In duos Archimedis aequeponderantium Libros paraphrasis.

Pesaro, Hieronymus Concordia, 1588.


FIRST and ONLY EARLY EDITION. Folio. ff. (iv) 202 (ii). Roman and Italic letter, within double printed line border. Attractive woodcut with lever and Latin motto to t-p, over 200 woodcut diagrams in text, decorated initials, typographical headpieces. Light age yellowing, a little mostly marginal foxing, clean vertical tear with no loss to one initial (pp. 23-4). Fine, very well-margined copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary Italian vellum, tiny crack to head of spine, early ms title and shelfmark. The odd early marginalia (one editorial correction?), early inscriptions ‘eds Oplxnis’ (?) and ‘BBB/x/22’ to fly, C17 ms autograph of ‘Andreae Spinulae’ at foot of t-p, ealy C18 stamped ex-libris of Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali beneath.

A very good, crisp, well-margined copy in excellent impression, of Guidobaldo del Monte’s most influential work on Archimedes’s law of the lever and the equilibrium of planes. Born in Pesaro, del Monte (1545-1607) studied mathematics at Padua, where he befriended the poet Torquato Tasso. After taking part in the Hungarian war against the Turks, he returned to Italy and continued his studies in mathematics and mechanics with Federico Commandino at his estate near Urbino. Commandino’s Latin translations of fundamental Greek texts on mathematics and geometry, including the works of Archimedes, Euclid, and Pappus, inspired del Monte’s ‘Mechanicorum liber’ (1577)—his first major work on mechanics—as well as his ‘paraphrasis’. The latter examines, through a wealth of fine diagrams, Archimedes’s ground-breaking mathematical and geometrical theory of the lever in relation to the equilibrium and centre of gravity of planes. As in his ‘Mechanicorum liber’, in the ‘paraphrasis’ del Monte sees the Greek tradition of mechanics as a science of machines rather than solely as a mathematical discipline, interpreting Archimedes’s entirely geometrical fulcrum of the lever as a material point which can deliver a physical force. In the preface, del Monte explains how it is through ‘marvellous artifices’ like the lever that the art of mechanics can overcome the laws of nature.

The provenance can be traced to the C17 Jesuit scholar Andrea Spinula (or Spinola). He was acquainted with Bonaventura Cavalieri, a most important Italian mathematician involved in the early study of logarithms and infinitesimal calculus. Spinula also corresponded with the Jesuit mathematicians Paolo Casati Piacentino and Giovanni Battista Riccioli on the publication of the ‘Nova de machinis philosophia’, an acclaimed book on mechanics published by Niccolò Zucchi, S.J. in 1646.

Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali (1651-1737) was a renowned bibliophile who expanded the library collection (later dispersed) inherited from his grand-uncle, Cardinal Lorenzo Imperiali. This copy is listed in Giulio Fontanini’s ‘Bibliothecæ Josephi Renati Imperialis…catalogus’, published in 1711.

BM STC It. p. 37; Bib. Mat. It. I, 179-80; Graesse I, 180; Riccardi I, 179. R. Pisano, D. Capecchi, Tartaglia’s Science of Weights and Mechanics in the Sixteenth Century, New York, 2016, p. 171.


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