Del terremotoBologna, 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