Folio [20.5 x 31.5 cm], ((16), 338 ff., including engraved t-p, engraved portrait of author (on verso) and 194 (numbered 195) full and double-page illustrations of machines. Bound in 18th-century French tree calf, rebacked, covers with gilt border of interlocking circles, spine in 8 compartments, with alternating motifs of suns and densely tooled rows of stars, rather in the style of Derôme, with red morocco titlelabel gilt. Mistakenly dated 1680, after ownership inscription on title. Binding quite worn, with joints expertly renewed, later endpapers. Engraved ex-libris of Baehler, Schloss Neu-Habsburg on front end pastedown. Ownership inscription in lower margin of title: “à Rome ce 8 aout 1680 Morga” (?); early ownership inscription in lower edge of plate-mark scored, minor punctures filled, with minor loss to lower edge of cartouche beneath portrait (on verso); upper blank edge of title torn and also renewed. Some toning and light foxing throughout, faint waterstain in upper margin of some leaves; tear at edge of plate-mark in final engraving (Kk 1) reinforced on verso. Generally good dark impressions of the plates.
First and sole edition of this profusely illustrated landmark on early technology, and along with Agricola’s De Re Metallica (1556), the most influential and copied of all the early illustrated manuals of inventions and machines. Its influence was felt in such later works as Böckler’s Theatrum machinarum (1662), Grollier de Servière’s treatise (1719), and it was even copied in China, where it had been taken by Jesuit missionaries.
Roughly half of the machines are pumps for raising water or for other hydraulic purposes, with the remainder including mills, looms, derricks, metal-working tools, presses, even mechanical fountains. Many are of course connected with warfare: in addition to weapons, 13 chapters are devoted to machines for breaking and entering—forcing doors, lifting doors off their hinges, cutting through metal fences—and all of which Ramelli insists can be accomplished without the perpetrator being discovered!
The lavish number of illustrations and their quality set something of a contemporary standard for a technological publication. Though rooted in the general tendency of these works to illustrate as well as explain, Ramelli was motivated, in addition, by the wish to discourage every prospect of his designs from being pirated (preface, **5v-**8r). “Ramelli planned this work as a particularly handsome volume, difficult to counterfeit, strictly supervised by the author himself and published with the imprint, 'in casa del' autore'" – Mortimer, 452.
The engraved title and portrait are signed with the monogram of Leonard Gaultier, and 3 of the plates with the monogram JG, which some bibliographers have identified as Jean de Gourmont. The remaining plates are unsigned and have been attributed to an unknown atelier, though an interesting case for an attribution to a disgruntled craftsman in the Ramelli household, a certain Ambroise Bachot, has been made by Gnudi.
* * Mortimer (French) II.452; Riccardi I.341; Brun, Le livre français illustré de la renaissance (ed. 1969), p. 280; M.T. Gnudi, “Agostino Ramelli and Amrboise Bachot,” Technology and Culture,” 15 (1974), pp. 614-25; modern edition and translation, ed. Gnudi & Ferguson (1976).