ZUBLER, Leonhard.

ZUBLER, Leonhard. Novum Instrumentum Geometricum, Das ist Kurtzer unnd grundtlicher Bericht, alle Weite, Breite [with] Fabrica et usus instrumenti chorographici, Das ist Newe Planimetrische Beschreibung

Basel, Ludwig König, 1607


FIRST EDITIONS. 4to, 2 works in one, pp. (viii) 65 (iii); (xii) 39 (i). Gothic letter. T-ps in red and black within engraved architectural border with standing figures of geometers holding instruments; large engraved coat of arms of Frederick I of Württemberg (1754-1816) on verso of first t-p, arms of Maximilian von Pappenheim (1580-1639) on verso of second t-p, both in a cartouche surrounded by female figures. Woodcut floriated initials, printer’s ornaments, headpieces, tailpieces with foliage and masques. 20 attractive over half page engravings depicting surveying instruments and their application for measuring lands and towns in first work, 13 more in second. Intermittent age browning and marginal foxing, occasional marginal finger marks, early minor repair to one lower edge, printer’s ink smudges around 5 engravings in second. A good copy in modern half vellum with marbled boards, a.e.r. Bookplate of Erwin Tomash (1921-2012) to front paste-down.

First editions of two remarkable works illustrating mathematical surveying techniques by Leonhard Zubler (1565-1611). Both these works, almost always found together, were also published by König in a Latin translation the same year. However, these are more complete, including a note to the reader which does not appear in the Latin versions and have two separate and different dedications.

Zubler was a Swiss instrument maker, engineer, mathematician and goldsmith of Zurich. In these works, he presents and promotes two instruments that he invented. Using numerous artistic illustrations of landscapes with superimposed geometric diagrams, he demonstrates how they can be successfully employed in various situations of practical land surveying. All the beautiful images were made by the Swiss engraver Dietrich Mayer (1572–1658).

‘Novum instrumentum Geometricum’ is concerned with a new triangulation instrument – represented in a large plate at p. 6 – which measures the distances and angles between the elements of a landscape, as well as their height, width and depth. If the instrument’s baseline and arms are correctly positioned, these measurements can be read all at once on the scales displayed on it. This instrument was particularly suited to military use, and the majority of the geometric problems are concerned with warfare. For example, at p. 12, the author shows a range-finding technique to determine the distance for a cannon ball to a fortress.

Zubler is also credited with introducing the use of the plane table into modern surveying, and his ‘Fabrica et usus instrumenti chorographici’ is dedicated to presenting this particular instrument. Represented at p. 28, it was provided with a compass for orientation and a pair of sights. The name given by the author is ‘instrumentum chorographicum’, from the Greek khōros, “place” and graphein, “to write”. In fact, as he explains, it is especially designed to help describing all geographic areas and everything that can be found within them: mountains, fortresses, cities, small villages and houses. At p. 19, Zubler shows how to employ it in the complex technique of a multi-sighting survey. In this work, the focus is on civil surveying; however, the author takes the opportunity to include a military scene (p.30). Zubler’s tools were so sought-after that he decided to open a shop in Frankfurt in 1608.

This copy is from the library of computing literature collector Erwin Tomash. An American engineer specialised in computer technology, he acquired more than five thousand books on calculation, mensuration and related subjects in his library on the history of computing.

1) USTC 2066527; VD17 12:163928Q; Cockle 947; BL German, 1601-1700, Z297; Graesse VII, p. 520. Ornamentischkatalog Berlin 1713. Tomash, History of Computing, n. Z11. 2) USTC 2066608; VD17 12:163800L; BL German, 1601-1700, Z292; This ed. not in Graesse. Ornamentischkatalog Berlin 1714. Tomash, History of Computing, n. Z10.