Italian Translation of Hero's Pneumatics
[FETE] HERO OF ALEXANDRIA. Gli Artificiosi et curiosi moti spiritali. Bologna, Carlo Zenero, 1647.
4to. [14.5 x 19 cm], (4) ff., 103 pp (verso blank), (4) ff., including 80 odd woodcuts in text. Bound in stiff vellum. Tiny tear in blank lower edge of title; some finger soiling in corners of a handful of leaves, otherwise a fresh copy
Second edition of Aleotti's Italian translation of Hero's Pneumatics, and like the author's related title on automata, of interest for 17th-century theatrical machinery and festival productions. The mechanical wonders of the school of Alexandria gave the Renaissance Vitruvian architect engineer the sources he needed, for example, for garden automata; for the texts, particularly of Hero's Pneumatics, dealt largely in terms of spectacular effects obtained by means of hydraulics. - Strong, Art and Power. Renaissance Festivals, p. 38. The translator Aleotti (1546-1636) wrote a work on theatrical perspective, but it seems not to have been published (Vagnetti EIIb32).
The work contains descriptions of a fire-pump and water organ, as well as apparatus for magic and toys: puppets that move when a fire is lit, singing birds and sounding trumpets, animals that drink when offered water, etc. The best known invention is a globe suspended by trunnions which revolves by reaction to steam which builds up inside: it has been called the first steam engine.
Aleotti's translation was first published in Ferrara in 1589. A new Italian translation was made by Alessandro Giorgi, but this employed, with minor modifications, the woodblocks of Commandino's Latin translation of 1575. The present edition reprints the Aleotti translation and with the exception of six blocks that were re-cut, returns to the woodcuts of the first Italian edition. The woodcuts of all editions closely follow those found in the work's manuscript tradition. See B. Woodcroft in The Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria (London 1851), p. viii.
* Piantanida 1627; cf. Mortimer I.230 (1589).