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Physics & Optics


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“The Most Important Book on Mechanics Published in the Sixteenth Century” – Drake

MONTE, Guido Ubaldo, Marchese del. Mechanicorum Liber. Pesaro, H. Concordia, 1577.

Folio [29.4 x 19.6 cm], (8) ff. (the last blank), 130, (1) f. [colophon], 1 integral blank, with numerous woodcut diagrams and illustrations in text. Old ownership stamp “Darquier” neatly stenciled on title (the Toulousain astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix 1718-1802?) Bound in 18th century vellum over paste boards, covers a bit soiled and abraded. Inconsequential soiling and a little spotting to title; even toning to some quires, but generally a fresh and appealing copy.

$19,500

Rare first edition of the author’s first work, generally regarded as the most important treatise on mechanics since Archimedes and a critical influence on Galileo. The work is notable for its commitment to establishing mechanics on a rigorously mathematical basis, for its powerful argument that mechanics and statics are separate sciences and for its insistence that mechanics should not consider abstract and/or abstruse entities but the activity of machines. Stillman Drake particularly emphasizes the importance of the section on pulleys, where Monte reduces them (as he does most other simple machines) to a lever. As such, the work has technological implications for navigation, manufacture, the plastic arts and medicine (f. 245).

“From the time of its publication in 1577... [it was] the most authoritative treatise on statics to emerge since antiquity, and it remained pre-eminent until the appearance of Galileo’s Two New Sciences in 1638. It marks the high point of the Archimedean revival of the Renaissance” (Rose, Italian Renaissance of Mathematics, p. 222).

Monte (1545-1607) studied mathematics at Padua and subsequently at Urbino, where he studied with Commandino, editing and publishing the latter’s translation of Pappus. He conducted an extensive scientific correspondence with Galileo, securing for the Florentine his chairs at Pisa and later at Padua.


* Adams U-7; Riccardi II.178; P.L. Rose, DSB IX.487-89, & The Italian Renaissance of Mathematics, pp. 222ff.; Biblioteca Mechanica, pp. 228-9.

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