A. Furnace. B. Enclosed space. C. Aluminous rock. D. Deep ladle. E. Caldron. F. Launder. G. Troughs.


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 Aluminous rock is first roasted in a … Read Full Description


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Full Title:

A. Furnace. B. Enclosed space. C. Aluminous rock. D. Deep ladle. E. Caldron. F. Launder. G. Troughs.




Georgius Agricola (1494 - 1555)


Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch 
(fl.1525 – 


In good condition.



Image Size: 

x 235mm
A. Furnace. B. Enclosed space. C. Aluminous rock. D. Deep ladle. E. Caldron. F. Launder. G. Troughs. - Antique Print from 1556

Genuine antique



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

Aluminous rock is first roasted in a furnace similar to a lime kiln. At the bottom of the kiln a vaulted fireplace is made of the same kind of rock; the remainder of the empty part of the kiln is then entirely filled with the same aluminous rocks. Then they are heated with fire until they are red hot and have exhaled their sulphurous fumes, which occurs, according to their divers nature, within the space of ten, eleven, twelve, or more hours. One thing the master must guard against most of all is not to roast the rock either too much or too little, for on the one hand they would not soften when sprinkled with water, and on the other they either would be too hard or would crumble into ashes; from neither would much alum be obtained, for the strength which they have would be decreased. When the rocks are cooled they are drawn out and conveyed into an open space, where they are piled one upon the other in heaps fifty feet long, eight feet wide, and four feet high, which are sprinkled for forty days with water carried in deep ladles. In spring the sprinkling is done both morning and evening, and in summer at noon besides. After being moistened for this length of time the rocks begin to fall to pieces like slaked lime, and there originates a certain new material of the future alum, which is soft and similar to the liquidae medullae found in the rocks. It is white if the stone was white before it was roasted, and rose-coloured if red was mixed with the white; from the former, white alum is obtained, and from the latter, rose-coloured. A round furnace is made, the lower part of which, in order to be able to endure the force of the heat, is made of rock that neither melts nor crumbles to powder by the fire. It is constructed in the form of a basket, the walls of which are two feet high, made of the same rock. On these walls rests a large round caldron made of copper plates, which is concave at the bottom, where it is eight feet in diameter. In the empty space under the bottom they place the wood to be kindled with fire. Around the edge of the bottom of the caldron,. rock is built in cone-shaped, and the diameter of the bottom of the rock structure is seven feet, and of the top ten feet; it is eight feet deep. The inside, after being rubbed over with oil, is covered with cement, so that it may be able to hold boiling water; the cement is composed of fresh lime, of which the lumps are slaked with wine, of iron-scales, and of sea-snails, ground and mixed with the white of eggs and oil. The edges of the caldron are surmounted with a circle of wood a foot thick and half a foot high, on which the workmen rest the wooden shovels with which they cleanse the water of earth and of the undissolved lumps of rock that remain at the bottom of the caldron. The caldron, being thus prepared, is entirely filled through a launder with water, and this is boiled with a fierce fire until it bubbles. Then little by little eight wheelbarrow loads of the material, composed of roasted rock moistened with water, are gradually emptied into the caldron by four workmen, who, with their shovels which reach to the bottom, keep the material stirred and mixed with water, and by the same means they lift the lumps of undissolved rock out of the caldron. In this manner the material is thrown in, in three or four lots, at intervals of two or three hours more or less; during these intervals, the water, which has been cooled by the rock and material, again begins to boil. The water, when sufficiently purified and ready to congeal, is ladled out and run off with launders into thirty troughs. These troughs are made of oak, holm oak, or Turkey oak; their interior is six feet long, five feet deep, and four feet wide. In these the water congeals and condenses into alum, in the spring in the space of four days, and in summer in six days. Afterward the holes at the bottom of the oak troughs being opened, the water which has not congealed is drawn off into buckets and poured back into the caldron; or it may be preserved in empty troughs, so that the master of the workmen, having seen it, may order his helpers to pour it into the caldron, for the water which is not altogether wanting in alum, is considered better than that which has none at all. Then the alum is hewn out with a knife or a chisel. It is thick and excellent according to the strength of the rock, either white or pink according to the colour of the rock. The earthy powder, which remains three to four digits thick as the residue of the alum at the bottom of the trough is again thrown into the caldron and boiled with fresh aluminous material. Lastly, the alum cut out is washed, and dried, and sold.

BOOK XII – describes the process of salt mining, leading to the process of glass making.


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 describes 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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