(Venetia: Gio. Battista Bertoni, 1601). 203 x 140 mm. (8 x 5 1/2"). 47,  (colophon) leaves.Translated into Italian by Bernardino Baldi. Second Italian Edition.
Contemporary limp vellum, flat spine with later (chipped) paper label, ink titling to tail edge of text block (lacking front pastedown). Title page with architectural border, 11 engravings of mechanical toys (six of them full-page) and 11 woodcuts in the text. Inside front cover with bookplate of Wigan Free Library; front flyleaf with that institution's embossed stamp and ink deaccession stamp; flyleaf also with (crossed-out) ink inscription dated 1636. Riccardi I, 67 (1st ed.); Singer II, 635; DSB IV, 312; Graesse III, 258. Vellum a bit soiled and (naturally?) speckled, front free endpaper with old cellotape repair to horizontal tear, title page a little soiled, minor worming to fore margin (away from text and images), otherwise an excellent copy, the leaves clean, fresh, and rather bright, and the binding pleasant and sound.
Even though this work on early mechanics, especially as they relate to puppet shows, is a more whimsical book than the author's influential "Pneumatics," it nevertheless made important contributions to the history of technology. First published in Italian in 1589, "Automata" describes two cabinet puppet theaters which perform without human manipulation. One shows Dionysus and his bacchantes worshipping at an altar, the other enacts the shipwreck from the myth of Nauplius, complete with leaping dolphins. The parts moved by means of strings and drums attached to a heavy lead weight, which rested on a sack of grain in which there was a hole. As the grain drained out through the hole, the weight was slowly lowered to the ground, pulling the strings, turning the drums, and operating the puppets. The illustrations here show both the audience view and the behind-the-scenes mechanisms of the puppet theaters. As DSB observes, this work "represents a marvel of ingenuity with very scant mechanical means." According to Singer, "The accounts of these automata are interesting as introducing for the first time mechanisms that formed the basis of later machines. Among them are the crank, the camshaft, and systems of rotation with counter-weights." (ST12766)
Add to Cart Price: $2,400.00
PJP Catalog: SE16BF.053