BRECHTEL, Franz Joachim


BRECHTEL, Franz Joachim Buchsenmeisterey.

Nuremberg, [Katharina Gerlach], 1591


FIRST EDITION. 8vo, 2 parts in 1, ff. [176], A-Y8, without the folding diagram as often. Gothic letter. T-p in red and black, 58 woodcuts of instruments, ballistic diagrams and gunnery (some repeated), decorated initials. T-p finger marked, lower outer blank corner of G7 torn away, small oil stain at head and slight browning (poor paper) to second half. A good copy in contemporary sheep, rebacked, triple blind ruled, all edges blue, corners repaired. Large C17 armorial bookplate of C.W.G.V.N. (Christoph Wentzel, Graf von Nostitz) to front pastedown, illegible autograph to t-p.

A good copy of the first edition of this handsomely illustrated German work on gunnery and fireworks, produced by the Nuremberg printer Katharina Gerlachin (1520-92). Franz Joachim Brechtel (1554-93) was a mathematician and master gunner, as well as an innovative musician much esteemed in Nuremberg. ‘Buchsenmeisterey’ is a brief manual for master gunners, responsible for gun preparation and maintenance, and ammunition supply, as well as aiming and firing guns. It is a compendium of practical knowledge, handsomely illustrated and solidly grounded in arithmetic and geometry, spanning a variety of questions, e.g., how to attack a fortified target, the organisation of a warehouse, the loading and trajectory of cannon balls (considering their weight), the use of instruments to assess the distance of a target, how to shoot at night, the making and use of fireballs and sundry other fireworks. Most interesting is the section on gas warfare methods (‘poisoning of the air’), not much esteemed by master-gunners at the time. ‘These consisted chiefly in cylinders or bombs filled with mineral poisons, poisonous plants and animals. Such materials as sublimate of mercury and arsenic, henbane, aconite, belladonna and hemlock were used. They were generally mixed with black powder and were doubtless of no effect’, as they were mostly used outdoors (‘Chem. Warf. Bulletin’, 3). A fascinating, influential work.  

Christoph Wenzel (1648-1712), Graf von Nostiz, was in charge of territories in Silesia and ambassador for Emperor Leopold.

Of 18 institutional copies traced, the folding diagram appears solely in 5 (3 in Europe, 2 in the US). The Getty copy alone claims a second plate, absent elsewhere. Philip does not record any plates (BL copy).

Only Getty and Winterthur copies recorded in the US.

Cockle 667; VD16 B 7352; New Hollstein, vol.10 part 10, Amman, p.55; Philip, Bib. of Firework Books, B220.1; Gerrare, Bib. of Guns and Shooting, 43 (1599 ed.). Chemical Warfare Bulletin, 9 (1923).