the Nature of Metals) is a book
cataloguing the state of the art of mining, refining, smelting and assaying metals, published in Basle (Basel,
Bâle, Basilea) by Hieronymus Froben and Nikolaus Episcopius, in March
The author was Georg Bauer,
(* 1494 in Glauchau, Saxony, † 1555 in Chemnitz, Saxony)
whose pen name was the latinized Georgius Agricola.
The book remained the authoritative text on mining for 250 years after its
Agricola had spent nine years in the Bohemian town of Sankt Joachimsthal (now Jáchymov), in the
Czech Republic). This city is famous for its silver mines and mint, and the
origin of many silver coins: Thaler,
Thereafter he spent the
rest of his life in Chemnitz, a mining town in Saxony
(Sachsen). Both Sankt
Joachimsthal and Chemnitz are in the Ore Mountains
(Erzgebirge , Krušné hory ).
One of the primary problems this book addressed
was the removal of water in the mining. The limit Agricola documents for raising water from the mines via
a pump is 32 feet (9.7 m) It could then be dumped into another level and
pumped from there. The investigation of this problem would spark a
discussion leading to discovery of atmospheric air pressure (1 atm = 10.3 m
water column). Also included in this volume are discussions of geology of
ore bodies, surveying, mine construction, and ventilation.
Metallica was not
limited to mining. Divided into 12 "books" ("libri
XII") it also covered assaying (book 7th), refining, smelting, and
marketing. It explains the creation of saltpetre, and the use of different
acids in the refining process, as well as alchemy, timbering, and even some
of the professional health problems of miners and smelters.
Agricola died in 1555, but publication was delayed
until completion of the detailed 292 woodcuts. The book was costly and
limited in distribution: in many areas it was chained in churches, so that
the priest could translate from Latin for parishioners.