RAMELLI, Agostino (ca 1531-after 20 August 1608). Le diverse et artificiose machine ... nellequali si contengono varij et industriosi movimenti ... Composte in lingua Italiana et Francese. Paris: the author, 1588.
2o (307 x 206 mm). Text in French and Italian, in roman and italic types respectively. Engraved title within architectural frame, engraved portrait of the author on verso of title, title and portrait by Lonard Gaultier, 194 engravings, of which 174 full-page and 20 double-page (numbered to 195, numbers 148-149 a single double-page plate), three signed with the monogram "JG", text and engravings printed within borders of typographic floral ornaments, 4-line historiated and 2-line floriated initials, woodcut tail-pieces and corner ornaments. (Some pale dampstaining and browning, small hole to g3 and Hh2 affecting image margin and a few letters on three lines of text on verso, n1-r8 with minor marginal worming to inner margin, V6 with lower corner torn away affecting tiny portion of typographical border.) 19th-century vellum. Provenance: J.M. de Reck (armorial bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF A FUNDAMENTAL BOOK IN THE HISTORY BOTH OF TECHNOLOGY AND OF BOOK DESIGN, and "one of the most elegantly produced of all technological treatises" (Norman). The scientific import of Ramelli's work resides in his demonstration of "the unlimited possibilities of machines. For example, the dozens of water-powered pumps and mills shown in his treatise clearly demonstrated that non-muscular power could be substituted for horse- or human-power in any mechanical task requiring continuous or repetitive application of force, and the portrayal of over twenty types of water pump ... destroyed the notion that there were necessary limits to the configuration or arrangement of a machine" (op. cit.) About half of the engravings depict hydraulic devices, the rest showing military machines as well as fountains, bridges, cranes, foundry equipment, etc., and a smattering of innovative devices such as the famous "reading wheel" or the bouquet with artificial singing birds. The influence of the illustrations was far-reaching and they were copied in a number of technical books during the next two centuries.
In his preface, Ramelli explains that the exceptional care lavished upon the design and printing of his treatise was due as much to his wish to foil a crudely pirated publication of some of his designs (probably in the ca. 1583 Timon of Ambroise Bachot, future ingnieur du roi), as to his desire to show gratitude to his patron Henri III. The work was reprinted only once, in 1620. Adams R-52; Brunet IV:1095; Dibner Heralds of Science 173; Harvard/Mortimer French 452; Norman 1777; Riccardi I:341.