4to. [24 x 18 cm], (8) ff., 227 pp., front.; 21 folding plates and 2 decorative vignettes signed “Iac. Adam.” Contemporary turquoise paper over boards, with stamped decorative border. Head of spine slightly chipped, and joints weak. Title page backed and frontispiece and title cropped at top. Toning and minor foxing. Very good overall.
First edition of this lavishly illustrated mining classic describing an amalgamation process for removing gold and silver from various ores. As the process did not require the usual smelting of the ore, it saved an enormous quantity of fuel and was widely adapted throughout the Habsburg Empire and elsewhere in Europe. (An English translation followed in 1791.) The work describes the process, and the plates depict all of the machinery required.
The use of mercury to separate gold and silver from ore was by no means a new idea, a fact the author acknowledges in his introductory history of amalgamation. The significance of Born’s 18th C innovation was twofold: not only did he convince Joseph II to employ the New World method for extracting precious metals in Austria and Slovakia, but he also invented novel ways of doing it, using copper barrels to roast the ore during trituration, and employing a system of rakes and movable casks for cold amalgamation. (Prior to this, the Spanish method required that the mercury and ground ore be treaded by mules or, more likely, Indian slaves.) The technical sophistication of the machinery involved is clear from the plates. Born’s improvements were speedily adopted in Europe, even prompting some metallurgic experiments by Goethe.
Born (1742-1791) also published a description of the principal mines of Hungary and Transylvania in a series of letters to the mineralogist J. J. Ferber, as well as a description of his mineralogy collection Lithophylacium Bornianum (1772).
* Hoover 153; Kress B 1013; DSB II.315; Teich, “Born’s Amalgamation Process and the International Metallurgic Gathering at Skleno in 1786,” Annals of Science 32 (1975).