MAGGIO, Lucio. Del terremoto

Bologna, per Alessandro Benacci, 1571


FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. (iv) 56. Roman letter. T-p with fine woodcut of crown, decorated initials and headpieces. Lower outer corner of first few ll. very slightly thumbed, an excellent, well-margined copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, lower part of spine repaired. In folding box.

Fine copy of the first edition of Lucio Maggio’s major work on seismology. Written in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Ferrara in 1570, this is one of three pamphlets printed in Bologna in 1571 discussing this devastating event, which caused the last stretch of the nearby river Po to shift to a different site. The Bolognese Maggio (d. 1589?) was part of the circle of the Duke of Urbino, on whose behalf he visited Ferrara to report on the disaster. He presented his work in the form of a dialogue between three learned gentlemen leaving the ruins of Ferrara by sea, after witnessing the earthquake. With the help of ancient authorities like Aristotle, Anaximenes, Pliny and Democritus, their debate touches on all aspects of early modern seismology, blending scientific observations with traditional beliefs: e.g., are earthquakes caused by the four elements? What are their warning signs and types? Why do subterranean fires and odd natural phenomena precede and plagues follow earthquakes? How do earthquakes affect the sea? ‘Del terremoto’ suggested that earthquakes were caused by underground exhalations escaping under the reaction of the heat of the sun and the earth. The final section is devoted to collateral seismic effects, including tsunamis (‘the sea rises and swells and floods whole provinces’), the formation of new mountains, higher mortality and plagues generated by the poisonous exhalations long trapped underground. The well- documented Ferrara earthquake generated widespread debate in Europe, leading to the development of the earliest examples of quake-proof architecture. Maggio’s work was translated into French in 1575 and remained influential in seismological studies throughout the C17.

USTC 839587; BM STC It., p. 403. Not in Brunet, Graesse, Honeyman or Riccardi.

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