De re metallica

De Re Metallica

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De re metallica

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De re metallica (Latin for On the Nature of Metals (Minerals)) is a book cataloguing the state of the art of mining, refining, and smelting metals, published in 1556. The author was Georg Bauer, whose pen name was the Latinized Georgius Agricola. The book remained the authoritative text on mining for 180 years after its publication.

Agricola had spent nine years in the Bohemian town of Joachimsthal, now in the Czech Republic. (Joachimsthal is famous for its silver mines and the origin of the word "Thaler" and, ultimately, "dollar.") After Joachimsthal, he spent the rest of his life in Chemnitz, a prominent mining town in Saxony. Both Joachimsthal and Chemnitz are in the Erzgebirge, or Ore Mountains.


The book consists of a preface and twelve chapters, labelled books I to XII, without titles. It also has numerous woodcuts that provide annotated diagrams illustrating equipment and processes described in the text.


Agricola addresses the book to prominent German aristocrats, the most important of whom were Maurice, Elector of Saxony and his brother Augustus, who were his main patrons. He then describes the works of ancient and contemporary writers on mining and metallurgy, the chief ancient source being Pliny the Elder. Agricola describes several books contemporary to him, the chief being a booklet by Calbus of Freiberg in German. The works of alchemists are then described. Agricola does not reject the idea of alchemy, but notes that...
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