Mineralogia sive naturalis philosophiae thesaurus.

Lyon, Jacques and Pierre Prost, 1636.


FIRST EDITION. Folio, pp. (16), 626, (70); Roman and Italic letter, double column; title in red and black with large engraved printer’s device; a little browned and occasionally foxed, small oil splash and water stain at head of first gathering. A good copy in contemporary vellum, a few minor worm holes; title gilt on morocco label on spine, original marbled pastedowns and endpapers, all edges speckled red.

First edition, the first issue with the dedication to Francesco I Este, Duke of Modena, of an influential compendium of mineral knowledge, the first to employ the term minerology. Scion of a noble family of Modena, Bernardo Cesi (1581 – 1630) joined the Jesuits in 1599 and became professor of Theology in Parma and Modena, where he also taught the offspring of the ducal family of Este, including Francesco. An erudite and wide-ranging scholar, he produced several works which remain in manuscript, except for the most important, the Mineralogia, published posthumously from the notes he left in the Jesuit College of Modena.

The text is divided in five books, illustrating: mineralogy in general; grounds, soils and paleontological specimens; petrified liquids (salts, organics); stones and gems (from sapphire to diamond); metals. A comprehensive index guides the reader through this extensive piece of scholarship. Presenting the opinions of a vast number of earlier authorities, Cesi dwells on unusual subjects, such as: artificial fire, use of salts for buildings, statues and remedies for infertility, bitumen as an element for embalming mummies, glass crafting, mirrors and their many applications, olive oil and other animal and vegetables oils, venoms and antidotes, as well as the philosopher’s stone. Of great curiosity is also a whole section devoted to painting (Book 2, Chapter 5), starting from the use of metal powders in colour preparation and then going off topic to include a long philosophical and historical discussion of techniques, famous artists and renowned pieces of art.

The importance of this eclectic and very informative work is illustrated by its presence in Newton’s library (J. Harrison, The Library of Isaac Newton, Cambridge 1978, no. H331, now Trinity College Library, NQ.18.4).

BM STC Fr. 17th, 145; Graesse, II, 11; Sinkakas, 1220; Sommervogel, II, 511; Thorndike, VII, 254-257; Wellcome, I, 1190.


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