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Appendix B: Ancient Authors Mining
We give the following brief notes on early works containing some reference to mineralogy, mining, or metallurgy, to indicate the literature available to Agricola and for historical
notes bearing upon the subject. References to these works in the footnotes may be most
easily consulted through the personal index.
GREEK AUTHORS.—Only a very limited Greek literature upon subjects allied to
mining or natural science survives. The whole of the material of technical interest could be
reproduced on less than twenty of these pages. Those of most importance are : Aristotle
Diodorus Siculus (ist Century
and Dioscorides (ist Century
Aristotle, apart from occasional mineralogical or metallurgical references in
is mostly of interest as the author of the Peripatetic theory of the elements and the
relation of these to the origin of stones and metals. Agricola was, to a considerable measure,
a follower of this school, and their views colour much of his writings. We, however, discuss
at what point he departed from them. Especially in
De Ortu et Causis
quote largely from Aristotle's
on these subjects. There
is a spurious work on stones attributed to Aristotle of some interest to mineralogists. It was
probably the work of some Arab early in the Middle Ages.
Theophrastus, the principal disciple of Aristotle, appears to have written at least two
works relating to our subject—one " On Stones", and the other on metals, mining or metallurgy, but the latter is not extant. The work " On Stones " was first printed in Venice in
1498, and the Greek text, together with a fair English translation by Sir John Hill, was
published in London in 1746 under the title " Theophrastus on Stones " ; the translation is,
however, somewhat coloured with Hill's views on mineralogy. The work comprises 120
short paragraphs, and would, if reproduced, cover but about four of these pages. In the
first paragraphs are the Peripatetic view of the origin of stones and minerals, and upon the
foundation of Aristotle he makes some modifications. The principal interest in Theophrastus'
work is the description of minerals ; the information given is, however, such as might be possessed by any ordinary workman, and betrays no particular abilities for natural philosophy.
He enumerates various exterior characteristics, such as colour, tenacity, hardness, smoothness, density, fusibility, lustre, and transparence, and their quality of reproduction, and then
proceeds to describe various substances, but usually omits his enumerated characteristics.
Apart from the then known metals and certain " earths " (ochre, marls, clay, etc.), it is possible
to identify from his descriptions the following rocks and minerals :—marble, pumice, onyx,
gypsum, pyrites, coal, bitumen, amber, azurite, chrysocolla, realgar, orpiment, cinnabar,
quartz in various forms, lapis lazuli,
, and ruby. Altogether there
are some sixteen distinct mineral species. He also describes the touchstone and its uses, the
making of white-lead and verdigris, and of quicksilver from cinnabar.
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek native of Sicily. His " historical library " consisted of
some 40 books, of which parts of 15 are extant. The first print was in Latin, 1472, and in
Greek in 1539 ; the first translation into English was by Thomas Stocker, London, 1568, and
later by G. Booth, 1700. We have relied upon Booth's translation, but with some amendments by friends, to gain more literal statement. Diodorus, so far as relates to our subject,
gives merely the occasional note of a traveller. The most interesting paragraphs are his
quotation from Agatharchides on Egyptian mining and upon British tin.
Strabo was also a geographer. His work consists of 17 books, and practically all
survive. We have relied upon the most excellent translation of Hamilton and Falconer,
London, 1903, the only one in English. Mines and minerals did not escape such an acute
geographer, and the matters of greatest interest are those with relation to Spanish mines.
Dioscorides was a Greek physician who wrote entirely from the standpoint of materia
medica, most of his work being devoted to herbs; but Book V. is devoted to minerals androcks, and their preparation for medicinal purposes. The work has never been translated
into English, and we have relied upon the Latin translation of Matthioli, Venice, 1565, and notes
upon the Greek text prepared for us by Mr. C. Katopodes. In addition to most of the substances known before, he, so far as can be identified, adds schist,
(blende or calamine),
tnisy, melanteria, sory
(copper or iron sulphide oxidation minerals).
He describes the making of certain artificial products, such as copper oxides, vitriol, litharge,
(zinc and/ or arsenical oxides). His principal interest for us, however,
lies in the processes set out for making his medicines.
Occasional scraps of information relating to the metals or mines in some connection
to be found
in many other Greek writers,,and in quotations by
not now extant, such as Polybius, Posidonius, etc. The poets occasionally throw a gleam
See pages 44 and 46.
Table Of Contents
Agricola. De Re Metallica.
: Art of Mining
: About the Miners
: Ore Bodies
: Mining Locations
: Underground Mining
: Mining Equipment
: Ore Testing
: Extracting Metals
: Smelting Ore
: Gold Separation
: Silver Separation
: Solidified Juices
: Agricola's Works
: Ancient Authors
: Mining Weights
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