Tractatus Primus [-Secundus -Tertius] Instrumentorum Mechanicorum. Joost BÜRGI, Levinus / HULSIUS.
Drafting Instruments
For Surveyors & Architects
Frankfurt, Wolfgang Richt, 1605.

Tractatus Primus [-Secundus -Tertius] Instrumentorum Mechanicorum.

4to. [19.5 x 15.5 cm], (4) ff., 121 (1) pp., 1 integral blank; 17 pp., 1 integral blank; 29 pp., 1 integral blank, including engravings depicting instruments on each of the 3 title pages, numerous woodcuts and engravings in text, and with 21 engraved plates, many of which are folding, and 1 folding woodcut table. Note: copy is extra-illustrated with two folding woodcut grids that are not integral, possibly bound in for a reader’s use. Bound in contemporary flexible vellum, title stenciled on spine. Ownership inscription in Greek dated 1608. Covers a bit soiled, ties lacking, and lower edge of spine showing to board. Even toning and light browning typical for German books of this period, but a genuine copy, very good.

Scarce first Latin edition (following the original German by a year) of one of the most widely diffused Northern European surveying and drafting books, of great interest for the history of scale drawing, architectural drafting, and precision instrumentation, by the Flemish-born polymath and instrument maker Levinus Hulsius (1546-1606). The third tract describes for the first time the drafting instrument designed by the Swiss Joost Bürgi (1558-1632), instrument-maker to Emperor Rudolph II, best known for inventing the logarithm independently of Napier

Bürgi, an ingenious craftsman with little formal education who left virtually no written documentation of his work himself, called his instrument the ‘Proportional Circkel’. This compass, illustrated in the present work on the title page of the third tract, consists of two intersecting arms, both graduated, held together by a sliding clamp. Of especial interest to architects and military engineers, the compass allowed volumes of solids to be calculated, the scaling of surfaces, shapes to be transformed into others of equal surface area, and the transformation of spheres as well as regular and irregular solids.

Bürgi’s instrument has attracted the interest of Galileo scholars, since the design bears a distinct resemblance to Galileo’s proportional compass (1606). The function of the two instruments, however, is quite different: Bürgi’s is a surveying instrument, Galileo’s a proto-calculator. There is nonetheless plausible conjecture that Bürgi’s compass influenced Galileo’s, since Hulsius is known to have studied with Galileo in Padua (See Stillman Drake, ed & tr., Galileo Galilei. Operations of the Geometric and Military Compass, p. 12, with illustration of title-page of German ed.)

Hulsius had planned the work as a series of 15 parts giving an overview of the then known scientific instruments, but only the present three parts and a fourth titled ''Vierdter Tractat'' were issued (the fourth part was never translated into Latin). The first tract is notable for containing one of the earliest technical bibliographies and the first for surveying books: arranged chronologically, the list of over 100 titles ranges widely from editions of Vitruvius and general architectural treatises (Palladio), to works of theoretical geometry (Pacioli), in addition to earlier instrument books. The list provides interesting testimony to the syllabus of an unusually learned architect, surveyor or military engineer. It is also notable that the list includes two instruments: one, naturally by Bürgi, and a second by the Belgian mathematician Adrian Romanus.


* VD17 39:121619.

Price: $16,500.00

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