Venice: self-published, [ca. 1616]. Folio (37.3 × 25 cm). Contemporary full vellum; engraved title within architectural element; forty-nine large numbered copper engravings on facing pages, followed by letterpress-printed text in Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Latin, each with a vignette headpiece at the head of the section. Binding with repairs; occasional light soil and foxing; small paper repairs to first few leaves and one plate with larger repair, slightly affecting the image; else about very good, and an apparently unresized copy with wide margins, retaining all five text parts.
First and only edition of this important survey of mechanical, architectural, and technological designs and projects, the magnum opus of Fausto Veranzio (1551–1617), a Croatian polymath, diplomat, and priest, who was born in Šibenik on the Adriatic Coast, then part of the Republic of Venice. Veranzio attended school in Venice and studied law, engineering, mechanics, and physics at Padua, before entering the services of Rudolf II in Prague, as whose secretary he is thought to have conversed with Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. He also published works of lexicography and logic. Following the death of his wife, he relocated to Venice, where he joined the Barnabite Order, and devoted his remaining years to the study of science and engineering.
The large plates depict designs for flotation devices, a bridge using suspension cables, oil and wine presses, a rotary printing press, a universal clock, various types of mills (including a design that was used for one of New York’s earliest tide mills), fountains, as well as the famous image showing a man gliding safely from the Campanile di San Marco in Venice, likely inspired by Veranzio’s familiarity with da Vinci’s drafts for a parachute. “It is difficult to determine with certainty whether Veranzio saw Leonardo’s notes. Regardless, he certainly shared Leonardo’s Renaissance spirit. They were both self-taught lovers of learning across different fields, including philosophy and history. Like Leonardo, Veranzio also harbored a passion for hydraulics and spent 2 years in Rome trying to regulate the flow of the Tiber. Back home in Venice, he maintained the wells and water supplies” (Innicenzi, The Innovators Behind Leonardo, p. 69).” Veranzio’s book also proposes various means to harness solar and hydraulic power. One of the plates shows the church in his birthplace Šibenik.
Veranzio’s work is undated, but based on several notes of thanks by friends from July 1616, was presumably printed in or around that year; occasionally, it is dated as early as 1595. It has also been suggested that it was financed by the author and thus issued in small installments over a longer period of time. Complete copies are very scarce. Most copies in the market over the last decades have also either lacked one or more of the plates, or one or more of the language sections. This copy includes all five versions known to have been issued: Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Latin, as well as all plates. Copies with some colored plates are also known. As of February 2020, KVK and OCLC locate copies at McMaster, Harvard, NYPL, the US Air Force Academy, and the Getty (the copies at Chicago and the Huntington are noted to be incomplete, missing several and all of the plates respectively).
Book ID: 50561