C1556
 (1560)

A-Furnace. B-Stairs. C-Ore. D-Charcoal.

Artist:

Georgius Agricola (1494 - 1555)

Rare woodcut from De Re Metallica printed in 1560, which was the the most famous study on all aspects of mining and metallurgy, and one of the first technological books of modern times. Very good iron ore is smelted in … Read Full Description

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S/N: DRME-341–195001
(C073)
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Details

Full Title:

A-Furnace. B-Stairs. C-Ore. D-Charcoal.

Date:

C1556
 (1560)

Artist:

Georgius Agricola (1494 - 1555)

Engraver:

Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch 
(fl.1525 – 
1572)

Condition:

In good condition.

Technique:

Woodcut
AUTHENTICITY
A-Furnace. B-Stairs. C-Ore. D-Charcoal. - Antique Print from 1556

Genuine antique
dated:

1560

Description:

Rare woodcut from De Re Metallica printed in 1560, which was the the most famous study on all aspects of mining and metallurgy, and one of the first technological books of modern times.

Very good iron ore is smelted in a furnace almost like the cupellation furnace. The hearth is three and a half feet high, and five feet long and wide; in the centre of it is a crucible a foot deep and one and a half feet wide, but it may be deeper or shallower, wider or narrower, according to whether more or less ore is to be made into iron. A certain quantity of iron ore is given to the master, out of which he may smelt either much or little iron. He being about to expend his skill and labour on this matter, first throws charcoal into the crucible, and sprinkles over it an iron shovelful of crushed iron ore mixed with unslaked lime. Then he repeatedly throws on charcoal and sprinkles it with ore, and continues this until he has slowly built up a heap; it melts when the charcoal has been kindled and the fire violently stimulated by the blast of the bellows, which are skilfully fixed in a pipe. He is able to complete this work sometimes in eight hours, sometimes in ten; and again sometimes in twelve. In order that the heat of the fire should not burn his face, he covers it entirely with a cap, in which, however, there are holes through which he may see and breathe. At the side of the hearth is a bar which he raises as often as is necessary, when the bellows blow too violent a blast, or when he adds more ore and charcoal. He also uses the bar to draw off the slags, or to open or close the gates of the sluice, through which the waters flow down on to the wheel which turns the axle that compresses the bellows. In this sensible way, iron is melted out and a mass weighing two or three centumpondia may be made, providing the iron ore was rich. When this is done the master opens the slag-vent with the tapping-bar, and when all has run out he allows the iron mass to cool. Afterward he and his assistant stir the iron with the bar, and then in order to chip off the slags which had until then adhered to it, and to condense and flatten it, they take it down from the furnace to the floor, and beat it with large wooden mallets having slender handles five feet long. Thereupon it is immediately placed on the anvil, and repeatedly beaten by the large iron hammer that is raised by the cams of an axle turned by a water-wheel. Not long afterward it is taken up with tongs and placed under the same hammer, and cut up with a sharp iron into four, five, or six pieces, according to whether it is large or small. These pieces, after they have been re-heated in the blacksmith’s forge and again placed on the anvil, are shaped by the smith into square bars or into ploughshares or tyres, but mainly into bars. Four, six, or eight of these bars weigh one-fifth of a centumpondium, and from these they make various implements. During the blows from the hammer by which it is shaped by the smith, a youth pours water with a ladle on to the glowing iron, and this is why the blows make such a loud sound that they may be heard a long distance from the works. The masses, if they remain and settle in the crucible of the furnace in which the iron is smelted, become hard iron which can only be hammered with difficulty, and from these they make the iron-shod heads for the stamps, and such-like very hard articles.

Book IX – Iron smelting.

Biography:

Georgius Agricola (1494-1555)

Agricola was a German Catholic, scholar and scientist. Known as “the father of mineralogy“, he was born at Glauchau in Saxony. His birth name was Georg Pawer (Bauer) and Agricola is the Latinised version of his name, by which he was known his entire adult life. Agricola, studied at Leipzig, Bologna and Padua and became town physician of the mining centre of Joachimsthal in Bohemia and physician at Chemnitz in Saxony from 1534 until his death. Living in mining regions all his life made it possible for him to study mining practices first hand and these direct observations made this series particularly valuable and effective.

The De Re Metallica embraces everything connected with the mining industry and metallurgical processes, including administration, prospecting, the duties of officials and companies and the manufacture of glass, sulphur and alum. The magnificent woodcut illustrations by Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch illustrate the different processes involved in mining and include mechanical engineering details such as the use of water-power, hauling, pumps, ventilation, blowing of furnaces and transport of ores.

Agricola made an important contribution to physical geology. He recognized the influence of water and wind on the shaping of the landscape and gave a clear account of of the order of the strata he saw in the mines. Writing on the origin of mountains, he descrivbes the eroding action of water as their cause with a perspicacity much in advance of his time.

The De Re Metallica was frequently reprinted and is said to have reached China in the seventeenth century. Interest in it was revived in the eighteenth century by Abraham Gottlieb Werner, and in 1912 it was translated into English by Herbert Hoover, afterwards President of the United States.

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