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1567 Ceredi Archimedes Screw Irrigation Italian Renaissance Hydraulic Mechanics For Sale

1567 Ceredi Archimedes Screw Irrigation Italian Renaissance Hydraulic Mechanics

[Early Printing - Italy - Parma] [Early Illustrated Books - Technical Illustrations] [History of Science - Renaissance]
[Physics and Mechanics] [Hydraulic Engineering] [Pumping Machinery - Archimedean screw] [Irrigation]

Printed in Parma by Seth Viotti, 1567.
First and Only Edition.
Text in Italian. Illustrated WITH FOUR SUPERB FOLDING WOODCUT PLATES and several woodcuts in text.

"Seule edition de cet ouvrage tres rare." (Olschki).

SCARCE AND ATTRACTIVELY ILLUSTRATED FIRST EDITION of the interesting work on improvements to the Archimedean screw and their application to irrigation and "the first theoretical discussion of the crank" (Lynn White, Medieval Technology and Social Change, p.116).

Ceredi's work was the "first published proposal for a systematic scheme of irrigation using a standardized mechanical device. That alone would deserve attention; but Ceredi also analyzed the economic feasibility of his scheme and went on to consider certain of its implications with respect to public health, land utilization, navigable streams, and the effect on the poor of a competitive export advantage". (S. Drake, Essays on Galileo, III, p. 171).

"Tratta con molta erudizione delle macchine idrovore, dei loro inventori, e della vite d'Archimede che egli preferisce alle altre; e si estende in materie idrauliche che meriterebbero essere studiate per la storia di questa scienza." (Riccardi)

"The engineer Giuseppe Ceredi of Piacenza [...] published at Parma in 1567 a book called Tre Discorsi sopra il Modo d'AlzarAcque da' Luoghi Bassi ("Three Discourses on Means of Raising Water from Low Places"). Ceredi was interested in the construction and use of the Archimedean screw for the irrigation of fields and the draining of swamps. He had found that the devices in use were inefficient, and sought to discover the rules of design by which they might be improved. The results led him to specify a maximum length and optimum dimension for the water-channel, to suggest batteries of screws for lifts higher than the efficient maximum length, and to examine the design of cranks and other devices for turning the screws. Though not written in deductive form, Ceredi's investigations belong to theoretical mechanics; they are reminiscent of the experiential rules given by Philo of Byzantium for the construction of ballistae. Also worthy of note [...] is Ceredi's economic analysis of the probable gain in crop yield through irrigation as compared with the operating and capital costs of machinery and the expense of labour in harvesting and hauling to market the increased yield. Ceredi obtained a patent from Ottavio Farnese in 1566 for the development of his machines, a fact suggesting that at Parma he may have talked with Benedetti, who was then Farnese's adviser on engineering matters. Ceredi was familiar with the works of Archimedes and Pappus; among later writers he mentions Giorgio Valla, Girolamo Cardano, and Georg Agricola". (Drake and Drabkin, Mechanics in Sixteenth-Cenury Italy, pp 51-2).

Archimedes' screw, or the Archimedean screw (also known as the screw pump), is a mechanical pump widely used in the Classical world for transferring water up from a low-lying body of water. It consists of a screw (a helical surface surrounding a central cylindrical shaft) inside a hollow pipe. The screw is turned usually by a windmill or by manual labour. As the shaft turns, the bottom end scoops up a volume of water. This water will slide up in the spiral tube, until it finally pours out from the top of the tube and feeds the irrigation systems. The screw was used mostly for draining water out of mines or other areas of low lying water. Depictions of Greek and Roman water screws show them being powered by a human treading on the outer casing to turn the entire apparatus as one piece, which would require that the casing be rigidly attached to the screw.

"Its invention was attributed to Archimedes in the third century BC, some said while he was in Egypt and for the purpose of irrigation, while another story had him invent it in Syracuse to remove water from the hold of a ship of Hiero's. Its design and construction were discussed by Vitruvius, whose book On Architecture had a great vogue in the sixteenth century [...] On the other hand, Professor Alex Keller states quite positively that the device was not known in the Middle Ages. That it was still not in use for irrigation up to the very year of Ceredi's book is evident from the commentary of Daniel Barbaro in the second Italian edition published in 1567." (Drake, op. cit., p.173)

Drake also notes that "the mechanical device in question [...] was not entirely unknown to Ceredi's contemporaries, though its transformation into a practicable form for use in irrigation has been neglected. Ceredi's contribution was to give it an optimum form by the construction and testing of models, taking into consideration the strength of available materials and the source of power to be applied, and this approach seems not to have been previously explained in print. Finally, Ceredi had a certain conception of science which he ably set forth - one that seems to me very close to that of the later seventeenth century [...] and to our own." (Ioffer, p.171)

Following Ceredi's description, and the granting of a patent by the Venetian Republic, these pumps became more widely used in Southern Europe for drainage and irrigation. Galileo, who subsequently improved the device, was granted a patent for raising water by horse-power (see Stillman Drake, Galileo at Work, p 35).

Bibliographic references:

Adams C1280; Hoover 210; Riccardi I, 339; Wellcome 1411; Riccardi, I, 339; Goldsmiths-Kress Lib. of economic lit. (supp.) 116.0; Brunet I, 339; Honeyman 661; Cicognara 895; Olschki, Choix, IV, 4306. For a detailed analysis of the work see Stillman Drake, An Agricultural Economist of the Late Renaissance, Essays on Galileo vol III, pp 170-189.

Physical description:

Quarto (textblock measures 20 cm x 15 cm). Modern quarter-leather over paper-covered boards using early liturgical leaves printed in red and black with music (Gregorian chant) in square neumes on four-line staves, probably from a 16th-century graduale or processionale.

Pagination: [xx] 100 [recte 99] [ [1, blank] pp.
Signatures: a4 b6 A-D8 E12 F8.
The four folding leaves of plates counted in pagination (as pp. 69, 70, 75 and 78) and in collation (as E3, E4, E7 and E9).
Collated and COMPLETE!

Woodcut printer's device on title-page, 13 woodcut illustrations in text and 4 folding woodcut plates: three double-page and one larger plate measuring approximately 41 cm x 29½ cm. Several historiated woodcut initials and some decorative head- and tail-pieces.

Dedication to Alessandro Farnese on leaves a2r-a4r; Table of Contents on b1r-b6r. Errata on b6v. The patent from Ottavio Farnese (dated 1566) for Ceredi's invention on leaves F7r-F8r.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Occasional moderate browning or light spotting, some marginal soiling. First two plates bound upside down; both with light marginal fraying, second with very slight loss at outer edges of the image. The third plate with some staining and with two short closed tears discretely repaired on verso. Generally an attractive, wide-margined, clean example of this rare work.

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1567 Ceredi Archimedes Screw Irrigation Italian Renaissance Hydraulic Mechanics

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