Wednesday, June 08, 2005

SWQR: The Pirotechnia

This is not a typo for SPQR. An SWQR is a "Short Wednesday Quick Review" - a review of a book on my shelves, limited to 16 lines on this post-edit-screen. (This intro does not count against the limit.)

The Pirotechnia by Vannoccio Biringuccio (1540) available from Dover Publications Location: Reference.

Dover's back cover states this is "history's first clear, comprehensive work on metallurgy"; it was published in 1540. It is a fantastic book, giving insight into the impressive engineering knowledge then in practical use - its author was appointed "head of the papal foundry" before his death. It indicates the importance of starting one's work by asking God's grace "so that He may intervene to aid in every doubtful and difficult effort". It reveals the irrationality of trusting in "magic" which claims to do easy part (finding gold) but refrains from the hard parts of engineering (mining and refining). It considers various engineering aspects such as labor, transportation, access to fuel and water: "of all inconveniences, shortage of water is most to be avoided" as much use was made of its power. Finally, it gives a rather terrifying technical insight into certain passages such as the refining of gold in Malachi 3:3, or this: "The words of the Lord are words without alloy, silver from the furnace, seven times refined." (Ps 11:7)


At 15 June, 2005 14:09, Blogger Newvictorian said...

Harrah for the SWQR. Harrah for Dover Pub.


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