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De re Metallica


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A Presidential Classic The original edition of De Re Metallica (On the Nature of Metals, or Minerals) by Georg Bauer, writing under the Latinized pen name Georgius Agricola, was published in Germany in 1556. Bauer/Agricola had died the previous year, and had in fact completed writing the work several years before that. Publication was delayed, however, until the illustrations that supplement and ornament the work were completed. De Re Metallica was a comprehensive treatise on the state of the art at the time of mining, refining, and smelting metals. Illustrated with 289 finely crafted woodcut illustrations, it was one of the most beautifully illustrated books produced in the first century of printing, and immediately became one of the landmarks of early scientific and technical printing as well. However, until the early years of the twentieth century, the book was only available in the original Latin version, affordable by only wealthy collectors and institutions, and readable only by those who knew Latin. At this point, the history of De Re Metallica intersects with the life of the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. Hoover graduated from Stanford in1895 with a degree in geology and during the years before the start of World War One worked as a mining engineer primarily in Australia and China. Through his professional interest in mining, and with the assistance of his wife (Lou Henry Hoover, a Latin scholar who had studied geology in college), Hoover translated De Re Metallica into English. In the late 1940s, over a decade after he left the Presidency, Hoover was retired, living in New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Founder and first President of Dover Publications Hayward Cirker wrote to Hoover suggesting that Dover, then less than ten years old and publishers of what could only be described as a modest list of books of scientific interest, would like to reprint the Hoovers' translation of De Re Metallica in a new edition. Over a period of time, Cirker convinced Hoover to do it. In 1950, the Dover edition came out. On the wall in Dover's Mineola office is a framed letter from President Hoover thanking Hayward Cirker for sending him the Dover edition of De Re Metallica and expressing satisfaction that the venture seemed to be working out well. Now in its sixty-first year as a Dover book, first in hardcover, now in paperback, Dover's De Re Metallica is now one of the most successful books Dover has ever published.

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