Gemmarum et lapidum historia. Nunc vero recensuit, à mendis repurgavit, commentariis et pluribus melioribusque figuris illustravit & multo locupletiore indice auxit Adrianus Toll.

Leiden, Joannis Maire, 1636.


8vo. [viii], 576 p., [xxiv] (last leaf blank), 2 folding tables. Woodcut printer’s device on title, foliated woodcut initials and tailpieces, forty three woodcuts in the text, early ms. shelf mark on title. Light age yellowing. A very good, clean copy, with folding tables in excellent condition, in three-quarter vellum over marbled paper boards c. 1700, title gilt on spine, all edges speckled red.

Second corrected and improved edition (including new illustration) by Adrianus Toll, of this important work on gemstones and minerals, first published in 1609, the definitive work of the Belgian mineralogist, alchemist and physician, Anselmus Boodt. “In his Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia, Boodt made the first attempt at a systematic description of minerals, dividing the minerals into great and small, rare and common, hard and soft, combustible and incombustible, transparent and opaque. He uses a scale of hardness expressed in three degrees and notes the crystalline forms of some minerals (triangular, quadratic, and hexangular).

Boodt criticizes some of the views of Aristotle, Pliny, Paracelsus, and others. He also mentions atoms. He enumerates about 600 minerals that he knows from personal observation, and describes their properties, values, imitations, and medical applications. There are also tables of values of diamonds according to their size and a short description of the polishing of precious stones. Boodt cites nineteen authors and, besides the minerals known to him, gives a list of 233 minerals whose names he knows from Pliny and Bartholomeus Anglicus, among others.” D.S.B., II, p. 293.

From 1583 Boodt lived Bohemia as physician to Wilhelm Rosenberg, the burgrave of Prague. In 1584 he was nominated physician in ordinary to Rudolf II (with a considerable salary) and retained this position until 1612. There is no evidence however that he ever seriously practiced as a physician; Rudolf clearly saw him as one of his alchemists. Boodt was placed in charge of Rudolf’s collection of gems in his ‘Kunstkammer’. The ‘Naturalia’ (minerals and gemstones) were in a 37 cabinet display with the gems and minerals systematically arranged, the large uncut gemstones held in strong boxes. De Boodt was an avid mineral collector and travelled widely on collecting trips to the mining regions of Germany, Bohemia and Silesia, often accompanied by his Bohemian naturalist friend, Thaddaeus Hagecius.

This work also gives us our most important source of knowledge of Renaissance gem cutting, the carving of precious stones, the making of jewelry, forgery and trade of precious stones. “De Boodt assembled virtually all of the knowledge then extant… by far the most thorough and complete up to date… [his work] is further distinguished by its intimate knowledge of the art of the lapidary and must therefore be regarded as the first treatise to offer more than the briefest views of gem cutting” Sinkankas. The woodcuts include illustrations of corals, geodes, fossils, gems, minerals, along with tools and methods of working them. A very good copy of this seminal work.

Brunet I p. 1108. ‘Ouvrage assez curieux’. Graesse I p. 493. “The most important lapidary of the seventeenth century and exerted a widespread influence” Partington II pp 101-2. Wellcome I 981.


Print This Item Print This Item