more urgent. As a consequence, all kinds of technical innovations gradually entered the mining industry.

De re metallica | work by Agricola |

In Western Europe a blooming period for the mining industry began in the middle ages. The first important mines here were those at Goslar in the Harz mountains, taken into commission in the tenth century. Another famous mining town is Falun in Metallicw where since the thirteenth century until the present day copper is being won.

The rise of Western European mining industry depended, of course, closely gelrgius the increasing weight of Western Europe on the stage of world history. In the history books more attention has traditionally been paid to generals, kings and artists than to things like mining and technology. Still, it is exactly these 2 areas that made the flourishing mrtallica Western European civilization to a large extent possible. On the other hand, the lack of interest is, however, understandable.

Especially very little is known about medieval mining. Mining was typically left to professionals, craftsmen and experts who were not eager to share their knowledge. Much experiential knowledge had been accumulated over the course of time in the following areas:. This knowledge was handed down orally within a small group of technicians and mining overseers. In the middle ages these people held the same leading role as the master builders of the great cathedrals, or perhaps also alchemists.

It was a small, cosmopolitan elite within which existing knowledge was passed on and further developed but not shared with the outside world. Their knowledge was in part probably still dating back to that in classical antiquity. Through all kinds of routes, among others through the Byzantine Empire, old Roman techniques had reached Western Europe.

De Re Metallica full text & illustrated. Agricola. Hoover.

It is clear however that those mining techniques were going through a stormy development in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. As mentioned before we know very little of what precisely took place in that era.


Our knowledge of medieval mining relies mainly on archaeological remains rw on the legal organization revolving around the mining industry. Miners, and especially mining specialists, were highly regarded and enjoyed all kinds of privileges.

Still, only a few writers from that time write anything about mining itself. Partly that was because this knowledge was very difficult to access.

De re metallica

Most writers also found it simply not worth the effort to write about it. Even though mining specialists were held in high regard, they were still considered generally illiterate craftsmen.

Scholars and other writers were rather pre-occupied with higher things and looked down on something as banal as manual work. Only in the Renaissance that perception began to change. In this time many scholars abandoned this haughty attitude and developed a lively interest for all kinds of issues previously deemed unimportant. With the improved transport and the invention of the printing press knowledge spread much easier and faster than before.

The most important work in this genre were, however, the twelve books De Re Metallica by Georgius Agricola, published in Agricola his real name was Georg Bauer was born in in Glauchau in Saxony. He was the type of the learned humanist, the universal scholar of the Renaissance.

He was friends with Erasmus, who vigorously promoted his work. His main job was that of doctor, but he studied all known science in that time.

In his youth he taught Latin and Greek for a while; During this time he also published a Latin grammar. Inhe returned to Germany and in he was appointed city physician and pharmacist of the City St.

Joachimsthal in the Ore mountains. Joachimsthal the current Jachymov in Czechia was only a few years earlier, increated after rich silver finds on site. In the time of Agricola it had already become one of the most important mining centers of Europe. A new, heavy silver coin was struck from the ore found there. This coin was named after the place of origin: Around to Agricola returned to his native country. He settled in Chemnitz where he found the time to write and publish.

As was befitting a scholar of his time he wrote about all kinds of subjects: In addition, he was actively involved in the politics of his time.

As such he took part in several national days and peace talks which were held in connection with the wars of religion in Germany. His greatest interest, however, was focused on all kinds of subjects associated with the mining industry.

He published writings on minerals and what we now would call geology. He also dedicated a writing to subterranean flows and — which may sound slightly curious — he wrote a book about underground animals. His principal work, however, are the twelve books De Re Metallica.

After he died, preparing to have sent away in The book appeared the following year, in Agricola wrote his book in the scholarly language of that time, Latin. The work gives an overview of everything that has to do with the mining industry.

Agricola covers not only metals, although he gives them the most attention, but he also discusses the extraction and preparation of substances such as salt, saltpeter, sulfur and glass. Although it is the last book that Agricola published, he must have begun with it when living in St. All in all he spent more than twenty-five years working on it.


Although he also thoroughly studied the mining industry in his own country Saxony Freiberg in Saxony was an important mining centre the basis of his work are his experiences as the town physician of St. In this city he had deepened himself thoroughly in the mining industry.

This interest was rre professional: But for the most part it was pure scientific curiosity. He constantly visited the mines and workshops and dedicated whole study trips to satisfy his curiosity. Of utmost importance were georhius dealings he had with some leading mining experts. Agricola apparently gained their trust, partly of course because they knew him as a doctor. Still Agricola did not come to know all the secrets of the trade.

But thanks to these people he had access to a large amount of experiential knowledge that otherwise would have remained hidden.

One of his miner friends, a certain Lorenz Berman, was the main character in a dialogue that he published when still in St. This dialogue, in which mainly mining knowledge is aricola, can be considered a preliminary study for his later De Re Metallica. In his book, Agricola aims to give a comprehensive overview of everything which is mining related as he talks about the organization of mining and the various functions in the mines.

He also offers practical advice, for example that it is unwise to start a company in a country whose ruler is a despot. Such an opinion is indicative of the time in which he lived.

He also speaks about the different types of reefs and the way to to detect them. Even though he extensively examined all traditional ways of the miners carefully, he was not prepared to take everything at face value. As a man of science he wanted those surviving practices critically reviewed. Instead, as a scientist he tried gorgius form a theory on the origin of those ore layers.

The most important aspect of his book, however, are the archetypal characters. Furthermore, the best approach to start a mine and much more. Apart from discussing the actual mining practices, he also gives a comprehensive technical description of the many ways to clean and treat the ore and eventually separate the metals. Whomever possessed a mine usually also owned the means to further process the ore.

As said Agricola also discusses other mining and quarrying products than metal. What created the extraordinary value of the book are the many drawings and sketches Agricola used to illustrate it. He realized that technical descriptions in agriccola alone are not enough to give a clear picture of the activity. Therefore, he provided clear images of all tools, installations and constructions that he discussed. These numerous images have contributed immensely to the fame of the book.

The very first portion of the book has a somewhat different character than the rest. This is a kind of introduction. Agricola is speaking here of the mining industry in general. As a true renaissance scholar he did so with a flood of scholarly knowledge and a large number of quotations from classical authors.

He wanted to show that mining is metalllca noble undertaking, incorrectly looked down upon.