MONTE, Guidobaldo del.

In duos Archimedis aequeponderantium Libros paraphrasis.

Pesaro, Hieronymus Concordia, 1588


FIRST EDITION. Folio. ff. (iv) 202 (ii). Roman and Italic letter, little Greek, text within double printed line border. Attractive woodcut t-p vignette with a lever machine, over 200 woodcut diagrams in text, decorated initials and ornaments. Outer margin of t-p slightly finger-soiled, minor paper flaw just touching t-p diagram, light age yellowing, intermittent mainly marginal foxing, last three ll. expertly repaired (touching couple of letters) without loss, three small worm holes to blank of last leaf. A good, well-margined copy in quarter vellum over marbled boards c.1800, all edges speckled red, corners and edges a little scuffed.

A good, well-margined copy of the first edition of Guidobaldo del Monte’s most influential and lavishly illustrated 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’ on Archimedes’s ‘De aequeponderantibus’ (‘on things of the same weight’). ‘Paraphrasis’ examines, through a wealth of fine diagrams (some reprising those in the 1544 Basle edition of Archimedes’s works), 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 ‘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. Through his experimental and theoretical discoveries, involving important observations on the centre of gravity and inclined planes, del Monte engaged with debates on Archimedean mechanics and the science of weights in ways that influenced the likes of Galileo and Torricelli.


BM STC It. p. 37; Riccardi I, 179-80; Graesse I, 180; Roberts & Trent, Bib. Mechanica, 13. R. Pisano, D. Capecchi, Tartaglia’s Science of Weights and Mechanics in the Sixteenth Century (New York, 2016), 171; P. Palmieri, ‘Breaking the Circle’, Arch. for Hist. of Exact Sciences 62 (2008), 301-46.

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