De re metallica title page 1556. 1556 due to a delay in preparing woodcuts for the text. The book re metallica pdf in english the authoritative text on mining for 180 years after its publication.
It was also an important chemistry text for the period and is significant in the history of chemistry. Mining was typically left to professionals, craftsmen and experts who were not eager to share their knowledge. Much experiential knowledge had been accumulated over the course of time. This knowledge was consecutively handed down orally within a small group of technicians and mining overseers. In the Middle Ages these people held the same leading role as the master builders of the great cathedrals, or perhaps also alchemists. It was a small, cosmopolitan elite within which existing knowledge was passed on and further developed but not shared with the outside world. Only a few writers from that time wrote anything about mining itself.
Partly, that was because this knowledge was very difficult to access. Most writers also found it simply not worth the effort to write about it. Only in the Renaissance did this perception begin to change. Ulrich Rulein von Calw, was published. The most important works in this genre were, however, the twelve books De Re Metallica by Georgius Agricola, published in 1556.
The German mining technology it portrayed was acknowledged as the most advanced at the time, and the metallic wealth produced in German mining districts was the envy of many other European nations. The book was reprinted in a number of Latin editions, as well as in German and Italian translations. Publication in Latin meant that it could be read by any educated European of the time. The numerous woodcuts and detailed descriptions of machinery made it a practical reference for those wishing to replicate the latest in mining technology. The translation is notable not only for its clarity of language, but for the extensive footnotes, which detail the classical references to mining and metals.