Translating De Re Metallica

Translating De Re Metallica – spread and influence of the text

into German

Philip Bechious, a Basel University Professor, translated De Re Metallica into German in 1557, but this translation was not highly regarded. There were other German editions in 1580 and 1621. It was not until 1928 that the next German edition was printed. There have been more since then. 

Source: G. Richter, ‘A few aspects of the public esteem of Agricola’, Geojournal, vol. 32, no.2 (1994), pp. 173-8)

into English

Sir John Pettus, in his translation of Lazarus Erckern’s work on assaying (1636), notes that he hopes to translate De Re Metallica in a year’s time, with a dictionary. No copy has, however, yet been found, although he did not die until 1685.

Portrait of Sir John Pettus. Reproduced from Sir John Pettus, Fodinae regales, or the history, laws and places of the chief mines and mineral works in England, Wales and the English Pale in Ireland: as also of the mint and mony with a clavis explaining some difficult words relating to mines etc. (London, 1670)

In 1912 Lou and Herbert Hoovers’ English translation of De Re Metallica was published privately in London by subscription.

The translation is notable not only for its clarity of language, but for the extensive footnotes, which detail the classical references to mining and metals. Subsequent translations into other languages, including German, owe much to the Hoover translations, as their footnotes detail their difficulties with Agricola's invention of several hundred Latin expressions to cover mediaeval German mining and milling terms that were unknown to classical Latin. 

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