of light on ancient metallurgy, as for instance in Homer's description of Vulcan's foundry ;
while the historians, philosophers, statesmen, and physicians, among them Herodotus,
Xenophon, Demosthenes, Galen, and many others, have left some incidental references to the
metals and mining, helpful to gleaners from a field, which has been almost exhausted by time.
Even Archimedes made pumps, and Hero surveying instruments for mines.
ROMAN AUTHORS.—Pre-eminent among all ancient writers on these subjects is, of
course, Pliny, and in fact, except some few lines by Vitruvius, there is practically little else
in extant Roman literature of technical interest, for the metallurgical metaphors of the poets
and orators were threadbare by this time, and do not excite so much interest as upon their
first appearance among the Greeks and Hebrews.
Pliny (Caius Plinius Secundus) was born 23 A.D., and was killed by eruption of Vesuvius
79 A.D. His Natural History should be more properly called an encyclopaedia, the whole
comprising 37 books ; but only portions of the last four books relate to our subject, and over
one-half of the material there is upon precious stones. To give some rough idea of the small
quantity of even this, the most voluminous of ancient works upon our subject, we have made
an estimate that the portions of metallurgical character would cover, say, three pages of
this text, on mining two pages, on building and precious stones about ten pages. Pliny
and Dioscorides were contemporaries, and while Pliny nowhere refers to the Greek, internal
evidence is most convincing, either that they drew from the same source, or that Pliny drew
from Dioscorides. We have, therefore, throughout the text given precedence in time to the
Greek author in matters of historical interest. The works of Pliny were first printed at Venice
in 1469. They have passed dozens of editions in various languages, and have been twice
translated into English. The first translation by Philemon Holland, London, 1601, is quite
impossible. The second translation, by Bostock and Riley, London, 1855, was a great
advance, and the notes are most valuable, but in general the work has suffered from a freedom
justifiable in the translation of poetry, but not in science. We have relied upon the Latin
edition of Janus, Leipzig, 1870. The frequent quotations in our footnotes are sufficient
indication of the character of Pliny's work. In general it should be remembered that he was
himself but a compiler of information from others, and, so far as our subjects are concerned,
of no other experience than most travellers. When one considers the reliability of such
authors to-day on technical subjects, respect for Pliny is much enhanced. Further, the text
is no doubt much corrupted through the generations of transcription before it was set in type.
So fa'· as can be identified with any assurance, Pliny adds but few distinct minerals to those
enumerated by Theophrastus and Dioscorides. For his metallurgical and mining information
we refer to the footnotes, and in general it may be said that while those skilled in metallurgy
can dimly see in his statements many metallurgical operations, there is little that does not
require much deduction to arrive at a conclusion. On geology he offers no new philosophical
deductions of consequence ; the remote connection of building stones is practically all that
can be enumerated, lest one build some assumption of a knowledge of ore-deposits on the
use of the word " vein". One point of great interest to this work is that in his search for Latin
terms for technical purposes Agricola relied almost wholly upon Pliny, and by some devotion
to the latter we have been able to disentangle some very puzzling matters of nomenclature
in De Re Metallica, of which the term molybdaena may be cited as a case in point.
Vitruvius was a Roman architect of note of the ist Century b.c. His work of ten
books contains some very minor references to pumps and machinery, building stones, and the
preparation of pigments, the latter involving operations from which metallurgical deductions
can occasionally be safely made. His works were apparently first printed in Rome in 1496.
There are many editions in various languages, the first English translation being from the
French in 1692. We have relied upon the translation of Joseph Gwilt, London, 1875, with
such alterations as we have considered necessary.
MEDIAEVAL AUTHORS. For convenience we group under this heading the writers
of interest from Roman times to the awakening of learning in the early 16th Century.
Apart from Theophilus, they are mostly alchemists ; but, nevertheless, some are of great
importance in the history of metallurgy and chemistry. Omitting a horde of lesser lights
upon whom we have given some data under the author's preface, the works principally concerned are those ascribed to Avicenna, Theophilus, Geber, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon,
and Basil Valentine. Judging from the Preface to De Re Metallica, and from quotations in his
subsidiary works, Agricola must have been not only familiar with a wide range of alchemistic
material, but also with a good deal of the Arabic literature, which had been translated into
Latin. The Arabs were, of course, the only race which kept the light of science burning
during the Dark Ages, and their works were in considerable vogue at Agricola's time.
Avicenna (980-1037) was an Arabian physician of great note, a translator of the Greek
classics into Arabic, and a follower of Aristotle to the extent of attempting to reconcile the
Peripatetic elements with those of the alchemists. He is chiefly known to the world through
the works which he compiled on medicine, mostly from the Greek and Latin authors. These
works for centuries dominated the medical world, and were used in certain European Universities until the 17th century. A great many works are attributed to him, and he is copiously
quoted by Agricola, principally in his De Ortu et Causis, apparently for the purpose of