ZUBLER, Leonhard.

ZUBLER, Leonhard. Novum Instrumentum Geometricum [with] Fabrica et usus instrumenti chorographici

Basel, Ludwig König, Caspar Waser (tr.), 1607


FIRST EDITIONS thus. 4to, 2 works in one, pp. (x) 58 (ii); (iv) 34 (iv). Roman and italic letter, separate t-ps to each. T-ps within engraved architectural borders with standing figures of geometers holding instruments, large engraved arms of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594-1612) in a cartouche surrounded by female figures and children on versos. 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. A few marginal spots and finger marks, light age yellowing to second work, printer’s ink smudges to upper outer blank corner of p. 23 of first and small tear to one lower outer blank corner. A good, well-margined copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary vellum, yapp edges, lacking ties, ms. title and date to spine, a.e.r. Armorial bookplate of Thomas Francis Fremantle, Baron Cottesloe (1862-1956), to front paste-down.

First Latin editions of two remarkable works illustrating mathematical surveying techniques by Leonhard Zubler (1565-1611). These translations were made by the theologian and orientalist Kaspar Waser (1565-1625), and they are almost always found bound together. The first German editions were also published by Ludwig König the same year.

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. 5 – 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. 13, 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. 25, 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. 17, 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.27). 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 renowned military literature collector Thomas Francis Fremantle, Lord Cottesloe (1862-1956). Lord Cottesloe acquired one of the most complete collections of military books.

1) USTC 2079574; VD17 39:119348E; Cockle 947; BL German, 1601-1700, Z299; Graesse VII, p. 520. Tomash, History of Computing, n. Z11. 2) USTC 2066504; VD17 39:119351H; BL German, 1601-1700, Z294; Graesse VII, p. 520. Tomash, History of Computing, n. Z10.