"De Re Metallica" | TheUnion.com

"De Re Metallica"

Georgius Agricola,

translated by Herbert and Lou Henry

Hoover, Dover Publications, 1950

For anyone interested in any phase of mining, this is a find. Originally published in Latin in 1556, Agricola’s masterpiece offers, besides its massive text, nearly 300 detailed technical drawings to show various techniques in the many branches of mining. The sketches also illustrate the era in which he wrote.

For 200 years until the Industrial Revolution, “De Re Metallica” was literally the Bible of mining. Churches would have the book chained to the pulpit so that bits of it could be read aloud to the miners in the congregation.

Lou Hoover ran across a copy of the book in London. Since Herbert Hoover was a successful mining engineer before he became president, she persuaded him to join her in an English translation.

It took them five years and 600 pages. Besides the literal translation, they added footnotes and appendices, which alone make up a comprehensive history of mining. They say, “We do not present ‘De Re Metallica’ as a work of practical value, yet surely such a milestone is worthy of preservation.”

There is only one copy extant in the Nevada County library system at the Historical Library, where it may not be taken out. However, although the dust jacket says “out of print,” Odyssey Books has researched it and claims to be able to order it for $28.95. There’s also the chance of finding a copy at one of our many used bookstores, like Ames or Booktown.

If you’re into mining, don’t miss this literary adventure.

– Joan Agar

Nevada City

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