De Re Metallica - online exhibition

‘On the nature of metals (minerals)’

This book is the oldest artefact on site at the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

This book, written more than 450 years ago, describes working methods and processes in metal mining and was the first book on mining to use a scientific approach. The author was known as Georgius Agricola, a Latin version of his own name, Georg Bauer. He spent twenty years writing the book, which was first published in Switzerland in 1556, a year after his death.

The most important mining text for nearly two centuries after its publication, it uses beautiful woodcut drawings to show tools, machinery and also a history of mining.(see opposite for examples) It was published in Latin, but German and Italian editions followed. This edition also includes a copy of De animantibus subterraneis, which first appeared in 1549.

The main English translation of De Re Metallica is by Herbert Clark Hoover and Lou Henry Hoover, 1912. The Museum library has a copy of this, and the 1950 edition.

De Re Metallica can be viewed in the Museum library. It is on display, showing the magnificent woodcut drawings of mining methods. In order to conserve this book, the pages are  turned every month and it is shielded from daylight most of the time, unless it is being viewed. 

On view during library opening hours only.

‘Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund’ - Artfund

Georgius Agricola, mineralogist, photographic reproduction of an historic vignette

©Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum

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