SIRMIENOWICZ, Kazimierz Artis Magnae Artilleriae. Pars Prima

Amsterdam, apud Ioannem Ianssonium, 1650


FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. (xvi) 284 (iv) + 22 engraved plates (1 folding). Roman letter, little Italic or Greek. Engraved architectural t-p with scattered burning fireworks, and pyrotechnical fountain; 22 engraved plates with 229 illustrations of geodesic instruments, international weight measurements, artillery, rockets, fireworks and pyrotechnic machinery; decorated initials. First few ll. foxed, some mainly marginal spotting, final text gatherings browned, small paper flaw to lower outer blank corner of 2 ll. A good copy in contemporary vellum, yapp edges, raised bands, gilt-lettered morocco label, small hole to upper board, all edges sprinkled blue. Bookplates of ‘GPC’ and Fratelli Salimbeni to front pastedown.

A good copy of the lavishly illustrated (here in fresh impression) first edition of this major treatise on artillery, rockets and fireworks. Kazimierz Siemienowicz (1600-51) was a general of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, an expert of artillery and military engineering, and a pioneer of rocketry. Based on long-standing experience, ‘Artis Magnae Artilleriae’ was an encyclopaedia of artillery and pyrotechnics. Although the t-p specifies ‘part one’, the second part, for which the author provided the contents in the preface, was never published. It was translated into French (1651), German (1676) and English (1726), becoming the standard manual. ‘[…] beyond the theory and practice of the construction of guns, missiles and rockets, it contains historical observations and quotations from over 200 ancient and modern authors. Beside showing the state of contemporary science and technology, it provides mathematical formulas, as well as information on the physics and technology of metals, methods of preparation of explosives, and extensive lists with measurement units’ (Thor, ‘T umaczenia’, 9). The preface provides a disquisition on ‘artilleria’, ‘ars bombardaria’, ‘pyrotechnia’ ‘pyrobolia’ and ‘ballistica’. The first part deals with the rules of calibre and the construction of pyrotechnic instruments considering the weight and transmutation of metals, with detailed comparative tables of international weight measurements. The second discusses the preparation of artillery materials, especially gunpowder. The third focuses on the construction of rockets operated with sticks, on water or ropes. The fourth deals with globes, both ‘recreational’ (entertainment firework, ‘aerei’, ‘saltantes’ and ‘aquatici’) and military (including those releasing poison and smoke). The last focuses on pyrotechnic machinery for entertainment (e.g., to be used during festivals in the form of triumphal arches, obelisks or statues) or war. The illustrations are clearly referenced in the text. Fascinating are the machines devised for entertainment: e.g., a dragon-shaped pyrotechnic construction and another shaped like a fountain with Fortune standing on top, whose paper dress will catch fire when the pyrotechnic trick is channelled through a pipe inside the fountain. A lovely, beautifully illustrated work.

Spaulding, Early Lit. of Artillery, 9; Graesse VI, 401; Philip, Firework Books, S130.1. J. Thor, ‘T umaczenia Artis magnae artilleriae K. Siemienowicza’, Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki 13 (1968), 91-102.

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