Skip to main content

Full text of "De re metallica"

See other formats

Heury Stomtnel 



- In AA.eraorvatrt' 







Biographical Introduction, Annotations and Appendices upon 

the Development of Mining Methods, Metallurgical 

Processes, Geology, Mineralogy & Mining Law 

from the earliest times to the i6th Century 



A. B. Stanford University, IVIember American Institute of Mining Engineers, 

Mining and Metallurgical Society of America, Sociiti des Ing6niiurs 

Civils de France, American Institute of Civil Engineers, 

Fellow Royal Geographical Society, etc., etc. 



A. B. Stanford University, Member American Association for the 

Advancement of Science, The National Geographical Society, 

Ro^al Scottish Geographical Society, etc., etc. 




W. H. 0. \. 


T>over 'Publications^ Inc, 

NEW Y<^' 



The inspiration of whose teaching is no less great than his contribution to science. 

This New 1950 Edition 
of DE RE METALLICA is a complete 
and unchanged reprint of the transla- 
tion published byThe Mining Magazine, 
London, in igia.Ithasbeen made avail- 
able through the kind permission of Honor- 
able Herbert C. Hoover and Mr. Edgar 
Rickard, Author and Publisher, respec- 
tively, of the original volume. 

International Standard Book Number: 0-486-60006-S 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: Ail-8994 

Manufactured in the United States of America 

Dover Publications, Inc. 
180 Varick Street 
New York 14, N. Y. 


HERE are three objectives in translation of works 
of this character : to give a faithful, literal trans- 
lation of the author's statements ; to give these 
in a manner which will interest the reader ; and to 
preserve, so far as is possible, the style of the 
original text. The task has been doubly difficult 
in this work because, in using Latin, the author 
availed himself of a medium which had ceased to 
expand a thousand years before his subject had in 
many particulars come into being ; in consequence he was in difficulties 
with a large number of ideas for which there were no corresponding 
words in the vocabulary at his command, and instead of adopting into the 
text his native German terms, he coined several hundred Latin expressions 
to answer his needs. It is upon this rock that most former attempts at 
translation have been wrecked. Except for a very small number, we 
believe we have been able to discover the intended meaning of such 
expressions from a study of the context, assisted by a very incomplete 
glossary prepared by the author himself, and by an exhaustive investigation 
into the hterature of these subjects during the sixteenth and seventeenth 
centuries. That discovery in this particular has been only gradual and 
obtained after much labour, may be indicated by the fact that the entire 
text has been re-typewritten three times since the original, and some 
parts more often ; and further, that the printer's proof has been thrice revised. 
We have found some English equivalent, more or less satisfactory, for 
practically all such terms, except those of weights, the varieties of veins, 
and a few minerals. In the matter of weights we have introduced the 
original Latin, because it is impossible to give true equivalents and avoid the 
fractions of reduction ; and further, as explained in the Appendix on Weights it 
is impossible to say in many cases what scale the Author had in mind. The 
Enghsh nomenclature to be adopted has given great difficulty, for various 
reasons ; among them, that many methods and processes described have 
never been practised in English-speaking mining communities, and so had no 
representatives in our vocabulary, and we considered the introduction of 
German terms undesirable ; other methods and processes have become 
obsolete and their descriptive terms with them, yet we wished to avoid 
the introduction of obsolete or unusual English ; but of the greatest 
importance of all has been the necessity to avoid rigorously such modem 
technical terms as would imply a greater scientific understanding than the 
period possessed. 

Agricola's Latin, while mostly free from mediaeval corruption, is some- 
what tainted with German construction. Moreover some portions have not 


the continuous flow of sustained thought which others display, but the fact 
that the writing of the work extended over a period of twenty years, suffic- 
iently explains the considerable variation in style. The technical descriptions 
in the later books often take the form of House-that-Jack-built sentences 
which have had to be at least partially broken up and the subject 
occasionally re-introduced. Ambiguities were also sometimes found which it 
was necessary to carry on into the translation. Despite these criticisms we 
must, however, emphasize that Agricola was infinitely clearer in his style 
than his contemporaries upon such subjects, or for that matter than his 
successors in almost any language for a couple of centuries. AU of the 
illustrations and display letters of the original have been reproduced and 
the type as closely approximates to the original as the printers have been 
able to find in a modern font. 

There are no footnotes in the original text, and Mr. Hoover is responsible 
for them all. He has attempted in them to give not only such comment 
as would tend to clarify the text, but also such information as we have 
been able to discover with regard to the previous history of the subjects 
mentioned. We have confined the historical notes to the time prior to 
Agricola, because to have carried them down to date in the briefest manner 
would have demanded very much more space than could be allowed. In the 
examination of such technical and historical material one is appalled at the 
flood of mis-information with regard to ancient arts and sciences which has 
been let loose upon the world by the hands of non-technical translators and 
commentators. At an early stage we considered that we must justify any 
divergence of view from such authorities, but to limit the already alarming 
volume of this work, we later felt compelled to eliminate most of such dis- 
cussion. When the half-dozen most important of the ancient works bearing 
upon science have been translated by those of some scientific experience, 
such questions will, no doubt, be properly settled. 

We need make no apologies for De Re Metallica. During i8o years 
it was not superseded as the text-book and guide to miners and metallurgists, 
for until Schliiter's great work on metallurgy in 1738 it had no equal. That 
it passed through some ten editions in three languages at a period when the 
printing of such a volume was no ordinary undertaking, is in itself sufficient 
evidence of the importance in which it was held, and is a record that no other 
volume upon the same subjects has equalled since. A large proportion of the 
technical data given by Agricola was either entirely new, or had not been 
given previously with sufficient detail and explanation to have enabled a 
worker in these arts himself to perform the operations without further guid- 
ance. Practically the whole of it must have been given from personal ex- 
perience and observation, for the scant library at his service can be appreci- 
ated from his own Preface. Considering the part which the metallic arts 
have played in human history, the paucity of their literature down to 
Agricola's time is amazing. No doubt the arts were jealously guarded by 
their practitioners as a sort of stock-in-trade, and it is also probable that 
those who had knowledge were not usually of a literary turn of mind ; and. 


on the other hand, the small army of writers prior to his time were not much 
interested in the description of industrial pursuits. Moreover, in those 
thousands of years prior to printing, the tedious and expensive transcription of 
manuscripts by hand was mostly applied to matters of more general interest, 
and therefore many writings may have been lost in consequence. In fact, 
such was the fate of the works of Theophrastus and Strato on these subjects. 

We have prepared a short sketch of Agricola's life and times, not only 
to give some indication of his learning and character, but also of his 
considerable position in the community in which he lived. As no appreciation 
of Agricola's stature among the founders of science can be gained without 
consideration of th6 advance which his works display over those of his 
predecessors, we therefore devote some attention to the state of knowledge 
of these subjects at the time by giving in the Appendix a short review of the 
literature then extant and a summary of Agricola's other writings. To serve the 
bibliophile we present such data as we have been able to collect it with regard 
to the various editions of his works. The full titles of the works quoted in 
the footnotes under simply authors' names will be found in this Appendix. 

We feel that it is scarcely doing Agricola justice to publish De Re 
Metallica only. While it is of the most general interest of all of his works, 
yet, from the point of view of pure science, De Natura Fossilium and De 
Ortu et Causis are works which deserve an equally important place. It is 
unfortunate that Agricola's own countrymen have not given to the world 
competent translations into German, as his work has too often been judged 
by the German translations, the infideUty of which appears in nearly every 

We do not present De Re Metallica as a work of " practical " value. 
The methods and processes have long since been superseded ; yet surely such 
a milestone on the road of development of one of the two most basic of human 
industrial activities is more worthy of preservation than the thousands of 
volumes devoted to records of human destruction. To those interested in 
the history of their own profession we need make no apologies, except 
for the long delay in publication. For this we put forward the necessity of 
active endeavour in many directions ; as this book could be but a labour of 
love, it has had to find the moments for its execution in night hours, week- 
ends, and holidays, in all extending over a period of about five years. If the 
work serves to strengthen the traditions of one of the most important and 
least recognized of the world's professions we shall be amply repaid. 

It is our pleasure to acknowledge our obUgations to Professor H. R. 
Fairclough, of Stanford University, for perusal of and suggestions upon the first 
chapter ; and to those whom we have engaged from time to time for one service 
or another, chiefly bibliographical work and collateral translation. We are 
also sensibly obligated to the printers, Messrs. Frost & Sons, for their patience 
and interest, and for their willingness to bend some of the canons of modem 
printing, to meet the demands of the i6th Century. 

The Red House, July i, 1912. 

HoRNTON Street, London. 



EORGIUS AGRICOLA was bom at Glauchau, in 
Saxony, on March 24th, 1494, and therefore entered 
the world when it was still upon the threshold of the 
Renaissance ; Gutenberg's first book had been print- 
ed but forty years before ; the Humanists had but 
begun that stimulating criticism which awoke the 
Reformation; Erasmus, of Rotterdam, who was sub- 
sequently to become Agricola's friend and patron, 
was just completing his student days. The Refor- 
mation itself was yet to come, but it was not long delayed, for Luther 
was bom the year before Agricola, and through him Agricola's home- 
land became the cradle of the great movement ; nor did Agricola escape being 
drawn into the conflict. Italy, already awake with the new classical revival, was 
still a busy workshop of antiquarian research, translation, study, and 
publication, and through her the Greek and Latin Classics were only 
now available for wide distribution. Students from the rest of Europe, 
among them at a later time Agricola himself, flocked to the Italian 
Universities, and on their return infected their native cities with the newly- 
awakened learning. At Agricola's birth Columbus had just returned from his 
great discovery, and it was only three years later that Vasco Da Gama rounded 
Cape Good Hope. Thus these two foremost explorers had only initiated 
that greatest period of geographical expansion in the world's history. A few 
dates will recall how far this exploration extended during Agricola's lifetime. 
Balboa first saw the Pacific in 15 13 ; Cortes entered the City of Mexico in 
1520 ; Magellan entered the Pacific in the same year ; Pizarro penetrated 
into Peru in 1528 ; De Soto landed in Florida in 1539, and Potosi was dis- 
covered in 1546. Omitting the sporadic settlement on the St. Lawrence by 
Cartier in 1541, the settlement of North America did not begin for a quarter 
of a century after Agricola's death. Thus the revival of learning, with its 
train of Humanism, the Reformation, its stimulation of exploration and the 
re-awakening of the arts and sciences, was stiU in its infancy with Agricola. 

We know practically nothing of Agricola's antecedents or his youth. His 
real name was Georg Bauer (" peasant "), and it was probably Latinized by 
his teachers, as was the custom of the time. His own brother, in receipts 

^For the biographical information here set out we have rehed principally upon the 
following works : — Petrus Albinus, Meissnische Land Und Berg Chronica, Dresden, 1590 ; 
Adam Daniel Richter, Umstandliche. . . . Chronica der Sladi Chemnitz, Leipzig, 1754 ; 
Johann Gottfried Weller, Altes Aus Allen Theilen Der Geschichte, Chemnitz, 1766 ; 
Freidrich August Schmid, Georg Agrikola's Bermannus, Freiberg, 1806 ; Georg Heinrich 
Jacobi, Der Mineralog Geotgius Agricola, Zwickau, 1881 ; Dr. Reinhold Hofmann, Dr. Georg 
Agricola, Gotha, 1905. The last is an exhaustive biographical sketch, to which we refer 
those who are interested. 


preserved in the archives of the Zwickau Town Council, calls himself "Bauer," 
and in them refers to his brother " Agricola." He entered the University of 
Leipsic at the age of twenty, and after about three and one-half years' attendance 
there gaini^d the degree of Baccalaurcus Artium. In 1518 he became Vice- 
Principal of the Municipal School at Zwickau, where he taught Greek and Latin. 
In 1520 he became Principal, and among his assistants was Johannes Forster, 
better known as Luther's collaborator in the translation of the Bible. During 
this time our author prepared and published a small Latin Grammar^. In 
1522 he removed to Leipsic to become a lecturer in the University under his 
friend, Petrus Mosellanus, at whose death in 1524 he went to Italy for the 
further study of Philosophy, Medicine, and the Natural Sciences. Here he 
remained for nearly three years, from 1524 to 1526. He visited the Universities 
of Bologna, Venice, and probably Padua, and at these institutions received 
his first inspiration to work in the sciences, for in a letter^ from Leonardus 
Casibrotius to Erasmus we learn that he was engaged upon a revision of Galen. 
It was about this time that he made the acquaintance of Erasmus, who had 
settled at Basel as Editor for Froben's press. 

In 1526 Agricola returned to Zwickau, and in 1527 he was chosen town 
physician at Joachimsthal. This little city in Bohemia is located on the 
eastern slope of the Erzgebirge, in the midst of the then most prolific metal- 
mining district of Central Europe. Thence to Freiberg is but fifty miles, 
and the same radius from that city would include most of the mining towns 
so frequently mentioned in De Re MetalUca — Schneeberg, Geyer, Annaberg 
and Altenberg — and not far away were Marienberg, Gottesgab, and Flatten. 
Joachimsthal was a booming mining camp, founded but eleven years before 
Agricola's arrival, and already having several thousand inhabitants. Accord- 
ing to Agricola's own statement*, he spent all the time not required for his 
medical duties in visiting the mines and smelters, in reading up in the Greek and 
Latin authors all references to mining, and in association with the most learned 
among the mining folk. Among these was one Lorenz Berman, whom Agricola 
afterward set up as the " learned miner " in his dialogue Bermannus. This 
book was first published by Froben at Basel in 1530, and was a sort of 
catechism on mineralogy, mining terms, and mining lore. The book was 
apparently first submitted to the great Erasmus, and the pubUcation arranged 
by him, a warm letter of approval by him appearing at the beginning of the 
book^. In 1533 he published De Mensuris et Ponderibus, through Froben, 
this being a discussion of Roman and Greek weights and measures. At 
about this time he began De Re MetalUca — not to be pubUshed for 
twenty-five years. 

^Georgii Agricolae Glaucii Libellus de Prima ac Simflici Insiiiuiione Grammatica, 
printed by Melchior Lotther, Leipzig, 1520 Petrus Mosellanus refers to this work (without 
giving title) in a letter to Agricola, June, 1520. 

^Brieje an Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam. Published by Joseph Forstemann 
and Otto Giinther. xxvii. Beiheft zum Zentralblatt fiir Bihliolhekswesen, Leipzig, 1904. 

P- 44- 

*De Veterihus et Novis Metallis. Preface. 

'A summary of this and of Agricola's other works is given in the Appendix A. 


Agricola did not confine his interest entirely to medicine and mining, 
for during this period he composed a pamphlet upon the Turks, urging their 
extermination by the European powers. This work was no doubt inspired by 
the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1529. It appeared first in German in 1531, 
and in Latin — in which it was originally written — in 1538, and passed through 
many subsequent editions. 

At this time, too, he became interested in the God's Gift mine at 
Albertham, which was discovered in 1530. Writing in 1545, he says® : 
" We, as a shareholder, through the goodness of God, have enjoyed the 
" proceeds of this God's Gift since the very time when the mine began first 
"to bestow such riches." 

Agricola seems to have resigned his position at Joachimsthal in about 
1530, and to have devoted the next two or three years to travel and study 
among the mines. About 1533 he became city physician of Chemnitz, in 
Saxony, and here he resided until his death in 1555. There is but little 
record of his activities during the first eight or nine years of his residence in 
this city. He m.ust have been engaged upon the study of his subjects and 
the preparation of his books, for they came on with great rapidity soon after. 
He was frequently consulted on matters of mining engineering, as, for instance, 
we learn, from a letter written by a certain Johannes Hordeborch', that 
Duke Henry of Brunswick applied to him with regard to the method for 
working mines in the Upper Harz. 

In 1543 he married Anna, widow of Matthias Meyner, a petty tithe 
official ; there is some reason to beUeve from a letter pubhshed by Schmid,* 
that Anna was his second wife, and that he was married the first time at 
Joachimsthal. He seems to have had several children, for he commends his 
young children to the care of the Town Council during his absence at the 
war in 1547. I^ addition to these, we know that a son, Theodor, was bom 
in 1550 ; a daughter, Anna, in 1552 ; another daughter, Irene, was buried at 
Chemnitz in 1555 ; and in 1580 his widow and three children — Anna, 
Valerius, and Lucretia — were still living. 

In 1544 began the publication of the series of books to which Agiicola 
owes his position. The first volume comprised five works and was finally 
issued in 1546 ; it was subsequently considerably revised, and re-issued in 1558. 
These works were : De Oriu et Causis Subterraneorum, in five " books," the 
first work on physical geology ; De Natura Eorum quae Effluunt ex Terra, in 
four " books," on subterranean waters and gases ; De Natura Fossilium, in 
ten " books," the first systematic mineralogy ; De Veteribus et Novis Metallis, 
in two " books," devoted largely to the history of metals and topographical 
mineralogy ; a new edition of Bermannus was included ; and finally Rerum 
Metallicarum Interpretatio, a glossary of Latin and German mineralogical 
and metallurgical terms. Another work, De Animantibus Subterraneis, 
usually pubhshed with De Re Metallica, is dated 1548 in the preface. It 

'De Veteribus et Novis Metallis, Book I. 

'Printed in F. A Schmid's Georg Agrikola's Btrmannus, p 14, Freiberg, 1806. 

»0p. Cit., p. 8. 


is devoted to animals which hve underground, at least part of the time, but 
is not a very effective basis of either geologic or zoologic classi- 
fication. Despite many public activities, Agricola apparently completed 
De Re Metallica in 1550, but did not send it to the press until 1553 ; nor 
did it appear until a year after his death in 1555. But we give further details 
on the preparation of this work on p. xv. During this period he found time 
to prepare a small medical work, De Peste, and certain historical studies, 
details of which appear in the Appendix. There are other works by Agricola re- 
ferred to by sixteenth century writers, but so far we have not been able to find 
them although they may exist. Such data as we have, is given in the appendix. 

As a young man, Agricola seems to have had some tendencies toward 
liberalism in religious matters, for while at Zwickau he composed some anti- 
Popish Epigrams ; but after his return to Leipsic he apparently never wavered, 
and steadily refused to accept the Lutheran Reformation. To many even 
liberal scholars of the day, Luther's doctrines appeared wild and demagogic. 
Luther was not a scholarly man ; his addresses were to the masses ; his Latin 
was execrable. Nor did the bitter dissensions over hair-spUtting theology in 
the Lutheran Church after Luther's death tend to increase respect for the 
movement among the learned. Agricola was a scholar of wide attainments, 
a deep-thinking, religious man, and he remained to the end a staunch Catholic, 
despite the general change of sentiment among his countrymen. His leanings 
were toward such men as his friend the humanist, Erasmus. That he had 
the courage of his convictions is shown in the dedication of De Natura Eorum, 
where he addresses to his friend, Duke Maurice, the pious advice that the 
dissensions of the Germans should be composed, and that the Duke should return 
to the bosom of the Church those who had been torn from her, and adds : " Yet 
" I do not wish to become confused by these turbulent waters, and be led to 
" offend anyone. It is more advisable to check my utterances." As he 
became older he may have become less tolerant in religious matters, for he 
did not seem to show as much patience in the discussion of ecclesiastical topics 
as he must have possessed earher, yet he maintained to the end the respect 
and friendship of such great Protestants as Melanchthon, Camerarius, Fabricius, 
and many others. 

In 1546, when he was at the age of 52, began Agricola's activity in 
public life, for in that year he was elected a Burgher of Chemnitz ; and in the 
same year Duke Maurice appointed him Burgomaster — an office which 
he held for four terms. Before one can gain an insight into his political 
services, and incidentally into the character of the man, it is necessary to 
understand the politics of the time and his part therein, and to bear in mind 
always that he was a staunch CathoUc under a Protestant Sovereign in a 
State seething with militant Protestantism. 

Saxony had been divided in 1485 between the Princes Ernest and Albert, 
the former taking the Electoral dignity and the major portion of the Princi- 
pality. Albert the Brave, the younger brother and Duke of Saxony, obtained 
the subordinate portion, embracing Meissen, but subject to the Elector. 
The Elector Ernest was succeeded in i486 by Frederick the Wise, and under 


his support Luther made Saxony the cradle of the Reformation. This 
Elector was succeeded in 1525 by his brother John, who was in turn succeeded 
by his son John Frederick in 1532. Of more immediate interest to this subject 
is the Albertian line of Saxon Dukes who ruled Meissen, for in that Princi- 
pality Agricola was born and lived, and his pohtical fortunes were associated 
with this branch of the Saxon House. Albert was succeeded in 1505 by his 
son George, " The Bearded," and he in turn by his brother Henry, the last 
of the Catholics, in 1539, who ruled until 1541. Henry was succeeded in 1541 
by his Protestant son Maurice, who was the Patron of Agricola. 

At about this time Saxony was drawn into the storms which rose from 
the long-standing rivalry between Francis I., King of France, and Charles V. 
of Spain. These two potentates came to the throne in the same year (1515), 
and both were candidates for Emperor of that loose Confederation known 
as the Holy Roman Empire. Charles was elected, and intermittent wars 
between these two Princes arose — first in one part of Europe, and then in 
another. Francis finally formed an alKance with the Schmalkalden League 
of German Protestant Princes, and with the Sultan of Turkey, against Charles. 
In 1546 Maurice of Meissen, although a Protestant, saw his best interest in 
a secret league with Charles against the other Protestant Princes, and pro- 
ceeded (the Schmalkalden War) to invade the domains of his superior and 
cousin, the Elector Frederick. The Emperor Charles proved successful in 
this war, and Maurice was rewarded, at the Capitulation of Wittenberg in 1547, 
by being made Elector of Saxony in the place of his cousin. Later on, the 
Elector Maurice found the association with Catholic Charles unpalatable, and 
joined in leading the other Protestant princes in war upon him, and on the 
defeat of the Catholic party and the peace of Passau, Maurice became 
acknowledged as the champion of German national and religious freedom. 
He was succeeded by his brother Augustus in 1553. 

Agricola was much favoured by the Saxon Electors, Maurice and 
Augustus. He dedicates most of his works to them, and shows much gratitude 
for manj' favours conferred upon him. Duke Maurice presented to him a 
house and plot in Chemnitz, and in a letter dated June 14th, 1543," in con- 
nection therewith, says : " . : . . that he may enjoy his life-long a 
' freehold house unburdened by all burgher rights and other municipal ser- 
' vice, to be used by him and inhabited as a free dwelling, and that he may 
' also, for the necessities of his household and of his wife and servants, brew 
' his own beer free, and that he may likewise purvey for himself and his 
' household foreign beer and also wine for use, and yet he shall not sell anv 
' such beer. . . . We have taken the said Doctor under our especial 
' protection and care for our life-long, and he shall not be summoned before 
' any Court of Justice, but only before us and our Councillor. . . ." 

Agricola was made Burgomaster of Chemnitz in 1546. A letter^" from 
Fabricius to Meurer, dated May 19th, 1546, says that Agricola had been 

"Archive 38, Chemnitz Municipal Archives. 

'"Baumgarten-Crusius. Georgii Fabricii Chumnicensis Episiolas ad W. Meureru)K 
et Alio'i Aequale%, Leipzig, 1845, p. 26. 


made Burgomaster by the command of the Prince. This would be Maurice, 
and it is all thr more a tribute to the high respect with which Agricola was 
held, for, as said before, he was a consistent Catholic, and Maurice a Protestant 
Prince. In this same year the Schmalkalden War broke out, and Agricola 
was called to personal attendance upon the Duke Maurice in a diplomatic 
and advisory capacity. In 1546 also he was a member of the Diet of Freiberg, 
and was summoned to Council in Dresden. The next year he continued, by 
the Duke's command. Burgomaster at Chemnitz, although he seems to have 
been away upon Ducal matters most of the time. The Duke addresses^i 
the Chemnitz Council in March, 1547 • " We hereby make known to you 
" that we are in urgent need of your Burgomaster, Dr. Georgius Agricola, 
" with us. It is, therefore, our will that you should jdeld him up and forward 
" him that he should with the utmost haste set forth to us here near Freiberg." 
He was sent on various missions from the Duke to the Emperor Charles, to 
King Ferdinand of Austria, and to other Princes in matters connected with the 
war — the fact that he was a Catholic probably entering into his appointment 
to such missions. Chemnitz was occupied by the troops of first one side, then 
the other, despite the great efforts of Agricola to have his own town specially 
defended. In April, 1547, the war came to an end in the Battle of Miihlberg, 
but Agricola was apparently not relieved of his Burgomastership until the 
succeeding year, for he wrote his friend Wolfgang Meurer, in April, 1548,^^ 
that he " was now relieved." His public duties did not end, however, for he 
attended the Diet of Leipzig in 1547 and in 1549, and was at the Diet 
at Torgau in 1550. In 1551 he was again installed as Burgomaster ; and in 
1553, for the fourth time, he became head of the Municipality, and during 
this year had again to attend the Diets at Leipzig and Dresden, representing 
his city. He apparently now had a short relief from public duties, for it is 
not until 1555, shortly before his death, that we find him again attending a 
Diet at Torgau. 

Agricola died on November 21st, 1555. A letter^* from his life-long friend, 
Fabricius, to Melanchthon, announcing this event, states : " We lost, on 
' November 21st, that distinguished ornament of our Fatherland, Georgius 
' Agricola, a man of eminent intellect, of culture and of judgment. He 
' attained the age of 62. He who since the days of childhood had enjoyed 
' robust health was carried off by a four-days' fever. He had previously 
' suffered from no disease except inflammation of the eyes, which he brought 
' upon himself by untiring study and insatiable reading. . . I know that 
' you loved the soul of this man, although in many of his opinions, more 
' especially in religious and spiritual welfare, he differed in many points from 
' our own. For he despised our Churches, and would not be with us in the 
' Communion of the Blood of Christ. Therefore, after his death, at the 
' command of the Prince, which was given to the Church inspectors and 
' carried out bv Tettelbach as a loyal servant, burial was refused him, and not 

"Hofmai.n, Op. cit., p. gg. 

i^'Weber, Virorum Clarorum Sacculi xvi. ei xvil. Episiolae Sdectae, Leipzig, i8g4, p. 8. 

"Baumgarten-Crusius. Op. cit., p. 139. 


" until the fourth day was he borne away to Zeitz and interred in the Cathedral. 
" .... I have always admired the genius of this man, so distinguished 
" in our sciences and in the whole realm of Philosophy — yet I wonder at his 
" religious views, which were compatible with reason, it is true, and were 
" dazzling, but were by no means compatible with truth. ... He 
" would not tolerate with patience that anyone should discuss ecclesiastical 
" matters with him." This action of the authorities in denying burial to one 
of their most honored citizens, who had been ever assiduous in furthering 
the welfare of the community, seems strangely out of joint. Further, the 
Elector Augustus, although a Protestant Prince, was Agricola's warm friend, 
as evidenced by his letter of but a few months before (see p. xv). However, 
Catholics were then few in number at Chemnitz, and the feeling ran high at the 
time, so possibly the Prince was afraid of public disturbances. Hofmann^* 
explains this occurrence in the following words : — " The feelings of Chemnitz 
" citizens, who were almost exclusively Protestant, must certainly be taken 
" into account. They may have raised objections to the solemn interment of 
" a Catholic in the Protestant Cathedral Church of St. Jacob, which had, 
" perhaps, been demanded by his relatives, and to which, according to the 
" custom of the time, he would have been entitled as Burgomaster. The 
" refusal to sanction the interment aroused, more especially in the Catholic 
" world, a painful sensation." 

A brass memorial plate hung in the Cathedral at Zeitz had already 
disappeared in 1686, nor have the cities of his birth or residence ever shown 
any appreciation of this man, whose work more deserves their gratitude 
than does that of the multitude of soldiers whose monuments decorate every 
village and city square. It is true that in 1822 a marble tablet was 
placed behind the altar in the Church of St. Jacob in Chemnitz, but even 
this was removed to the Historical Museum later on. 

He left a modest estate, which was the subject of considerable litigation by 
his descendants, due to the mismanagement of the guardian. Hofmann has 
succeeded in tracing the descendants for two generations, down to 1609, but 
the line is finally lost among the multitude of other Agricolas. 

To deduce Georgius Agricola's character we need not search beyond the 
discovery of his steadfast adherence to the religion of his fathers amid the 
bitter storm of Protestantism around him, and need but to remember at the 
same time that for twenty-five years he was entrusted with elective positions 
of an increasingly important character in this same community. No man 
could have thus held the respect of his countrymen unless he were devoid of 
bigotry and possessed of the highest sense of integrity, justice, humanity, 
and patriotism. 

i*Hofmann, Op. cit., p. 123. 



Agricola's education was the most thorough that his times afforded in 
the classics, philosophy, medicine, and sciences generally. Further, his writings 
disclosi^ a most exhaustive knowledge not only of an extraordinary range of 
classical literature, but also of obscure manuscrijits buried in the public libraries 
of Europe. That his general learning was held to be of a high order is amply 
evidenced from the correspondence of the other scholars of his time — Erasmus, 
Melanchthon, Meurer, Fabricius, and others. 

Our more immediate concern, however, is with the advances which were due 
to him in the sciences of Geology, Mineralogy, and Mining Engineering. No 
appreciation of these attainments can be conveyed to the reader unless he 
has some understanding of the dearth of knowledge in these sciences prior 
to Agricola's time. We have in Appendix B given a brief review of the 
literature extant at this period on these subjects. Furthermore, no appreciation 
of Agricola's contribution to science can be gained without a study of De 
Ortu et Causis and De Natura FossiUum, for while De Re Metallica is of much 
more general interest, it contains but incidental reference to Geology and 
Mineralogy. Apart from the book of Genesis, the only attempts at funda- 
mental explanation of natural phenomena were those of the Greek Philosophers 
and the Alchemists. Orthodox beliefs Agricola scarcely mentions ; with the 
Alchemists he had no patience. There can be no doubt, however, that his 
views are greatly coloured by his deep classical learning. He was in fine to a 
certain distance a follower of Aristotle, Theophrastus, Strato, and other leaders 
of the Peripatetic school. For that matter, except for the muddy current 
which the alchemists had introduced into this already troubled stream, 
the whole thought of the learned world still flowed from the Greeks. Had he 
not, however, radically departed from the teachings of the Peripatetic school, 
his work would have been no contribution to the development of science. 
Certain of their teachings he repudiated with great vigour, and his 
laboured and detailed arguments in their refutation form the first battle in 
science over the results of observation versus inductive speculation. To use 
his own words : " Those things which we see with our eyes and understand 
" by means of our senses are more clearly to be demonstrated than if learned 
" by means of reasoning. "^^ The bigoted scholasticism of his times necessi- 
tated as much care and detail in refutation of such deep-rooted beliefs, as would 
be demanded to-day by an attempt at a refutation of the theory of evolution, 
and in consequence his works are often but dry reading to any but those 
interested in the development of fundamental scientific theory. 

In giving an appreciation of Agricola's views here and throughout the 
footnotes, we do not wish to convey to the reader that he was in all things 
free from error and from the spirit of his times, or that his theories, constructed 
long before the atomic theory, are of the clear-cut order which that 
basic hypothesis has rendered possible to later scientific speculation in these 
branches. His statements are sometimes much confused, but we reiterate that 

^^De Ortu et Causis, Book III. 


their clarity is as crystal to mud in comparison with those of his predecessors — 
and of most of his successors for over two hundred years. As an indication of 
his grasp of some of the wider aspects of geological phenomena we reproduce, 
in Appendix A, a passage from De Ortu et Causis, which we believe to be the 
first adequate declaration of the part played by erosion in mountain sculpture. 
But of all of Agricola's theoretical views those are of the greatest interest which 
relate to the origin of ore deposits, for in these matters he had the greatest 
opportunities of observation and the most experience. We have on page io8 
reproduced and discussed his theory at considerable length, but we may repeat 
here, that in his propositions as to the circulation of ground waters, that ore 
channels are a subsequent creation to the contained rocks, and that they 
were filled by deposition from circulating solutions, he enunciated the founda- 
tions of our modem theory, and in so doing took a step in advance greater than 
that of any single subsequent authority. In his contention that ore channels 
were created by erosion of subterranean waters he was wrong, except for 
special cases, and it was not until two centuries later that a further step in 
advance was taken by the recognition by Van Oppel of the part played b}' 
fissuring in these phenomena. Nor was it until about the same time that the 
filling of ore channels in the main by deposition from solutions was generally 
accepted. While Werner, two hundred and fifty years after Agricola, is 
generally revered as the inspirer of the modem theory by those whose reading 
has taken them no farther back, we have no hesitation in asserting that of the 
propositions of each author, Agricola's were very much more nearly in 
accord with modem views. Moreover, the main result of the new ideas 
brought forward by Werner was to stop the march of progress for half a 
century, instead of speeding it forward as did those of Agricola. 

In mineralogy Agricola made the first attempt at systematic treatment 
of the subject. His system could not be otherwise than wrongly based, 
as he could scarcely see forward two or three centuries to the atomic theory 
and our vast fund of chemical knowledge. However, based as it is upon 
such properties as solubility and homogeneity, and upon external character- 
istics such as colour, hardness, &c., it makes a most creditable advance 
upon Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Albertus Magnus — his only predecessors. 
He is the first to assert that bismuth and antimony are true primary metals ; 
and to some sixty actual mineral species described previous to his time he 
added some twenty more, and laments that there are scores unnamed. 

As to Agricola's contribution to the sciences of mining and metal- 
lurgy, De Re Metallica speaks for itself. While he describes, for the first 
time, scores of methods and processes, no one would contend that they 
were discoveries or inventions of his own. They represent the accumulation 
of generations of experience and knowledge ; but by him they were, for the 
first time, to receive detailed and intelligent exposition. Until Schliiter's 
work nearly two centuries later, it was not excelled. There is no measure by 
which we may gauge the value of such a work to the men who followed in 
this profession during centuries, nor the benefits enjoyed by humanity 
through them. 



That Agricola occupied a very considerable place in the great awakening of 
learning will be disputed by none except by those who place the development 
of science in rank far below rehgion, politics, literature, and art. Of wider 
importance than the details of his achievements in the mere confines of the 
particular science to which he applied himself, is the fact that he was the first 
to found any of the natural sciences upon research and observation, as opposed 
to previous fruitless speculation. The wider interest of the members of the 
medical profession in the development of their science than that of geologists 
in theirs, has led to the aggrandizement of Paracelsus, a contem- 
porary of Agricola, as the first in deductive science. Yet no comparative 
study of the unparalleled egotistical ravings of this half-genius, half-alchemist, 
with the modest sober logic and real research and observation of Agricola, 
can leave a moment's doubt as to the incomparably greater position which 
should be attributed to the latter as the pioneer in building the foundation 
of science by deduction from observed phenomena. Science is the base upon 
which is reared the civilization of to-day, and while we give daily credit to all 
those who toil in the superstructure, let none forget those men who laid its 
first foundation stones. One of the greatest of these was Georgius Agricola. 


Agricola seems to have been engaged in the preparation of De Re 
Metallica for a period of over twenty years, for we first hear of the book in a 
letter from Petrus Plateanus, a schoolmaster at Joachimsthal, to the great 
humanist, Erasmus, i* in September, 1529. He says : " The scientific world 
" will be still more indebted to Agricola when he brings to light the books 
" De Re Metallica and other matters which he has on hand." In the dedication 
of De Mensuris et Ponderibus (in 1533) Agricola states that he means to 
publish twelve books De Re Metallica, if he lives. That the appearance of this 
work was eagerly anticipated is evidenced by a letter from George Fabricius 
to Valentine Hertel : ^' " With great excitement the books De Re Metallica 
" are being awaited. If he treats the material at hand with his usual zeal, 
" he will win for himself glory such as no one in any of the fields of literature 
" has attained for the last thousand years." According to the dedication of 
De Veteribus et Novis Metallis, Agricola in 1546 already looked forward to 
its early publication. The work was apparently finished in 1550, for the 
dedication to the Dukes Maurice and August of Saxony is dated in December of 
that year. The eulogistic poem by his friend, George Fabricius, is dated in 


The publication was apparently long delayed by the preparation of the 

woodcuts ; and, according to Mathesius,^* many sketches for them were 
prepared by Basihus Wefring. In the preface of De Re Metallica, Agricola 
does not mention who prepared the sketches, but does say : "I have hired 
" illustrators to delineate their forms, lest descriptions which are conveyed 
" by words should either not be understood by men of our own times, or 
" should cause difficulty to posterity." In 1553 the completed book was 
sent to Froben for publication, for a letter ^® from Fabricius to Meurer in 
March, 1553, announces its dispatch to the printer. An interesting letter^" 
from the Elector Augustus to Agricola, dated January 18, 1555, reads : 
' Most learned, dear and faithful subject, whereas you have sent to the Press 
' a Latin book of which the title is said to be De Rebus Metallicis, which has 
' been praised to us and we should like to know the contents, it is our gracious 
' command that you should get the book translated when you have the 
' opportunity into German, and not let it be copied more than once or be 
' printed, but keep it by you and send us a copy. If you should need a 
' writer for this purpose, we will provide one. Thus you will fulfil our 
' gracious behest." The German translation was prepared by Philip Bechius, 
a Basel University Professor of Medicine and Philosophy. It is a wretched 
work, by one who knew nothing of the science, and who more especially had no 
appreciation of the peculiar Latin terms coined by Agricola, most of which 

^^Briefe an Desiderius Erasmus von Rotterdam. Published by Joseph Forstemann 
& Otto Gunther. xxvii. Beiheft zum Zentralblatt fiir Bibiiotheksweseti. Leipzig, 1904, p. 125. 

"Petrus Albinus, Meissniscke Land und Berg Chronica, Dresden. 1590, p. 353. 

'^This statement is contained under " 1556 " in a sort of chronicle bound up with 
Mathesius's Sarepia, Nuremberg, 1562. 

'"Baumgarten-Crusius, p. 85, letter No. 93. 

'"Principal State Archives, Dresden, Cop. 259, folio 102. 


he rendered literally. It is a sad commcntar}' on his countrymen that no 
correct German translation exists. The Italian translation is by Michelangelo 
Florio, and is by him dedicated to Elizabeth, Queen of England. The title 
page of the first edition is reproduced later on, and the full titles of other 
editions are given in the Appendix, together with the author's other works. 
The following are the short titles of the various editions of De Re Metallica, 
together with the name and place of the publisher : — 

Latin Editions. 

De Re Metallica, Froben . . . . Basel FoUo 1556. 

,, ., ,, .. •■ •• ,. ,, 1561. 

„ ,, ,, Ludwig Konig ,, ,, 1621. 

„ ,, ,, Emanuel Konig ,, ,, 1657. 

In addition to these, Leupold,^i Schmid,^^ and others mention an octavo 
edition, without illustrations, Schweinfurt, 1607. We have not been able to 
find a copy of this edition, and are not certain of its existence. The same 
catalogues also mention an octavo edition of De Re Metallica, Wittenberg, 
1612 or 1614, with notes by Joanne Sigfrido ; but we believe this to be a 
confusion with Agricola's subsidiary works, which were published at this 
time and place, with such notes. 

German Editions. 

Vom Bergkwerck, Froben, Folio, 1557. 

Bergwerck Buck, Sigmundi Feyrabendt, Frankfort-on-Main, foho, 1580. 

,, Ludwig Konig, Basel, folio, 162 1. 

There are other editions than these, mentioned by bibliographers, but we 

have been unable to confirm them in any library. The most reliable 

of such bibliographies, that of John Ferguson,^* gives in addition to the 

above ; Bergwerkbuch, Basel, 1657, folio, and Schweinfurt, 1687, octavo. 

Italian Edition. 

L'Arte de Metalli, Froben, Basel, folio, 1563. 

Other Languages. 

So far as we know, De Re Metallica was never actually published in other 

than Latin, German, and Italian. However, a portion of the accounts of 

the firm of Froben were published in 1881^*, and therein is an entry under 

March, 1560, of a sum to one Leodigaris Grymaldo for some other work, and 

also for " correction of Agricola's De Re Metallica in French." This may 

of course, be an error for the Italian edition, which appeared a little later. 

There is also mention^^ that a manuscript of De Re Metallica in Spanish was 

"Jacob Leupold, Prodromus Bihliolhecae Metallicae, 1732, p. 11. 
"F. A. Schmid, Georg Agrikola's Bermannus, Freiberg, 1806, p. 34. 
^^Bibliotheca Chemica, Glasgow. 1906, p. ID. 

'^Rechnnngsbuch der Froben und Episcopius Buchdrucker und Buchhdndler zu Basel, 
1557-1564. published by R. Wackernagle, Basel, 1881, p^ 20. 

'^Colecion del Sr Monoz t. 93, fo!. 255 En la Acad, de la Hist. Madrid. 


seen in the library of the town of Be jar. An interesting note appears in 
the glossary given by Sir John Pettus in his translation of Lazarus Erckern's 
work on assaying. He says^* " but I cannot enlarge my observations upon 
any more words, because the printer calls for what I did write of a metallick 
dictionary, after I first proposed the printing of Erckern, but intending 
within the compass of a year to pubhsh Georgius Agricola, De Re Metallica 
(being fully translated) in English, and also to add a dictionary to it, I 
shall reserve my remaining essays (if what I have done hitherto be approved) 
till then, and so I proceed in the dictionary." The translation was never 
published and extensive inquiry in various libraries and among the family 
of Pettus has failed to yield any trace of the manuscript. 

2^Sir John Pettus, Fhta Minor, The Laws of Art and Nature, &c., London, 1636, p. I2i. 



bus OfFida,Inftrumenta,Machinac,ac omnia dcnic^ ad Metalli* 
Mmrp6(fiantia,nonmodoIucuIentiflime defcribuntur,fed &per 
effigies, fuislodsinfertas,adiun<flis Latinis, Gemianiciscp appcU 
ladonibus ita ob oculos ponumur, ut darius tradi non pofCnt. 

E I V S O £ M 

t>B ANiHANTiBvs svBTERRANEis Liber,ab Autorcrc* 

^ogniniKcum Indicibusdiuerfis,quicquidinoperea:adatum cft^ 

pulchre demotiflrantibus. 


Cum Priuilcgio Impcratoris in annos v» 
& Galliarum Regis ad Sexenoium. 


brosMecallicos georgii AGRicobAsphio 
lofophi prxflantinimi. 


SI iiniat ignita cognofcere fronte Chimajram, 
Semicancm nympham/emibouemcp uirum: 
Si centum capitumTitanem,totcp firrentcm 

Sublimem manibus tela cruenta Gygcn: 
Si iuuat -^tneum penetrarc Cyclopis in antrum, 

Atque alios, Vates quos peperere,metus: 
Nunc placeat mecum do(flos euolucre libros, 

Ingcnium AGRi co lae quos dedit acre tibi, 
Non hie uana tenet fufpenfam fabula mcntem; 

Sed preciun),utilitas multajegentis erit. 
Quidquid terra fiau,gremiocp recondiditimo, 

Omne tibi multis eruit ante libris; 

biueniat fiicilem feu magis arte ufam. 
Perpetui propri^s manant de fontibus amnes, 

Eftgrauis Albuneae (pontc Mephitis odon 

Et micat e media conditus ignis hu'mo. 
Plana Narifcorum cum tellus arfitin agro, 

Ter curua nondum falcc refecfia Ceres. 
Nee dedit hoc damnum pafl:or,riec luppiterigne: 

VuJcani per feruperat ira folum. 
Terrifico aura foras erumpens,incita motu, 

Sazpefacit montes,ante ubi planauia eft, 
Haecabftrufa cauis,imoc^ incognita fiindo, 

Cognita natura fepe mere duce. 
Artehominum,inlucem ueniunt quoc^ multa , manu(^ 

Terne multiplices eJfFodiunturopes, 
Lydia ficnitrum profert,Isfandia fulfur, 

Acmodo Tyrrhenusmittitalumen ager, 
Succina,qu5 trifido fubit ascjuor Viftula comu, 

Pifcantur Codano corpora feruaiinu. 
Quid memorcm regum prcciofa infignia gemmas, 

Marmorax^ cxcelfis ftrucfra fub aftra iugis C 
Nillapides,nil faxamoronfunt pulchramctalla, 

Crceietuis opibus daraJVIyda'atuis, 
QuEe'qp acerMacedo terra Creneidefodit, 

Norm'nepermutans nomina prifca fuo. 
AtnuncnonuUiscedit GERMAfTiA terris, 

et 4 Terra 

Terra ferax hominum,tcrra<:p diues opura. 
Hie auri in uenis locupknbus aura rcfulget, 

Non alio meffis carior ulla loco. 
Auricomum extulerit fclix Campania ramum, 

Necfi'u<fiu nobis deficiente cadit, 

Fofror,de proprrjsarma^ miles agris. 
Ignotum Graijs eflrHefperiiscp metallum. 

Quod Bifemutum lingua paterna uocat. 
Candidius nigro,fed plumbo nigrius albo, 

Noftra quo<^ hoc uena diuite fiindit humus, 
Funditur in torm enta,corus cum imitantia fulmen, 

^s,in'c^ hoftiles ferrca mafia domos^ 
Scribuntur plumbo hbritquis credidit ants 

Quam mirandam artem Teutonis ora dediiC 
Nee tamen hoc aliis,aut ilia petuntur ab oris, 

Eruta Germano cundlametallafolo. 
Sed quid ego hxc repeto,monumentis tradiia claris 

A G R I c o L AE, qusc nuHC do<f^a per ora uolantC 
Hie cauflis ortus,&: formas uiribus addit, 

Et quarrenda quibus fint meliora locis. 
Quae G mente prius legifti candidus xqua: 

Da reliquis quoc^ nunctempora pauca libris. 
Vtilitas fequitur cuItorem:crede,uoluptas 

Non iucunda minor,rara legenris,erit. 
ludicio'q^ prius ne quis male damnet intquo. 

Quae funt aujfloris munera mira Dei: 
Eripit ipfe fujs primumtela hoftibus,incp 

Mittentistorquetfpicularapta caput, 
Fertur equo Iatro,uchitur pirata triremi: 

Ergo necandus cquus,nec{abricanda ratis? 
Vifceribus terra; lateant abftrufa metalla, 

Vti opibus nefcii quqd mala turba fuis ^ 
Qui{quis es,aut dodis pareto monentibus,aut te 

Inter habere bonosnefateare locum. 
Se non in praerupta metallicus abtjcit audax, 

Vt quondam imtnifCo Curtius acer equo: 
Sed prius edifcit^quac funt nofcenda perito, 

Quod^ fadt,multa dodus ab arte facit. 
Vtcpgubernator feniat cum fidere uentos: 

Sic minime dubijs utitur ille nous, 
lafides nauim,currus regit arte Metifcus; 

Fofibr opus peragit ncc minus arte fuum, 
Indagat uenx rpacium,numerum(:^,modumc:p, 

Siue obliqua ruum,re(flauetendat iter. 


Paftor ut explorat qua? terra (jtapta colcntf. 

Quae bene Ianigcras,quae male pafcat oucs. 
En tcrrx mtcntus,quid uincula linea tcndit C 

Fungitur officio iam Ptolemaic tuo. 
Vt qj fux inuenit menfuram iura'cp ucnar. 

In uarios operas diuidit ind cuiros, 
lam'c^ aggrcfiTus opus,uiden* ut mouet omnc quod obdat, 

Aflidua utuerfatHrenuus arma manuC 
IMc tibi furdefcant ferri tinnitibus aures. 

Ad grauiora ideo confpicienda ueni. 
Inftruit ecce fuis nunc artibus ille minores: 

Sedulicas nulli non operofa loco. 
Metiri docet hie uenac {jjaciumcp modumcp, 

Vtc^ regat pofitis finibus arua lapis, 
Ne quis transmifib uiolentus limitepergcns, 

Non fibi conceflas,in fua uertat^opes. 
Hie docet inftrumenta,quibus FMutoniarcgna 

Tutus adit,faxi permcat atc^ uias, 
Quania(uides) folidas expugnetmachina terras: 

Machina non ullotempore uifa prius. 
Cede nouis,nulla non inclyta laudeuetuRas, 

Pofteritas meritis eft quo<^ grata tuis. 
Turn quia Germano funt hxc inucnta fub axe. 

Si quis es,inuidix contrahe uela tuar. 
Aufonis ora tu»nct bellis,terra Atu'ca cuitu, 

Germanum infra(flus tollit ad aftra labor. 

Mite gerat Phoebi,feu grauc Marris opus« 
Tempus adeft,ftru(fhs uenarum montibus,igne 

Explorare,ufum quem fibi tiena ferat, 
Non labor ingenio cai-et hic,noncopia fruAu, 

Eftadaperta bonae prima feneftrafpei, 
Ergo inftat porro grauiorcs fcrre labores, 

Intentas operi nee remoucrc menus, 
Vrere fiue locus pofcat,feu tundere uenas, 

Siue lauare lacu prater euntis aqux. 
Seu flammis iterum modicis torrere necefle eft, 

Excoquere aut faftis ignibus omne-malum, 
Ciim fluit acs riuis,auri argenticjp mctallum, 

Spes animo foflfor uix capit ipfe fuas, 
Argentum cupidus fuluo fecernitab auro, 
Et plumbi lentam demit utricp moram, 
Separat argentum,Iucri ftudiofus,ab asre, 


Quaefi cunAauelim tcnuipercurrereuetfu. 

Ante alium reuehat Memnonis oixa diem, 
Poftrcmus labor eft,concretos difcerefuccos, 

Quos fcrt innumeris Teutona terralocis. 
Quo ral,quo nitrum,quo padlo Gatalumen, 

VHbus artificis ciim parat ilia manus: 
Nccnon chalcafitum,fulfixr,fluidum(^ bitumen, 

Maflacp quo uitri lenta dolanda mode. 
Sufcipit haec hominum mirandos cura labores, 

Pauperiem ufcpadeo ferrc famem'cp gcaue eft, 
Tantus amor ui<flum paruis extimderepatis, 

Et patriae ciuem non dare uelle malum. 
Nee manet in terrae foflbris merfa latebris 

Mens,red fert domino uota precesi:^ Deo» 
Munificae expedat,fpc pleQUs,munera dcxtrx, 

Exiollens animum Ixtus ad aftra fiium. 
Diuitias c H R i s T v s datnoticiamc^fruendi, 

Cui memori grates peftore Temper agit. 
Hoc quoque laudati quondam fecerePnilippi, 

Qui uirtutis habent cum pietate decus. 
Hue oculos,huc fle^fle animum.ruauiHime LeAor, 

AuAoremcp pia nofcito mente Deum, 
A G R I c o L AE hinc optans operofo faufiialabori} 

Laudibus exim^ candidus efto uiri. 
Dleluum extollit patriae cum nomine nomen, 

Et uir in ore frequens pofteritatis erit, 
Cun(5};a cadunt lethojftudij monumenta uigebunt, 

Purpurei donecluminalblis erunt. 

Mifenae »• d. u, 

For completeness' sake we reproduce in the original Latin the laudation ot Agricola 
by his friend, Georgius Fabricius, a leading scholar of his time. It has but little intrinsic 
value for it is not poetry of a very high order, and to make it acceptable English would require 
certain improvements, for which only poets have license. A " free " translation of the last 
few lines indicates its complimentary character : — 

" He doth raise his country's fame with his own 
" And in the mouths of nations yet unborn 
" His praises shall be sung ; Death comes to all 
" But great achievements raise a monument 
" Which shall endure until the sun gruws cold." 


Saxony, Landgraves of Thuringia, Margraves of Meissen, 

Imperial Overlords of Saxony, Burgraves of Altcnberg 

and Magdeburg, Counts of Brena, Lords of 

Pleissnerland, To maurice Grand Marshall 

and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire 

and to his brother Augustus,' 


OST illustrious Princes, often have I considered 
the metallic arts as a whole, as Moderatus Columella* 
considered the agricultural arts, just as if I 
had been considering the whole of the human 
body ; and when I had perceived the various parts 
of the subject, like s(j many members of the body, 
I became afraid that I might die before I should 
understand its full extent, much less before I 
could immortalise it in writing. This book 
itself indicates the length and breadth of the subject, and the number 
and importance of the sciences of which at least some little knowledge 
is necessary to miners. Indeed, the subject of mining is a very exten- 
sive one, and one very difficult to explain ; no part of it is fully dealt 
with by the Greek and Latin authors whose works survive ; and since 
the art is one of the most ancient, the most necessary and the most profitable 
to mankind, I considered that I ought not to neglect it. Without doubt, 
none of the arts is older than agriculture, but that of the metals is not 
less ancient ; in fact they are at least equal and coeval, for no mortal man ever 
tilled a field without implements. In truth, in all the works of agricul- 
ture, as in the other arts, implements are used which are made from metals, 
or which could not be made without the use of metals ; for this reason 
the metals are of the greatest necessity to man. When an art is so poor that 
it lacks metals, it is not of much importance, for nothing is made without 
tools. Besides, of all ways whereby great wealth is acquired by good and 
honest means, none is more advantageous than mining ; for although from 
fields which are well tilled (not to mention other things) we derive rich yields, 
yet we obtain richer products from mines ; in fact, one mine is often much 
more beneficial to us than many fields. For this reason we learn from the 
history of nearly all ages that very many men have been made rich by the 

*For Agricola's relations with these princes see p. ix. 

'Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella was a Roman, a native of Cadiz, and lived 
during the ist Century. He was the author of De Re Rustica in 12 books. It was first 
printed in 1472, and some fifteen or sixteen editions had been printed before Agricola's death. 

xxvi. PREFACE 

mines, and the fortunes of many kings have been much ampHfied there- 
by. But I will not now speak more of these matters, because I have 
dealt with these subjects partly in the first book of this work, and partly in 
the other work entitled De Veteribus et Novis MetalUs, where I have refuted 
the charges which have been made against metals and against miners. 
Now, though the art of husbandry, which I willingly rank with the art of 
mining, appears to be divided into many branches, yet it is not separated 
into so many as this art of ours, nor can I teach the principles of this as 
easily as Columella did of that. He had at hand many writers upon hus- 
bandry whom he could follow, — in fact, there are more than fifty Greek 
authors whom Marcus Varro enumerates, and more than ten Latin ones, 
whom Columella himself mentions. I have only one whom I can follow ; 
that is C. Plinius Secundus,^ and he expounds only a very few methods of 
digging ores and of making metals. Far from the whole of the art having 
been treated by any one writer, those who have written occasionally on any 
one or another of its branches have not even dealt completely with a single 
one of them. Moreover, there is a great scarcity even of these, since alone of 
all the Greeks, Strato of Lampsacus,* the successor of Theophrastus,* wrote 
a book on the subject, De Machinis Metallicis ; except, perhaps a work by the 
poet Philo, a small part of which embraced to some degree the occupation 
of mining.® Pherecrates seems to have introduced into his comedy, which 
was similar in title, miners as slaves or as persons condemned to serve in the 
mines. Of the Latin writers, Pliny, as I have already said, has described 
a few methods of working. Also among the authors I must include the modern 
writers, whosoever they are, for no one should escape just condemnation 
who fails to award due recognition to persons whose writings he uses, even 
very slightly. Two books have been written in our tongue ; the one on the 
assaying of mineral substances and metals, somewhat confused, v/hose author 
is unknown' ; the other " On Veins," of which Pandulfus Anglus * is also 
said to have written, although the German book was written by Calbus of 
Freiberg, a well-known doctor ; but neither of them accomphshed the task 

'We give a short review of Pliny's Naturalis Historia in the Appendix B. 

*This work is not extant, as Agricola duh- notes later on. Strato succeeded Theo- 
phrastus as president of the Lyceum, 28S B.C. 

^For note on Theophrastus see Appendix K. 

^It appears that the poet Philo did write a work on mining which is not extant. So 
far as we know the only reference to this work is in Athena;us' (200 a.d.) Deipnosophisiae. 
The passage as it appears in C. D. Yonge's Translation (Bohn's Library, London, 1854, 
Vol. II, Book VII, p. 506) is : " And there is a similar fish produced in the Red Sea which 
" is called Stromateus ; it has gold-coloured lines running along the whole of his body, as 
" Philo tells us in his book on Mines." There is a fragment of a poem of Pherecrates, 
entitled " Miners," but it seems to have little to do with mining. 

'The title given by Agricola De Materiae Metallicae et Metallorum Experimento is 
difficult to identify. It seems likely to be the little Probicr Biichlein, numbers of which were 
published in German in the first half of the i6th Century. We discuss this work at some 
length in the Appendix B on Ancient Authors. 

^Pandulfus, " the Englishman," is mentioned by various 15th and i6th Century 
writers, and in the preface of Mathias Farinator's Liher Moralitaium . . . Rcrum Naturalium, 
etc., printed in Augsburg, 1477, there is a list of books among which appears a reference to 
a work by Pandulfus on veins and minerals. We have not been able to find the book. 

PREFACE xxvii. 

he had begun.' Recently Vannucci Biringuccio, of Sienna, a wise man 
experienced in many matters, wrote in vernacular Italian on the 
subject of the melting, separating, and alloying of metals.'" He 
touched briefly on the methods of smelting certain ores, and explained 
more fully the methods of making certain juices ; by reading his 
directions, I have refreshed my memory of those things which I myself 
saw in Italy ; as for many matters on which I write, he did not touch upon 
them at all, or touched but lightly. This book was given me by Franciscus 
Badoarius, a Patrician of Venice, and a man of wisdom and of repute ; this 
he had promised that he would do, when in the previous year he was at 
Marienbcrg, having been sent by the Venetians as an Ambassador to King 
Ferdinand. Beyond these books I do not find any writings on the metallic 
arts. For that reason, even if the book of Strato existed, from all these 
sources not one-half of the whole body of the science of mining could be 
pieced together. 

Seeing that there have been so few who have written on the subject of the 
metals, it appears to mc all the more wonderful that so many alchemists have 
arisen who would compound metals artificially, and who would change one 
into another. Hermolaus Barbarus,'' a man of high rank and station, and 
distinguished in all kihds of learning, has mentioned the names of many in 
his writings; and I will proffer more, but only famous ones, for I will limit myself 
to a few. Thus Osthanes has written on x"^""""-" ; and there are Hermes; 
Chanes ; Zosimus, the Alexandrian, to his sister Theosebia ; Olympiodorus, 
also an Alexandrian ; Agathodaemon ; Democritus, not the one of Abdera, 
but some other whom I know not ; Orus Chrysorichites, Pebichius, Comerius, 
Joannes, Apulejus, Petasius, Pelagius, Africanus, Theophilus, Synesius, 
Stephanus to Heracleus Caesar, Heliodorus to Theodosius, Geber, Callides 
Rachaidibus, Veradianus, Rodianus, Canides, Merlin, Raymond LuUy, 
Arnold de Villa Nova, and Augustinus Pantheus of Venice ; and three women, 
Cleopatra, the maiden Taphnutia, and Maria the Jewess.'^ All these alchemists 
employ obscure language, and Johanes Aurehus Augurellus of Rimini, 
alone has used the language of poetry. There are many other books on 

'Jacobi {Der Mineralog Georgius Agricola. Zwickau, 1881, p. 47) says: " Calbus 
" Freibergius, so called by Agricola himself, is certainly no olher than the Freiberg Doctor 
" Riihlein von Kalbe ; he was, according to Moller. a doctor and burgomaster at Freiberg 
" at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the i6th Centuries. . . . The chronicler 
" describes him as a fine mathematician, who helped to survey and design the mining towns 
" of Annaberg in 1497 and Marienberg in 1521." We would call attention to the statement 
of Calbus' views, quoted at the end of Book III, De Re Metallica (p. 75), which are astonishingly 
similar to statements in the Niiizlich Bergbiichlin, and leave little doubt that this " Calbus " 
was the author of that anonymous book on veins. For further discussion see Appendix B. 

'"For discussion of Biringuccio see Appendi.x B. The proper title is De La Pirotechnia 
(Venice, 1540). 

^'Hermolaus Barbarus, according to Watt (Bihliotheca Britannica, London, 1824), was 
a lecturer on Philosophy in Padua. He was born in 1454, died in 1493, and was the author of a 
number of works on medicine, natural history, etc., with commentaries on the older authors. 

'"The debt which humanity does owe to these self-styled philosophers must not be 
overlooked, for the science of Chemistry comes from three sources — Alchemy, Medicine and 
Metallurgy. However polluted the former of these may be. still the vast advance which it 
made by the discovery of the principal acids, alkalis, and the more common of their salts, 
should be constantly recognized. It is obviously impossible, within the space of a footnote, to 

xxviii. PREFACE 

this subject, but all are difficult to follow, because the writers upon these 
things use strange names, which do not properly belong to the metals, and 
because some of them employ now one name and now another, invented by 
themselves, though the thing itself changes not. These masters teach their 
disciples that the base metals, when smelted, are broken up ; also they teach 
the methods by which they reduce them to the primary parts and 
remove whatever is superfluous in them, and by supplying what is 
wanted make out of them the precious metals — that is, gold and silver, — 
all of which they carry out in a crucible. Whether they can do these things 
or not I cannot decide ; but, seeing that so many writers assure us with all 
earnestness that they have reached that goal for which they aimed, it would 
seem that faith might be placed in them ; yet also seeing that we do not 
read of any of them ever having become rich by this art, nor do we now see 
them growing rich, although so many nations everywhere have produced, and 
are producing, alchemists, and all of them are straining every nerve night and 
day to the end that they may heap a great quantity of gold and silver, I should 
say the matter is dubious. But although it may be due to the carelessness 
of the writers that they have not transmitted to us the names of the masters 
who acquired great wealth through this occupation, certainly it is clear that 
their disciples either do not understand their precepts or, if they do under- 
stand them, do not follow them ; for if they do comprehend them, seeing that 
these disciples have been and are so numerous, they would have by to-day filled 

give anything but the most casual notes as to the personages here mentioned and their 
writings. Aside from the classics and religious works, the libraries of the Middle Ages teemed 
with more material on Alchemy than on any other one subject, and since that date a never- 
ending stream of historical, critical, and discursive volumes and tracts devoted to the old 
Alchemists and their writings has been poured upon the world. A collection recently sold 
in London, relating to Paracelsus alone, embraced over seven hundred volumes. 

Of many of the Alchemists mentioned by Agricola little is really known, and no 
two critics agree as to the commonest details regarding many of them ; in fact, an endless 
confusion springs from the negligent habit of the lesser Alchemists of attributing the author- 
ship of their writings to more esteemed members of their own ilk, such as Hermes, Osthanes, etc., 
not to mention the palpable spuriousness of works under the names of the real philosophers, 
such as Aristotle, Plato, or Moses, and even of Jesus Christ. Knowledge of many of the 
authors mentioned by Agricola does not extend beyond the fact that the names mentioned 
are appended to various writings, in some instances to MSS yet unpublished. They may 
have been actual persons, or they may not. Agricola undoubtedly had perused such 
manuscripts and books in some leading library, as the quotation from Boerhaave given later 
shows. Shaw (A New Method of Chemistry, etc., London, 1753. Vol. I, p. 25) considers 
that the large number of such manuscripts in the European libraries at this time were 
composed or transcribed by monks and others living in Constantinople, Alexandria, and 
Athens, who fled westward before the Turkish invasion, bringing their works with them. 

For purposes of this summary we group the names mentioned by Agricola, the first 
class being of those who are known only as names appended to MSS or not identifiable at 
all. Possibly a more devoted student of the history of Alchemy would assign fewer names to 
this department of oblivion. They are Maria the Jewess, Orus Chrysorichites, Chanes, 
Petasius, Pebichius, Theophilus, Callides, Veradianus, Rodianus, Canides, the maiden 
Taphnutia, Johannes, Augustinus, and Africanus. The last three are names so common as not 
to be possible of identification without more particulars, though Johannes may be the Johannes 
Rupeseissa (1375), an alchemist of some note. Many of these names can be found among 
the Bishops and Prelates of the early Christian Church, but we doubt if their owners would 
ever be identified with such indiscretions as open, avowed alchemy. The Theophilus 
mentioned might be the metal-working monk of the 12th Century, who is further discussed 
in Appendix B on Ancient Authors. 

In the next group fall certain names such as Osthanes, Hermes, Zosimus, Agathodaemon, 
and Democritus, which have been the watchwords of authority to Alchemists of all ages. 
These certainly possessed the great secrets, either the philosopher's stone or the elixir. 

PREFACE xxix. 

whole towns with gold and silver. Even their books proclaim their vanity, for 
they inscribe in them the names of Plato and Aristotle and other philosophers, 
in order that such high-sounding inscriptions maj' impose upon simple people 
and pass for learning. There is another class of alchemists who do not 
change the substance of base metals, but colour them to represent gold or silver, 
so that they appear to be that which they are not, and when this appearance 
is taken from them by the fire, as if it were a garment foreign to them, they 
return to their own character. These alchemists, since they deceive people, 
are not only held in the greatest odium, but their frauds are a capital offence. 
No less a fraud, warranting capital punishment, is committed by a third sort 
of alchemists ; these throw into a crucible a small piece of gold or silver 
hidden in a coal, and after mixing therewith fluxes which have the power of 
extracting it, pretend to be making gold from orpiment, or silver from tin and 
like substances. But concerning the art of alchemy, if it be an art, I will 
speak further elsewhere. I vnll now return to the art of mining. 

Since no authors have written of this art in its entirety, and since 
foreign nations and races do not understand our tongue, and, if they did 
understand it, would be able to learn only a small part of the art through the 
works of those authors whom we do possess, I have written these twelve books 
De Re Metallica. Of these, the first book contains the arguments which may 
be used against this art, and against metals and the mines, and what can be 
said in their favour. The second book describes the miner, and branches into 

Hermes Trismegistos was a legendary Egyptian personage supposed to have flourished 
before 1,500 B.C., and by some considered to be a corruption of the god Thoth. He is supposed 
to have written a number of works, but those extant have been demonstrated to date not 
prior to the second Century ; he is referred to by the later Greek Alchemists, and was 
believed to have possessed the secret of transmutation. Osthanes was also a very shadowy 
personage, and was considered by some Alchemists to have been an Egyptian prior to Hermes, 
by others to have been the teacher of Zoroaster. Pliny mentions a magician of this name 
who accompanied Xerxes' army. Later there are many others of this name, and the most 
probable explanation is that this was a favourite pseudonym for ancient magicians ; there 
is a very old work, of no great interest, in MSS in Latin and Greek, in the Munich, Gotha, 
Vienna, and other libraries, by one of this name. Agathodaemon was still another shadowy 
character referred to by the older Alchemists. There are MSS in the Florence, Paris, Escurial, 
and Munich libraries bearing his name, but nothing tangible is known as to whether he was 
an actual man or if these writings are not of a much later period than claimed. 

To the next group belong the Greek Alchemists, who flourished during the rise and 
decline of Alexandria, from 200 B.C. to 700 A.D., and we give them in order of their dates. 
Comerius was considered by his later fellow professionals to have been the teacher of the art 
to Cleopatra (ist Century B.C.), and a MSS with a title to that effect exists in the Bibliotheque 
Nationale at Paris. The celebrated Cleopatra seems to have stood very high in the estimation 
of the Alchemists ; perhaps her doubtful character found a response among them ; there are 
various works extant in MSS attributed to her, but nothing can be known as to their 
authenticity. Lucius Apulejus or Apuleius was born in Numidia about the 2nd Century ; 
he was a Roman Platonic Philosopher, and was the author of a rom.ance, ' ' The Metamorphosis, 
or the Golden Ass." Synesius was a Greek, but of unknown period ; there is a MSS treatise 
on the Philosopher's Stone in the library at Leyden under his name, and various pnnted works 
are attributed to him ; he mentions " water of saltpetre," and has, therefore, been hazarded 
to be the earliest recorder of nitric acid. The work here referred to as " Heliodor'us to 
Theodosius " was probably the MSS in the Libraries at Paris, Vienna, Munich, etc., under 
the title of " Heliodorus the Philosopher's Poem to the Emperor Theodosius the Great on the 
Mystic Art of the Philosophers, etc." His period would, therefore, be about the 4th Century. 
The Alexandrian Zosimus is more generally known as Zosimus the Panopolite, from Panopolis, 
an ancient town on the Nile ; he flourished in the 5th Century, and belonged to the 
Alexandrian School of Alchemists ; he should not be confused with the Roman historian 
of the same name and period. The following statement is by Boerhaave (Elementa Chemiae, 
Paris, 1724, Chap. I.) : — " The name Chemistry written in Greek, or Chemia, is so ancient 


a discourse on the finding of veins. Tlie third book deals with veins and 
stringers, and seams in the roclis. The fourth book explains the method of 
delimiting veins, and also describes the functions of the mining officials. 
The fifth book describes the digging of ore and the surveyor's art. The 
sixth book describes the miners' tools and machines. The seventh book is 
on the assaying of ore. The eighth book lays down the rules for the work of 
roasting, crushing, and washing the ore. The ninth book explains the 
methods of smelting ores. The tenth book instructs those who are studious 
of the metallic arts in the work of separating silver from gold, and lead from 
gold and silver. The eleventh book shows the way of separating silver from 
copper. The twelfth book gives us rules for manufacturing salt, soda, alum, 
vitriol, sulphur, bitumen, and glass. 

Although I have not fulfilled the task which I have undertaken, on account 
of the great magnitude of the subject, I have, at all events, endeavoured to fulfil 
it, for I have devoted much labour and care, and have even gone to some 
expense upon it ; for with regard to the veins, tools, vessels, sluices, machines, 
and furnaces, I have not only described them, but have also hired illustrators 
to delineate their forms, lest descriptions which are conveyed by words 
should either not be understood by men of our own times, or should cause 
difficulty to posterity, in the same way as to us difficulty is often caused by 
many names which the Ancients (because such words were familiar to all of 
them) have handed down to us without any explanation. 

I have omitted all those things which I have not myself seen, or have 

" as perhaps to have been used in the antediluvian age. Of this opinion was Zosimus the 
" Panopolite, whose Greek writings, though known as long as before the year 1550 to George 
" Agricola, and afterwards perused .... by Jas. Scaliger and Olaus Borrichius, 
" still remain unpublished in the King of France's library. In one of these, entitled, ' The 
" Instruction of Zosimus the Panopolite and Philosopher, out of those written to Theosebeia, 
"etc. . . .' Olympiodorus was an Alexandrian of the 5th Century, whose writings were largely 
commentaries on Plato and Aristotle ; he is sometimes accredited with being the first to 
describe white arsenic (arsenical oxide). The full title of the work styled " Stephanus to 
Heracleus Caesar," as published in Latin at Padua in 1573, was " Stephan of Alexandria, the 
" Universal Philosopher and Master, his nine processes on the great art of making gold and 
" silver, addressed to the Emperor Heraclius." He, therefore, if authentic, dates in the 
7th Century. 

To the next class belong those of the Middle Ages, which we give in order of date. 
The works attributed to Geber play such an important part in the history of Chemistry and 
Metallurgy that we discuss his book at length in Appendix B. Late criticism indicates that this 
work was not the production of an 8th Century Arab, but a compilation of some Latin scholar 
of the 12th or 13th Centuries. Arnold de Villa Nova, born about 1240, died in 1313, 
was celebrated as a physician, philosopher, and chemist ; his first works were published 
in Lyons in 1504 ; many of them have apparently never been printed, for references may be 
found to some 18 different works. Raymond Lully, a Spaniard, born in 1235, who 
was a disciple of Arnold de Villa Nova, was stoned to death in Africa in 1315. There are 
extant over 100 works attributed to this author, although again the habit of disciples of writing 
under the master's name may be responsible for most of these. John Aurelio Augurello was 
an Italian Classicist, born in Rimini about 1453. Thework referred to, Chrysopoeia ei Geronlica 
is a poem on the art of making gold, etc., published in Venice, 1515, and re-published 
frequently thereafter ; it is much quoted by Alchemists. With regard to Merlin, as satis- 
factory an account as any of this truly English magician may be found in Mark Twain's 
" Yankee at the Court of King Arthur." It is of some interest to note that Agricola omits 
from his list Avicenna {980-1037 a.d.), Roger Bacon (1214-1294), Albertus Magnus (1193- 
1280), Basil Valentine (end 15th century ?), and Paracelsus, a contemporary of his own. 
In De Ortii et Causis he expends much thought on refutation of theories advanced by Avicenna 
and Albertus, but of the others we have found no mention, although their work is, from a 
chemical point of view, of considerable importance. 

PREFACE xxxi. 

not read or heard of from persons upon, whom I can rely. That which 1 have 
neither seen, nor carefully considered after reading or hearing of, I iiave not 
written about. The same rule nmst be understood with regard to all my in- 
struction, whether I enjoin things which ought to be done, or describe things 
which are usual, or condemn things which are done. Since the art of mining 
does not lend itself to elegant language, these books of mine are correspond- 
ingly lacking in refinement of style. The things dealt with in this art of 
metals sometimes lack names, i-ither because they are new, or because, even 
if they are old, the record of the names by which they were formerly known 
has been lost. For this reason I have been forced by a necessity, for which I 
must be pardoned, to describe some of them by a number of words combined, 
and to distinguish others by new names, — to which latter class belong Ingestor, 
Discrelor, Lotor, and Excoctor}'^ Other things, again, I have alluded to by old 
names, such as the Cisium ; for when Nonius Marcellus wrote, ^* this was 
the name of a two-wheeled vehicle, but 1 have adopted it for a small vehicle 
which has only one wheel ; and if anyone does not approve of these names, 
let him either find more appropriate ones for these things, or discover the 
words used in the writings of the Ancients. 

These books, most illustrious Princes, are dedicated to you for many 
reasons, and, above all others, because metals have proved of the greatest 
value to you ; for though your ancestors drew rich profits from the revenues 
of their vast and wealthy territories, and likewise from the taxes which were 
paid bj" the foreigners by way of toll and by the natives by way of tithes, yet 
they drew far richer profits from the mines. Because of the mines not a few 
towns have risen into eminence, such as Freiberg, Annaberg, Marienberg, 
Schneeberg, Geyer, and Altenberg, not to mention others. Nay, if I under- 
stand anything, greater wealth now lies hidden beneath the ground in the 
mountainous parts of your territory than is visible and apparent above 
ground. Farewell. 

Chemnitz, Saxony, 

December First, 1550. 

^^Ingestor, — Carrier ; Discretor, — Sorter ; Lotor, — Washer ; Excocior, — Smelter. 
•^Nonius Marcellus was a Roman grammarian of the 4th Century B.C. His extant 
treatise is entitled, De Compendiosa Docirina per Litieras ad Filium. 


ANY persons hold the opinion that the metal indus- 
tries arc fortuitous and that the occupation is one 
of sordid toil, and altogether a kind of business 
requiring not so much skill as labour. But as for 
myself, when I reflect carefully upon its special 
points one by one, it appears to be far otherwise. 
For a miner must have the greatest skill in his 
work, that he may know first of aU what mountain 
or hill, what valley or plain, can be prospected most 
profitably, or what he should leave alone ; moreover, he must understand the 
veins, stringers^ and seams in the rocks^. Then he must be thoroughly 
familiar with the many and varied species of earths, juices^, gems, 
stones, marbles, rocks, metals, and compounds*. He must also have a 

^Fibrae — " fibres." See Note 6, p. 70. 

^Commissurae saxonim — " rock joints," " seams," or " cracks." Agricola and all of 
the old authors laid a wholly unwarranted geologic value on these phenomena. See descrip- 
tion and footnotes, Book III., pages 43 and 72. 

'Sticci — " juice," or sued concreti — " solidified juice." Ger. Trans., sa§(e. The 
old English translators and mineralogists often use the word juices in the same sense, 
and we have adopted it. The words " solutions " and " salts " convey a chemical significance 
not warranted by the state of knowledge in Agricola's time. Instances of the former use of 
this word may be seen in Barba's "First Book of the Art of Metals," (Trans. Earl Sandwich, 
London, 1674, p. 2, etc.,) and in Pryce's M ineralogia Cornuliensis (London, 1778, p. 25, 32). 
*In order that the reader should be able to grasp the author's point of view as to his 
divisions of the Mineral Kingdom, we introduce here his own statement from De Naiura 
Fossilium, (p. 180). It is also desirable to read the footnote on his theory of ore-deposits on 
pages 43 to 53, and the review of De Naiura Fossilium given in the Appendix. 

" The subterranean inanimate bodies are divided into two classes, one of which, because 
" it is a fluid or an exhalation, is called by those names, and the other class is called the 
" minerals. Mineral bodies are solidified from particles of the same substance, such as pure 
" gold, each particle of which is gold, or they are of different substances such as lumps which 
" consist of earth, stone, and metal ; these latter may be separated into earth, stone and 
" metal, and therefore the first is not a mixture while the last is called a mixture. The first 
" are again divided into simple and compound minerals. The simple minerals are of four 
" classes, namely earths, solidified juices, stones and metals, while the mineral compounds 
" are of many sorts, as I shall explain later." 

" Earth is a simple mineral body which may be kneaded in the hands when moistened, 
" or from which lute is made when it has been wetted. Earth, properly so called, is found 
" enclosed in veins or veinlets, or frequently on the surface in fields and meadows. This 
" definition is a general one. The harder earth, although moistened by water, does not at 
" once become lute, but does turn into lute if it remains in water for some time. There are 
" many species of earths, some of which have names but others are unnamed." 

" Solidified juices are dry and somewhat hard [subdurus) mineral bodies which when 
" moistened with water do not soften but liquefy instead ; or if they do soften, they differ 
" greatly from the earths by their unctuousness (pingue) or by the material of which they 
" consist. Although occasionally they have the hardness of stone, yet because they preserve 
" the form and nature which they had when less hard, they can easily be distinguished from 
" the stones. The juices are divided into 'meagre' and unctuous (macer et pinguis). The 
" 'meagre' juices, since they originate from three different substances, are of three species. 
" They are formed from a liquid mixed with earth, or with metal, or with a 
" mineral compound. To the first species belong salt and Nitrum (soda) ; to the second, 
" chrysocoUa, verdigris, iron-rust, and azure ; to the third, vitriol, alum, and an acrid juice 
" which is unnamed. The first two of these latter are obtained from pyrites, which is 
" numbered amongst the compound minerals. The third of these comes from Cadmia (in 
" this case the cobalt-zinc-arsenic minerals ; the acrid juice is probably zinc sulphate). To 
" the unctuous juices belong these species : sulphur, bitumen, realgar and orpiment. Vitriol 
" and alum, although they are somewhat unctuous yet do not burn, and they differ in 
" their origin from the unctuous juices, for the latter are forced out from the earth by heat, 
" whereas the former are produced when pyrites is softened by moisture." 

2 BOOK I. 

complete knowledge of the method of making all underground works. 
Lastly, there are the various systems of assa5dng^ substances and of 
preparing them for smelting ; and here again there are many altogether 
diverse methods. For there is one method for gold and silver, another 
for copper, another for quicksilver, another for iron, another for lead, and 

" Stone is a dry and hard mineral body which may either be softened by remaining 
■' for a long time in water and be reduced to powder by a fierce fire ; or else it does not 
" soften with water but the heat of a great fire liquefies it. To the first species belong 
" those stones which have been solidified by heat, to the second those solidified (literally 
" 'congealed') bj' cold. These two species of stones are constituted from their own material. 
" However, writers on natural subjects who take into consideration the quantity and quality 
" of stones and their value, divide them into four classes. The first of these has no name of 
" its own but is called in common parlance 'stone' : to this class belong loadstone, jasper (or 
" bloodstone) and Aeiiies (geodes ?). The second class comprises hard stones, either pellucid 
" or ornamental, with very beautiful and varied colours which sparkle marvellously ; they 
" are called gems. The third comprises stones which are only brilliant after they have been 
" polished, and are, usually called marble. The fourth are called rocks ; they are found in 
" quarries, from which they are hewn out for use in building, and they are cut into various 
" shapes. None of the rocks show colour or take a polish. Few of the stones sparkle ; fewer 
" still are transparent. Marble is sometimes only distinguishable from opaque gems by its 
" volume ; rock is always distinguishable from stones properly so-called by its volume. Roth 
" the stones and the gems are usually to be found in veins and veiniets which traverse the 
" rocks and marble. These four classes, as I have already stated, are divided into many 
" species, which I will explain in their proper place." 

" Metal is a mineral body, by nature either liquid or somewhat hard. The latter may 
" be melted by the heat of the fire, but when it has cooled down again and lost all heat, it 
" becomes hard again and resumes its proper form. In this respect it differs from the 
" stone which melts in the fire, for although the latter regain its hardness, yet it loses 
" its pristine form and properties. Traditionally there are six different kinds of metals, 
" namely gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and lead. There are really others, for quicksilver is a 
" metal, although the Alchemists disagree with us on this subject, and bismuth is also. The 
" ancient Greek writers seem to have been ignorant of bismuth, wherefore Ammonius rightly 
" states that there are many species of metals, animals, and plants which are unknown to us. 
" Stibium when smelted in the crucible and refined has as much right to be regarded as a 
" proper metal as is accorded to lead by writers. If when smelted, a certain portion be 
" added to tin, a bookseller's alloy is produced from which the type is made that is used by 
" those who print books on paper. Each metal has its own form which it preserves when 
" separated from those metals which were mixed with it. Therefore neither electrum nor 
" Stannum is of itself a real metal, but rather an alloy of two metals. Electrum is an alloy 
" of gold and silver, Stannum of lead and silver (see note 33 p 473). And yet if silver be 
"parted from the electrum, then gold remains and not electrum ; if silver be taken away 
" from Stannum, then lead remains and not Stannum. Whether brass, however, is found as 
" a native metal or not, cannot be ascertained with any surety. We only know of the 
" artificial brass, which consists of copper tinted with the colour of the mineral calamine. 
" And yet if any should be dug up, it would be a proper metal. Black and white copper 
" seem to be different from the red kind. Metal, therefore, is by nature either solid, as I 
" have stated, or fluid, as in the unique case of quicksilver. But enough now concerning the 
" simple kinds." 

" I will now speak of the compounds which are composed of the simple minerals 
" cemented together by nature, and under the word ' compound ' I now discuss those 
" mineral bodies which consist of two or three simple minerals. They are likewise mineral 
" substances, but so thoroughly mixed and alloyed that even in the smallest part there is 
" not wanting any substance that is contained in the whole. Only by the force of the fire 
" is it possible to separate one of the simple mineral substances from another ; either the 
" third from the other two, or two from the third, if there were three in the same compound. 
" These two, three or more bodies are so completely mixed into one new species that the 
" pristine form of none of these is recognisable." 

" The ' mixed ' minerals, which are composed of those same simple minerals, differ 
" from the ' compounds,' in that the simple minerals each preserves its own form so that 
" they can be separated one from the other not only by fire but sometimes by water and 
" sometimes by hand. As these two classes differ so greatly from one another I usually use 
" two different words in order to distinguish one from the other. I am well aware that 

^Experiendae — " a trial." That actual assaying in its technical sense is meant, is 
sufficiently evident from Book VII. 

BOOK 1. 3 

oven tin and bismuth" arc treated differently from lead. Although the 

evaporation of juices is an art apparently quite distinct frt)m metallurgy, 

yet they ought not to bo considered separately, inasmuch as these juices 

are also often dug out of the ground solidihed, or they are produced from 

e> rtain kinds of earth and stones which the miners dig up, and some of the 

juices are not themselves devoid of metals. Again, their treatment is not 

simple, since there is one method for common salt, another for soda', 

another for alum, another for vitriol 8, another for sulphur, and another 

for bitumen. 

Furthermore, there are many arts and sciences of which a miner should 

not be ignorant. First there is Philosophy, that he may discern the origin, 

cause, and nature of subterranean things ; for then he will be able to dig 

out the veins easily and advantageously, and to obtain more abundant results 

from his mining. Secondly, there is Medicine, that he may be able to look 

after his diggers and other workmen, that they do not meet with those 

'■ Galen calls the metallic earth a compound which is really a mixture, but he who wishes to 
" instruct others should bestow upon each separate thing a definite name." 

For convenience of reference we may reduce the above to a diagram as follows : 

I. Fluids and gases. 




(a) Simple I Solidified juices 

minerals] Stones 

(b) Compound j Being homogenous mixtures 

minerals I of (a) 

B. Mixtures. Being heterogeneous mixtures of (a) 
^ . . . . plumbum .... candidum ac cinereum vel nigrimi. " Lead 
" . . . white, or ash-coloured, or black." Agricola himself coined the term plumbum 
cinereum for bismuth, no doubt following the Roman term for tin — plumbum candidum. 
The following passage from Bermannus (p. 439) is of interest, for it appears to be 
the first description of bismuth, although mention of it occurs in the Niitzlich Bergbuchlin 
(see Appendix B). " Bermannus : I will show you another kind of mineral which is numbered 
" amongst metals, but appears to me to have been unknown to the Ancients ; we call it 
" bisemutum. Naevius : Then in your opinion there are more kinds of metals than the 
" seven commonly believed ? Bermanjins : More, I consider ; for this which just now I 
" said we called bisemutum, cannot correctly be called plumbum candidum (tin), nor nigrum 
" (lead), but is different from both and is a third one. Plumb%tm candidum is whiter and 
" plumbum nigrum is darker, as you see. Naevius : We see that this is of the colour of 
" galena. Av.con : How then can bisemutum, as you call it, be distinguished from galena ? 
" Bermannus : Easily ; when you take it in your hands it stains them with black, unless 
" it is quite hard. The hard kind is not friable like galena, but can be cut. It is 
" blacker than the kind of rudis silver which we say is almost the colour of lead, and thus 
" is different from both. Indeed, it not rarely contains some silver. It generally indicates 
" that there is silver beneath the place where it is found, and because of this our miners 
" are accustomed to call it the 'roof of silver.' They are wont to roast this mineral, and 
" from the better part they make metal ; from the poorer part they make a pigment of a 
" kind not to be despised." 

''Nitrum. The Ancients comprised many salts under this head, but Agricola in the 
main uses it for soda, although sometimes he includes potash. He usually, however, refers 
to potash as lixivium or salt therefrom, and by other distinctive terms. For description 
of method of manufacture and discussion, see Book XII., p. 558. 

^Airamentum sutorium — " Shoemaker's blacking." See p. 572 for description of method 
of manufacture and historical footnote. In the main Agricola means green vitriol, but he does 
describe three main varieties, green, blue, and white (De Naiura Fossilium, p. 219). The blue 
was of course copper sulphate, and it is fairly certain that the white was zinc vitriol. 

4 BOOK I. 

diseases to which they are more liable than workmen in other occupations, 
or if they do meet with them, that he himself rtiay be able to heal them or 
may see that the doctors do so. Thirdly follows Astronomy, that he may 
know the divisions of the heavens and from them judge the direction of 
the veins. Fourthly, there is the science of Surveying that he may be able 
to estimate how deep a shaft should be sunk to reach the tunnel which is 
being driven to it, and to determine the limits and boundaries in these 
workings, especially in depth. Fifthly, his knowledge of Arithmetical Science 
should be such that he may calculate the cost to be incurred in the 
machinery and the working of the mine. Sixthly, his learning must comprise 
Architecture, that he himself may construct the various machines and timber 
work required underground, or that he may be able to explain the method 
of the construction to others. Next, he must have knowledge of Drawing, 
that he can draw plans of his machinery. Lastly, there is the Law, especially 
that dealing with metals, that he may claim his own rights, that he may 
undertake the duty of giving others his opinion on legal matters, that he 
may not take another man's property and so make trouble for himself, and 
that he may fulfil his obligations to others according to the law. 

It is therefore necessary that those who take an interest in the methods 
and precepts of mining and metallurgy should read these and others of our 
books studiously and diligently ; or on every point they should consult 
expert mining people, though they will discover few who are skilled in the 
whole art. As a rule one man understands only the methods of mining, 
another possesses the knowledge of washing*, another is experienced in the 
art of smelting, another has a knowledge of measuring the hidden parts of 
the earth, another is skilful in the art of making machines, and finally, 
another is learned in mining law. But as for us, though we may not have 
perfected the whole art of the discovery and preparation of metals, at least 
we can be of great assistance to persons studious in its acquisition. 

But let us now approach the subject we have undertaken. Since there 
has always been the greatest disagreement amongst men concerning metals 
and mining, some praising, others utterly condemning them, therefore I have 
decided that before imparting my instruction, I should carefully weigh 
the facts with a view to discovering the truth in this matter. 

So I may begin with the question of utility, which is a two-fold one, 
for either it may be asked whether the art of mining is really profitable or 
not to those who are engaged in it, or whether it is useful or not to the rest 
of mankind. Those who think mining of no advantage to the men who follow 
the occupation assert, first, that scarcely one in a hundred who dig metals or 
other such things derive profit therefrom ; and again, that miners, because they 
entrust their certain and well-established wealth to dubious and slippery 
fortune, generally deceive themselves, and as a result, impoverished by 

'Lavandi — "Washing." By this term the author includes all the operations of 
sluicing, huddling, and wet concentration generally. There is no English equivalent of such 
wide application, and there is some difficulty in interpretation without going further than 
the author intends. Book VIII. is devoted to the subject. 

BOOK I. 5 

expenses and losses, in the end spend the most bitter and most miserable of 
lives. But persons who hold these views do not perceive how much a learned 
and experienced miner differs from one ignorant and unskilled in the art. 
The latter digs out the ore without any careful discrimination, while the 
former first assay's and proves it, and when he finds the veins either too 
narrow and hard, or too wide and soft, he infers therefrom that these cannot 
be mined profitably, and so works only the approved ones. What wonder 
then if we find the incompetent miner suffers loss, while the competent one 
is rewarded by an abundant return from his mining ? The same thing 
applies to husbandmen. For those who cultivate land which is ahke arid, 
heavy, and barren, and in which they sow seeds, do not make so great a 
harvest as those who cultivate a fertile and mellow soil and sow their grain 
in that. And since by far the greater number of miners are unskilled rather 
than skilled in the art, it follows that mining is a profitable occupation to 
very few men, and a source of loss to many more. Therefore the mass of 
miners who are quite unskilled and ignorant in the knowledge of veins not 
infrequently lose both time and trouble^". Such men are accustomed for the 
most part to take to mining, either when through being weighted with the 
fetters of large and heavy debts, they have abandoned a business, or desiring to 
change their occupation, have left the reaping-hook and plough ; and so 
if at any time such a man discovers rich veins or other abounding mining 
produce, this occurs more by good luck than through any knowledge on his 
part. We learn from history that mining has brought wealth to many, for 
from old writings it is well known that prosperous Republics, not a few kings, 
and many private persons, have made fortunes through mines and their 
produce. This subject, by the use of many clear and illustrious examples, I 
have dilated upon and explained in the first Book of my work entitled " De 
Veteribus et Novls MetalUs," from which it is evident that mining is very 
profitable to those who give it care and attention. 

Again, those who condemn the mining industry say that it is not in the 
least stable, and they glorify agriculture beyond measure. But I do not see 
how they can say this with truth, for the silver-mines at Freiberg in Meissen 
remain still unexhausted after 400 years, and the lead mines of Goslar after 600 
years. The proof of this can be found in the monuments of history. The 
gold and silver mines belonging to the communities of Schemnitz and 
Cremnitz have been worked for 800 years, and these latter are said to be 
the most ancient privileges of the inhabitants. Some then say the profit 
from an individual mine is unstable, as if forsooth, the miner is, or ought to 
be dependent on only one mine, and as if many men do not bear in common 
their expenses in mining, or as if one experienced in his art does not dig 
another vein, if fortune does not amply respond to his prayers in the first 
case. The New Schonberg at Freiberg has remained stable beyond the 
memory of man^^. 

^"Operam et oleum perdii — " loss of labour and oil." 

*iln Veteribus et Novis MetalUs, and Bermannus, Agricola states that the mines of 
Schemnitz were worked 800 years before that time (1530), or about 750 a.d., and, further. 

6 BOOK I. 

It is not my intention to detract anything from the dignity of agri- 
culture, and that the profits of mining are less stable I will always and readily 
admit, for the veins do in time cease to yield metals, whereas the fields bring 
forth fruits every year. But though the business of mining may be less 
reliable it is more productive, so that in reckoning up, what is wanting in 
stability is found to be made up by productiveness. Indeed, the yearly 
profit of a lead mine in comparison with the fruitfulness of the best fields, 
is three times or at least twice as great. How much does the profit from 
gold or silver mines exceed that earned from agriculture ? Wherefore truly 
and shrewdly does Xenophon^^ write about the Athenian silver mines : 
" There is land of such a nature that if you sow, it does not yield crops, 
but if you dig, it nourishes many more than if it had borne fruit." So let 
the farmers have for themselves the fruitful fields and cultivate the fertile 
hills for the sake of their produce ; but let them leave to miners the gloomy 
valleys and sterile mountains, that they may draw forth from these, gems 
and metals which can buy, not only the crops, but all things that are sold. 

The critics say further that mining is a perilous occupation to pursue, 
because the miners are sometimes killed by the pestilential air which they 
breathe ; sometimes their lungs rot away ; sometimes the men perish by being 
crushed in masses of rock ; sometimes, falling from the ladders into the 
shafts, they break their arms, legs, or necks ; and it is added there is no com- 
pensation which should be thought great enough to equalize the extreme 
dangers to safety and life. These occurrences, I confess, are of exceeding 
gravity, and moreover, fraught with terror and peril, so that I should con- 
sider that the metals should not be dug up at aU, if such things were to happen 
very frequently to the miners, or if they could not safely guard against such 
risks by any means. Who would not prefer to live rather than to possess 
all things, even the metals ? For he who thus perishes possesses nothing, 
but relinquishes all to his heirs. But since things like this rarely happen, 
and only in so far as workmen are careless, they do not deter miners from 
carrying on their trade any more than it would deter a carpenter from his, 
because one of his mates has acted incautiously and lost his life by falling 
from a high building. I have thus answered each argument which critics are 
wont to put before me when they assert that mining is an undesirable occupa- 
tion, because it involves expense with uncertainty of return, because it is 
changeable, and because it is dangerous to those engaged in it. 

Now I come to those critics who say that mining is not useful to the 
rest of mankind because forsooth, gems, metals, and other mineral products 
are worthless in themselves. This admission they try to extort from us, 
partly by arguments and examples, partly by misrepresentations and abuse of 
us. First, they make use of this argument : " The earth does not conceal 
and remove from our eyes those things which are useful and necessary to 

that the lead mines of Goslar in the Hartz were worked by Otho the Great (936-973), 
and that the silver mines at Freiberg were discovered during the rule of Prince Otho (about 
1 170). To continue the argument to-day we could add about 360 years more of life to the 
mines of Goslar and Freiberg. See also Note 16, p. 36, and note 19, p. 37. 
'^Xenophon. Essay on the Revenues of Athens, i., 5. 

BOOK I. 7 

mankind, but on the contrary, like a beneficent and kindly mother she yields 
in laige abundance from her bounty and brings into the light of day the 
herbs, vegetables, grains, and fruits, and the trees. The minerals on the 
other hand she buries far beneath in the depth of the ground; therefore, 
they should not be sought. But they are dug out by wicked men who, as 
the poets say, arc the products of the Iron Age." Ovid censures their 
audacity in the following lines : — 

" And not only was the rich soil required to furnish corn and due 

sustenance, but men even descended into the entrails of the earth, and 

they dug up riches, those incentives to vice, which the earth had hidden 

and had removed to the Stygian shades. Then destructive iron came 

forth, and gold, more destructive than iron ; then war came forth "^^ 

Another of their arguments is this : Metals offer to men no advantages, 

therefore we ought not to search them out. For whereas man is composed 

of soul and body, neither is in want of minerals. The sweetest food of the 

soul is the contemplation of nature, a knowledge of the finest arts and sciences, 

an understanding of virtue ; and if he interests his mind in excellent things, 

if he exercise his body, he will be satisfied with this feast of noble thoughts and 

knowledge, and have no desire for other things. Now although the human 

body ma}' be content with necessary food and clothing, yet the fruits of the 

earth and the animals of different kinds supply him in wonderful abundance 

with food and drink, from which the body may be suitably nourished and 

strengthened and Hfe prolonged to old age. Flax, wool, and the skins of 

man}- animals provide plentiful clothing low in price ; while a luxurious kind, 

not hard to procure — that is tue so called seric material, is furnished by the 

down of trees and the webs of the silk worm. So that the body has absolutely 

no need of the metals, so hidden in the depths of the earth and for the greater 

part very expensive. Wherefore it is said that this maxim of Euripides is 

approved in assemblies of learned men, and with good reason was always on 

the lips of Socrates : 

" Works of silver and purple are of use, not for human life, but 
rather for Tragedians. "i* 
These critics praise also this saying from Timocreon of Rhodes : 

" Unseeing Plutus, would that thou hadst never appeared in the 
earth or in the sea or on the land, but that thou didst have thy habita- 
tion in Tartarus and Acheron, for out of thee arise all evil things which 
overtake mankind "^^. 
They greatly extol these lines from Phocylides : 

" Gold and silver are injurious to mortals ; gold is the source of 
crime, the plague of life, and the ruin of all things. Would that thou 
were not such an attractive scourge ! because of thee arise robberies, 

'^Ovid, Metamorphoses, i., 137 to 143. 

^'Diogenes Laertius, 11., 5. The lines are assigned, however, to Philemon, not 
Euripides. (Kock, Comicorum Aiiicorum Fragmenia 11., 512). 

i^We have not considered it of sufficient interest to cite the references to all of the 
minor poets and those whose preserved works are but fragmentary. The translations from 
the Greek into Latin are not literal and suffer again by rendering into English ; we have how- 
ever considered it our duty to translate Agricola's view of the meaning. 

8 BOOK I. 

homicides, warfare, brothers are maddened against brothers, and 

children against parents." 
This from Naumachius also pleases them : 

" Gold and silver are but dust, like the stones that lie scattered on 

the pebbly beach, or on the margins of the rivers." 
On the other hand, they censure these verses of Euripides : 

" Plutus is the god for wise men ; all else is mere folly and at the 

same time a deception in words." 
So in like manner these lines from Theognis : 

" O Plutus, thou most beautiful and placid god ! whilst I have thee, 

however bad I am, I can be regarded as good." 
They also blame Aristodemus, the Spartan, for these words : 

" Money makes the man ; no one who is poor is either good or 

And they rebuke these songs of Timocles : 

" Money is the life and soul of mortal men. He who has not 

heaped up riches for himself wanders like a dead man amongst the 

Finally, they blame Menander when he wrote : 

" Epicharmus asserts that the gods are water, wind, fire, earth, sun, 

and stars. But I am of opinion that the gods of any use to us are silver 

and gold ; for if thou wilt set these up in thy house thou mayest seek 

whatever thou wilt. All things will fall to thy lot ; land, houses, slaves, 

silver-work ; moreover friends, judges, and witnesses. Only give freely, 

for thus thou hast the gods to serve thee." 

But besides this, the strongest argument of the detractors is that the 
fields are devastated by mining operations, for which reason formerly 
Italians were warned by law that no one should dig the earth for metals and 
so injure their very fertile fields, their vineyards, and their olive groves. 
Also they argue that the woods and groves are cut down, for there is need of 
an endless amount of wood for timbers, machines, and the smelting of metals. 
And when the woods and groves are felled, then are exterminated the beasts 
and birds, very many of which furnish a pleasant and agreeable food for man. 
Further, when the ores are washed, the water which has been used poisons 
the brooks and streams, and either destroys the fish or drives them away. 
Therefore the inhabitants of these regions, on account of the devastation of 
their fields, woods, groves, brooks and rivers, find great difficulty in procuring 
the necessaries of life, and by reason of the destruction of the timber they 
are forced to greater expense in erecting buildings. Thus it is said, it is 
clear to all that there is greater detriment from mining than the value of 
the metals which the mining produces. 

So in fierce contention they clamour, showing by such examples as 
follow that every great man has been content with virtue, and despised 
metals. They praise Bias because he esteemed the metals merely 
as fortune's playthings, not as his real wealth. When his enemies had 
captured his native Priene, and his fellow-citizens laden with precious things 

BOOK I. 9 

had betaken themselves to flight, he was asked by one, why he carried 
away none of his goods with him, and he rephed, " I carry all my possessions 
with me." And it is said that Socrates, having received twenty minae sent 
to him by Aristippus, a grateful disciple, refused them and sent them back to 
him by the command of his conscience. Aristippus, following his example 
in this matter, despised gold and regarded it as of no value. And once 
when he was making a journey with his slaves, and they, laden with the 
gold, went too slowly, he ordered them to keep only as much of it as they 
could carry without distress and to throw away the remainder^^. Moreover, 
Anacreon of Teos, an ancient and noble poet, because he had been troubled 
about them for two nights, returned five talents which had been given him 
by Polycrates, saying that they were not worth the anxiety which he had 
gone through on their account. In like manner celebrated and exceedingly 
powerful princes have imitated the philosophers in their scorn and contempt 
for gold and silver. There was for example, Phocion, the Athenian, who was 
appointed general of the army so many times, and who, when a large sum of gold 
was sent to him as a gift by Alexander, King of Macedon, deemed it trifling and 
scorned it. And Marcus Curius ordered the gold to be carried back to the 
Samnites, as did also Fabricius Luscinus with regard to the silver and 
copper. And certain Republics have forbidden their citizens the use and 
employment of gold and silver by law and ordinance ; the Lacedaemonians, 
by the decrees and ordinances of Lycurgus, used diligently to enquire among 
their citizens whether they possessed any of these things or not, and the 
possessor, when he was caught, was punished according to law and justice. 
The inhabitants of a town on the Tigris, called Babytace, buried their gold 
in the ground so that no one should use it. The Scythians condemned the 
use of gold and silver so that they might not become avaricious. 

Further are the metals reviled ; in the first place people wantonly 
abuse gold and silver and call them deadly and nefarious pests of the human 
race, because those who possess them are in the greatest peril, for those who 
have none lay snares for the possessors of wealth, and thus again and again 
the metals have been the cause of destruction and ruin. For example, 
Polymnestor, King of Thrace, to obtain possession of his gold, killed Polydorus, 
his noble guest and the son of Priam, his father-in-law, and old friend. 
Pygmalion, the King of Tyre, in order that he might seize treasures of gold 
and silver, killed his sister's husband, a priest, taking no account of either 
kinship or religion. For love of gold Eriphyle betrayed her husband 
Amphiaraus to his enemy. Likewise Lasthenes betrayed the city of 
Olynthus to Philip of Macedon. The daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, having 
been bribed with gold, admitted the Sabines into the citadel of Rome. 
Claudius Curio sold his country for gold to Caesar, the Dictator. Gold, too, 
was the cause of the downfall of Aesculapius, the great physician, who it was 
believed was the son of Apollo. Similarly Marcus Crassus, through his 
eager desire for the gold of the Parthians, was completely overcome together 
with his son and eleven legions, and became the jest of his enemies ; for the}' 
^'Diogenes l.aertius, li. 

10 BOOK I. 

poured liquid gold into the gaping mouth of the slain Crassus, saying : 
" Thou hast thirsted for gold, therefore drink gold." 

But why need I cite here these many examples from history ?^' It is 
almost our daily experience to learn that, for the sake of obtaining gold and 
silver, doors are burst open, walls are pierced, wretched travellers are struck 
down by rapacious and cruel men born to theft, sacrilege, invasion, and 
robbery. We see thieves seized and strung up before us, sacrilegious persons 
burnt alive, the limbs of robbers broken on the wheel, wars waged for the 
same reason, which are not only destructive to those against whom they are 
waged, but to those also who carry them on. Nay, but they say that the 
precious metals foster all manner of vice, such as the seduction of women, 
adultery, and unchastity, in short, crimes of violence against the person. 
Therefore the Poets, when they represent Jove transformed into a golden 
shower and falling into the lap of Danae, merely mean that he had found 
for himself a safe road by the use of gold, by which he might enter the tower 
for the purpose of violating the maiden. Moreover, the fidelity of many 
men is overthrown by the love of gold and silver, judicial sentences are 
bought, and innumerable crimes are perpetrated. For truly, as Propertius 
says : 

" This is indeed the Golden Age. The greatest rewards come from 

gold ; by gold love is won ; by gold is faith destroyed ; by gold is justice 

bought ; the law follows the track of gold, while modesty will soon 

follow it when law is gone." 
Diphilus says ; 

" I consider that nothing is more powerful than gold. By it all 

things are torn asunder ; all things are accomphshed." 
Therefore, all the noblest and best despise these riches, deservedly and 
with justice, and esteem them as nothing. And this is said by the old man 
in Plautus : 

" I hate gold. It has often impelled many people to many wrong 

In this country too, the poets inveigh with stinging reproaches against money 
coined from gold and silver. And especially did Juvenal : 

" Since the majesty of wealth is the most sacred thing among us ; 

although, pernicious money, thou dost not yet inhabit a temple, nor 

have we erected altars to money." 
And in another place ; 

" Demoralising money first introduced foreign customs, and 

voluptuous wealth weakened our race with disgraceful luxury. "^^ 
And very many vehemently praise the barter system which men used before 
money was devised, and which even now obtains among certain simple 

And next they raise a great outcry against other metals, as iron, than 

I'An inspection of the historical incidents mentioned here and further on, indicates 
that Agricola relied for such information on Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, Livy, Valerius 
Maximus, Pliny, and often enough on Homer, Horace, and VirgU. 

'^Juvenal. Satires i., 1. 112, and vi., 1. 298. 


which they say nothing more pernicious could have been brought into the 
hfe of man. For it is employed in making swords, javelins, spears, pikes, 
arrows — weapons by which men are wounded, and which cause slaughter, 
robbery, and wars. These things so moved the wrath of Pliny that he wrote : 
" Iron is used not only in hand to hand fighting, but also to form the winged 
missiles of war, sometimes for hurling engines, sometimes for lances, some- 
times even for arrows. I look upon it as the most deadly fruit of human 
ingenuity. For to bring Death to men more quickly we have given wings to 
iron and taught it to fly."^^ The spear, the arrow from the bow, or the bolt 
from the catapult and other engines can be driven into the body of only one 
man, while the iron cannon-ball fired through the air, can go through the 
bodies of many men, and there is no marble or stone object so hard that it 
cannot be shattered by the force and shock. Therefore it levels the highest 
towers to the ground, shatters and destroys the strongest walls. Certainly 
the ballistas which throw stones, the battering rams and other ancient war 
engines for making breaches in walls of fortresses and hurling down strong- 
holds, seem to have little power in comparison with our present cannon. 
These emit horrible sounds and noises, not less than thunder, flashes 
of fire burst from them like the lightning, striking, crushing, and shatter- 
ing buildings, belching forth flames and kindling fires even as lightning 
flashes. So that with more justice could it be said of the impious men of 
our age than of Salmoneus of ancient days, that they had snatched lightning 
from Jupiter and wrested it from his hands. Nay, rather there has been 
sent from the infernal regions to the earth this force for the destruction of 
men, so that Death may snatch to himself as many as possible by one stroke. 

But because muskets are nowadays rarely made of iron, and the large 
ones never, but of a certain mixture of copper and tin, they confer more 
maledictions on copper and tin than on iron. In this connection too, they 
mention the brazen bull of Phalaris, the brazen ox of the people of Per- 
gamus, racks in the shape of an iron dog or a horse, manacles, shackles, 
wedges, hooks, and red-hot plates. Cruelly racked by such instruments, 
people are driven to confess crimes and misdeeds which they have never 
committed, and innocent men are miserably tortured to death by every 
conceivable kind of torment. 

It is claimed too, that lead is a pestilential and noxious metal, for men 
are punished by means of molten lead, as Horace describes in the ode 
addressed to the Goddess Fortune : " Cruel Necessity ever goes before thee 
bearing in her brazen hand the spikes and wedges, while the awful hook and 
molten lead are also not lacking. "2" In their desire to excite greater odium 
for this metal, they are not silent about the leaden balls of muskets, and they 
find in it the cause of wounds and death. 

They contend that, inasmuch as Nature has concealed metals far within 
the depths of the earth, and because they are not necessary to human life, 
they are therefore despised and repudiated by the noblest, and should not be 

I'Pliny, XXXIV., 39. 

'"Horace. Odes, i., 35, 11., 17-20. 

13 BOOK I. 

mined, and seeing that when brought to hght they have always proved the 
cause of very great evils, it follows that mining is not useful to mankind, 
but on the contrary harmful and destructive. Several good men have 
been so perturbed by these tragedies that they conceive an intensely bitter 
hatred toward metals, and they wish absolutely that metals had never been 
created, or being created, that no one had ever dug them out. The more I 
commend the singular honesty, innocence, and goodness of such men, the 
more anxious shall I be to remove utterly and eradicate all error from their 
minds and to reveal the sound view, which is that the metals are most useful 
to mankind. 

In the first place then, those who speak ill of the metals and refuse to 
make use of them, do not see that they accuse and condemn as wicked the 
Creator Himself, when they assert that He fashioned some things vainly 
and without good cause, and thus they regard Him as the Author of evils, 
which opinion is certainly not worthy of pious and sensible men. 

In the next place, the earth does not conceal metals in her depths 
because she does not wish that men should dig them out, but because 
provident and sagacious Nature has appointed for each thing its place. She 
generates them in the veins, stringers, and seams in the rocks, as though 
in special vessels and receptacles for such material. The metals cannot be 
produced in the other elements because the materials for their formation 
are wanting. For if they were generated in the air, a thing that rarely 
happens, they could not find a firm resting-place, but by their own force and 
weight would settle down on to the ground. Seeing then that metals have 
their proper abiding place in the bowels of the earth, who does not see that 
these men do not reach their conclusions by good logic ? 

They say, " Although metals are in the earth, each located in its own 
proper place where it originated, yet because they lie thus enclosed and 
hidden from sight, they should not be taken out." But, in refutation of these 
attacks, which are so annoying, I will on behalf of the metals instance the 
fish, which we catch, hidden and concealed though they be in the water, even 
in the sea. Indeed, it is far stranger that man, a terrestrial animal, should 
search the interior of the sea than the bowels of the earth. For as birds are 
born to fly freely through the air, so are fishes born to swim through the 
waters, while to other creatures Nature has given the earth that they might 
live in it, and particularly to man that he might cultivate it and draw out 
of its caverns metals and other mineral products. On the other hand, they 
say that we eat fish, but neither hunger nor thirst is dispelled by minerals, 
nor are they useful in clothing the body, which is another argument by 
which these people strive to prove that metals should not be taken out. But 
man without metals cannot provide those things which he needs for food and 
clothing. For, though the produce of the land furnishes the greatest 
abundance of food for the nourishment of our bodies, no laboui can be 
carried on and completed without tools. The ground itself is turned up 
with ploughshares and harrows, tough stalks and the tops of the roots are 
broken off and dug up with a mattock, the sown seed is harrowed, the corn 

BOOK I. 13 

field is hoed and weeded ; the ripe grain with part of the stalk is cut down 
by scythes and threshed on the floor, or its ears are cut off and stored in the 
barn and later beaten with flails and winnowed with fans, until finally the 
pure grain is stored in the granary, whence it is brought forth again when 
occasion demands or necessity arises. Again, if we wish to procure better 
and more productive fruits from trees and bushes, we must resort to 
cultivating, pruning, and grafting, which cannot be done without tools. 
Even as without vessels we cannot keep or hold liquids, such as milk, honey, 
wine, or oil, neither could so many living things be cared for without 
buildings to protect them from long-continued rain and intolerable cold. 
Most of the rustic instruments are made of iron, as ploughshares, share- 
beams, mattocks, the prongs of harrows, hoes, planes, hay-forks, straw 
cutters, pruning shears, pruning hooks, spades, lances, forks, and weed 
cutters. Vessels are also made of copper or lead. Neither are wooden 
instruments or vessels made without iron. Wine cellars, oil-mills, stables, 
or any other part of a farm building could not be built without iron tools. 
Then if the bull, the wether, the goat, or any other domestic animal is led 
away from the pasture to the butcher, or if the poulterer brings from the farm 
a chicken, a hen, or a capon for the cook, could any of these animals be cut 
up and divided without axes and knives ? I need say nothing here about 
bronze and copper pots for cooking, because for these purposes one could 
make use of earthen vessels, but even these in turn could not be made and 
fashioned by the potter without tools, for no instruments can be made out 
of wood alone, without the use of iron. Furthermore, hunting, fowling, and 
fishing supply man with food, but when the stag has been ensnared does not 
the hunter transfix him with his spear ? As he stands or runs, does he not 
pierce him with an arrow ? Or pierce him with a bullet ? Does not the 
fowler in the same way kill the moor-fowl or pheasant with an arrow ? Or 
does he not discharge into its body the ball from the musket ? I will not 
speak of the snares and other instruments with which the woodcock, wood- 
pecker, and other wild birds are caught, lest I pursue unseasonably and too 
minutely single instances. Lastly, with his fish-hook and net does not the 
fisherman catch the fish in the sea, in the lakes, in fish-ponds, or in rivers ? 
But the hook is of iron, and sometimes we see lead or iron weights attached 
to the net. And most fish that are caught are afterward cut up and dis- 
embowelled with knives and axes. But, more than enough has been said on 
the matter of food. 

Now I will speak of clothing, which is made out of wool, flax, feathers, 
hair, fur, or leather. First the sheep are sheared, then the wool is combed. 
Next the threads are drawn out, while later the warp is suspended in the 
shuttle under which passes the wool. This being struck by the comb, at length 
cloth is formed either from threads alone or from threads and hair. Flax, 
when gathered, is first pulled by hooks. Then it is dipped in water and 
afterward dried, beaten into tow with a heavy mallet, and carded, then 
drawn out into threads, and finally woven into cloth. But has the artisan 
or weaver of the cloth any instrument not made of iron ? Can one be made 

14 BOOK I. 

of wood without the aid of iron ? The cloth or web must be cut into lengths 
for the tailor. Can this be done without knife or scissors ? Can the tailor 
sew together any garments without a needle ? Even peoples dwelling beyond 
the seas cannot make a covering for their bodies, fashioned of feathers, 
without these same implements. Neither can the furriers do without them 
in sewing together the pelts of any kind of animals. The shoemaker needs 
a knife to cut the leather, another to scrape it, and an awl to perforate it 
before he can make shoes. These coverings for the body are either woven 
or stitched. Buildings too, which protect the same body from rain, wind, 
cold, and heat, are not constructed without axes, saws, and augers. 

But what need of more words ? If we remove metals from the service 
of man, all methods of protecting and sustaining health and more care- 
fully preserving the course of life are done away with. If there were no 
metals, men would pass a horrible and wretched existence in the midst of 
wild beasts ; they would return to the acorns and fruits and berries of the 
forest. They would feed upon the herbs and roots which they plucked up 
with their nails. They would dig out caves in which to lie down at night, 
and by day they would rove in the woods and plains at random like beasts, 
and inasmuch as this condition is utterly unworthy of humanity, with its 
splendid and glorious natural endowment, will anyone be so foolish or 
obstinate as not to allow that metals are necessary for food and clothing and 
that they tend to preserve life ? 

Moreover, as the miners dig almost exclusively in mountains otherwise 
unproductive, and in valleys invested in gloom, they do either slight damage 
to the fields or none at all. Lastly, where woods and glades are cut down, 
they may be sown with grain after they have been cleared from the roots of 
shrubs and trees. These new fields soon produce rich crops, so that they repair 
the losses which the inhabitants suffer from increased cost of timber. More- 
over, with the metals which are melted from the ore, birds without number, 
edible beasts and fish can be purchased elsewhere and brought to these 
mountainous regions. 

I will pass to the illustrations I have mentioned. Bias of Priene, when his 
country was taken, carried away out of the city none of his valuables. So 
strong a man with such a reputation for wisdom had no need to fear personal 
danger from the enemy, but this in truth cannot be said of him because he 
hastily took to flight ; the throwing away of his goods does not seem to me 
so great a matter, for he had lost his house, his estates, and even his country, 
than which nothing is more precious. Nay, I should be convinced of Bias's 
contempt and scorn for possessions of this kind, if before his country was 
captured he had bestowed them freely on relations and friends, or had 
distributed them to the very poor, for this he could have done freely and 
without question. Whereas his conduct, which the Greeks admire so 
greatly, was due, it would seem, to his being driven out by the enemy and 
stricken with fear. Socrates in truth did not despise gold, but would not 
accept money for his teaching. As for Aristippus of Cyrene, if he had gath- 
ered and saved the gold which he ordered his slaves to throw away, he might 

ROOK I. 15 

have bought the things which he needed for the necessaries of life, and he 
would not, by reason of his poverty, have then been obliged to flatter the 
tyrant Dionysius, nor would he ever have been called by him a King's dog. 
For this reason Horace, speaking of Damasippus when reviling Stabcrus for 
valuing riches very highly, says : 

" What resemblance has the Grecian Aristippus to this fellow ? 
He who commanded his slaves to throw away the gold in the midst of 
Libya because they went too slowly, impeded by the weight of their 
burden — which of these two men is the more insane ? "21 
Insane indeed is he who makes more of riches than of virtue. Insane 
also is he who rejects them and considers them as worth nothing, instead of 
using them with reason. Yet as to the gold which Aristippus on another 
occasion flung into the sea from a boat, this he did with a wise and prudent 
mind. For learning that it was a pirate boat in which he was sailing, and 
fearing for his life, he counted his gold and then throwing it of his own will 
into the sea, he groaned as if he had done it unwillingly. But afterward, 
when he escaped the peril, he said : " It is better that this gold itself should 
be lost than that I should have perished because of it." Let it be granted 
that some philosophers, as well as Anacreon of Teos, despised gold and 
silver. Anaxagoras of Clazomenae also gave up his sheep-farms and 
became a shepherd. Crates the Theban too, being annoyed that his 
estate and other kinds of wealth caused him worry, and that in his con- 
templations his mind was thereby distracted, resigned a property valued at 
ten talents, and taking a cloak and waUet, in poverty devoted all his 
thought and efforts to philosophy. Is it true that because these philo- 
sophers despised money, all others declined wealth in cattle ? Did they 
refuse to cultivate lands or to dwell in houses ? There were certainly many, 
on the other hand, who, though affluent, became famous in the pursuit of 
learning and in the knowledge of divine and human laws, such as Aristotle, 
Cicero, and Seneca. As for Phocion, he did not deem it honest to accept the 
gold sent to him by Alexander. For if he had consented to use it, the 
king as much as himself would have incurred the hatred and aversion of 
the Athenians, and these very people were afterward so ungrateful toward 
this excellent man that they compelled him to drink hemlock. For what 
would have been less becoming to Marcus Curius and Fabricius Luscinus 
than to accept gold from their enemies, who hoped that by these means 
those leaders could be corrupted or would become odious to their fellow 
citizens, their purpose being to cause dissentions among the Romans and 
destroy the Republic utterly. Lycurgus, however, ought to have given 
instructions to the Spartans as to the use of gold and silver, instead of 
abolishing things good in themselves. As to the Babytacenses, who does 
not see that they were senseless and envious ? For with their gold they might 
have bought things of which they were in need, or even given it to neigh- 
bouring peoples to bind them more closely to themselves with gifts and 
favours. Finally, the Scythians, by condemning the use of gold and silver 
"Horace. Satires, 11., 3, 11., 99-102. 

i6 BOOK I. 

alone, did not free themselves utterly from avarice, because although he is not 
enjoying them, one who can possess other forms of property may also 
become avaricious. 

Now let us reply to the attacks hurled against the products of mines. 
In the first place, they call gold and silver the scourge of mankind because 
they are the cause of destruction and ruin to their possessors. But in this 
manner, might not anything that we possess be called a scourge to 
human kind, — whether it be a horse, or a garment, or anything else ? 
For, whether one rides a splendid horse, or journeys well clad, he would 
give occasion to a robber to kiU him. Are we then not to ride on horses, 
but to journey on foot, because a robber has once committed a murder in 
order that he may steal a horse ? Or are we not to possess clothing, because 
a vagabond with a sword has taken a traveller's life that he may rob him 
of his garment ? The possession of gold and silver is similar. Seeing 
then that men cannot conveniently do all these things, we should be on our 
guard against robbers, and because we cannot always protect ourselves 
from their hands, it is the special duty of the magistrate to seize wicked and 
villainous men for torture, and, if need be, for execution. 

Again, the products of the mines are not themselves the cause of war. 
Thus, for example, when a tyrant, inflamed with passion for a woman of 
great beauty, makes war on the inhabitants of her city, the fault lies in the 
unbridled lust of the t3n:ant and not in the beauty of the woman. Likewise, 
when another man, blinded by a passion for gold and silver, makes war 
upon a wealthy people, we ought not to blame the metals but transfer all 
blame to avarice. For frenzied deeds and disgraceful actions, which are 
wont to weaken and dishonour natural and civil laws, originate from our 
own vices. Wherefore Tibullus is wrong in laying the blame for war on 
gold, when he says : " This is the fault of a rich man's gold ; there were 
no wars when beech goblets were used at banquets." But Virgil, speaking of 
Polymnestor, says that the crime of the murderer rests on avarice : 

" He breaks all law ; he murders Polydorus, and obtains gold by 

violence. To what wilt thou not drive mortal hearts, thou accursed 

hunger for gold ?" 
And again, justly, he says, speaking of Pygmalion, who killed Sichaeus : 

" And blinded with the love of gold, he slew him unawares with 

stealthy sword."^^ 

For lust and eagerness after gold and other things make men blind, and 
this wicked greed for money, all men in all times and places have considered 
dishonourable and criminal. Moreover, those who have been so addicted to 
avarice as to be its slaves have always been regarded as mean and sordid. 
Similarly, too, if by means of gold and silver and gems men can overcome 
the chastity of women, corrupt the honour of many people, bribe the course 
of justice and commit innumerable wickednesses, it is not the metals which 
are to be blamed, but the evil passions of men which become inflamed and 
ignited ; or it is due to the blind and impious desires of their minds. But 
i. III., 1. 55, and i, 1. 349. 



although these attacks against gold and silver may be directed especially 
against money, yet inasmuch as the Poets one after another condemn it, 
their criticism must be met, and this can be done by one argument alone. 
Money is good for those who use it well ; it brings loss and evil to those who 
use it ill. Hence, very rightly, Horace says : 

" Dost thou not know the value of money ; and what uses it serves ? 

It buys bread, vegetables, and a pint of wine." 
And again in another place : 

" Wejdth hoarded up is the master or slave of each possessor ; it 

should follow rather than lead, the ' twisted rope.' "^^ 

When ingenious and clever men considered carefully the system of barter, 
which ignorant men of old employed and which even to-day is used by 
certain uncivilised and barbarous races, it appeared to them so troublesome 
and laborious that they invented money. Indeed, nothing more useful 
could have been devised, because a small amount of gold and silver is of as 
great value as things cumbrous and heavy ; and so peoples far distant from one 
another can, by the use of money, trade very easily in those things which 
civUised life can scarcely do without. 

The curses which are uttered against iron, copper, and lead have no 
weight with prudent and sensible men, because if these metals were done 
away with, men, as their anger swelled and their fury became unbridled, 
would assuredly fight like wild beasts with lists, heels, nails, and teeth. 
They would strike each other with sticks, hit one another with stones, or 
dash their foes to the ground. Moreover, a man does not kill another with 
iron alone, but slays by means of poison, starvation, or thirst. He may 
seize him by the throat and strangle him ; he may bury him alive in the 
ground ; he may immerse him in water and suffocate him ; he may burn 
or hang him ; so that he can make every element a participant in the death 
of men. Or, finally, a man may be thrown to the wild beasts. Another 
may be sewn up wholly except his head in a sack, and thus be left to be 
devoured by worms ; or he may be immersed in water until he is torn to 
pieces by sea-serpents. A man may be boiled in oil ; he may be greased, 
tied with ropes, and left exposed to be stung by flies and hornets ; he may 
be put to death by scourging with rods or beating with cudgels, or struck 
down by stoning, or flung from a high place. Furthermore, a man 
may be tortured in more ways than one without the use of metals ; as when 
the executioner burns the groins and armpits of his victim with hot wax ; 
or places a cloth in his mouth gradually, so that when in breathing he 
draws it slowly into his gullet, the executioner draws it back suddenly and 
violently ; or the victim's hands are fastened behind his back, and he is 
drawn up httle by httle with a rope and then let down suddenly. Or 
similarly, he may be tied to a beam and a heavy stone fastened by a 
cord to his feet, or finally his limbs may be torn asunder. From these 
examples we see that it is not metals that are to be condemned, but our 
vices, such as anger, cruelty, discord, psission for power, avarice, and lust. 
^'Horace. Satires, i., 1. 73 ; and Epistle, i., 10, 1. 47. 

i8 BOOK I. 

The question next arises, whether we ought to count metals amongst 
the number of good things or class them amongst the bad. The Peripatetics 
regarded all wealth as a good thing, and merely spoke of externals as having 
to do with neither the mind nor the body. Well, let riches be an external 
thing. And, as they said, many other things may be classed as good if it is 
in one's power to use them either well or ill. For good men employ them for 
good, and to them they are useful. The wicked use them badly, and to 
them they are harmful. There is a saying of Socrates, that just as wine 
is influenced by the cask, so the character of riches is like their possessors. 
The Stoics, whose custom it is to argue subtly and acutely, though they did 
not put wealth in the category of good things, they did not count it amongst 
the evil ones, but placed it in that class which they term neutral. For to 
them virtue alone is good, and vice alone evil. The whole of what remains 
is indifferent. Thus, in their conviction, it matters not whether one be in 
good health or seriously ill ; whether one be handsome or deformed. In 
short : 

" Whether, sprung from Inachus of old, and thus hast lived 

beneath the sun in wealth, or hast been poor and despised among men, 

it matters not." 

For my part, I see no reason why anything that is in itself of use should 
not be pjaced in the class of good things. At all events, metals are a 
creation of Nature, and they supply many varied and necessary needs of the 
human race, to say nothing about their uses in adornment, which are so 
wonderfully blended with utility. Therefore, it is not right to degrade them 
from the place they hold among the good things. In truth, if there is a 
bad use made of them, should they on that account be rightly called evils ? 
For of what good things can we not make an equally bad or good use ? Let 
me give examples from both classes of what we term good. Wine, by far 
the best drink, if drunk in moderation, aids the digestion of food, helps to 
produce blood, and promotes the juices in all parts of the body. It is of use 
in nourishing not only the body but the mind as well, for it disperses our 
dark and gloomy thoughts, frees us from cares and anxiety, and restores 
our confidence. If drunk in excess, however, it injures and prostrates the 
body with serious disease. An intoxicated man keeps nothing to himself ; 
he raves and rants, and commits many wicked and infamous acts. On 
this subject Theognis wrote some very clever lines, which we may render 
thus : 

" Wine is harmful if taken with greedy lips, but if drunk in 

moderation it is wholesome. "^^ 

But I linger too long over extraneous matters. I must pass on to the 
gifts of body and mind, amongst which strength, beauty, and genius 
occur to me. If then a man, relying on his strength, toils hard to maintain 
himself and his family in an honest and respectable manner, he uses the 
gift aright, but if he makes a living out of murder and robbery, he uses it 
wrongly. Likewise, too, if a lovely woman is anxious to please her husband 
'^Theognis. Maxims, ii., 1. 210. 

BOOK I. ig 

alone she uses her beauty aright, but if she lives wantonly and is a victim 
of passion, she misuses her beauty. In like manner, a youth who devotes 
himself to learning and cultivates the liberal arts, uses his genius rightly. 
But he who dissembles, lies, cheats, and deceives by fraud and dishonesty, 
misuses his abilities. Now, the man who, because they are abused, denies that 
wine, strength, beauty, or genius are good things, is unjust and blasphemous 
towards the Most High God, Creator of the World ; so he who would remove 
metals from the class of blessings also acts unjustly and blasphemously 
against Him. Very true, therefore, are the words which certain Greek 
poets have written, as Pindar : 

" Money glistens, adorned with virtue ; it supplies the means by 

which thou mayest act well in whatever circumstances fate may 

have in store for thee."^^ 
And Sappho : 

" Without the love of virtue gold is a dangerous and harmful guest, 

but when it is associated with virtue, it becomes the source and height 

of good." 
And Callimachus : 

" Riches do not make men great without virtue ; neither do virtues 

themselves make men great without some wealth." 
And Antiphanes : 

" Now, by the gods, why is it necessary for a man to grow rich ? 

Why does he desire to possess much money unless that he may, as 

much as possible, help his friends, and sow the seeds of a harvest of 

gratitude, sweetest of the goddesses."^' 

Having thus refuted the arguments and contentions of adversaries, 
let us sum up the advantages of the metals. In the first place, they are 
useful to the physician, for they furnish liberally the ingredients for medi- 
cines, by which wounds and ulcers are cured, and even plagues ; so that 
certainly if there were no other reasons why we should explore the depths of 
the earth, we should for the sake of medicine alone dig in the mines. Again, 
the metals are of use to painters, because they yield certain pigments which, 
when united with the painter's slip, are injured less than others by the moisture 
from without. Further, mining is useful to the architects, for thus is found 
marble, which is suitable not only for strengthening large buildings, but 
also for decoration. It is, moreover, helpful to those whose ambition urges 
them toward immortal glory, because it yields metals from which are made 
coins, statues, and other monuments, which, next to literary records, give men 
in a sense immortality. The metals are useful to merchants with very great cause, 
for, as I have stated elsewhere, the use of money which is made from metals is 
much more convenient to mankind than the old system of exchange of commodi- 
ties. In short, to whom are the metals not of use ? In very truth, even the works 
of art, elegant, embellished, elaborate, useful, are fashioned in various shapes by 
the artist from the metals gold, silver, brass, lead, and iron. How few artists 

""Pindar. Olymp. u., 58-60. 
"Antiphanes, 4. 

20 BOOK I. 

could make anything that is beautiful and perfect without using metals ? Even 
if tools of iron or brass were not used, we could not make tools of wood and 
stone without the help of metal. From all these examples are evident the 
benefits and advantages derived from metals. We should not have had 
these at all unless the science of mining and metallurgy had been discovered 
and handed down to us. Who then does not understand how highly useful 
they are, nay rather, how necessary to the human race ? In a word, man 
could not do without the mining industry, nor did Divine Providence will 
that he should. 

Further, it has been asked whether to work in metals is honourable 
employment for respectable people or whether it is not degrading and 
dishonourable. We ourselves count it amongst the honourable arts. For 
that art, the pursuit of which is unquestionably not impious, nor offensive, 
nor mean, we may esteem honourable. That this is the nature of the 
mining profession, inasmuch as it promotes wealth by good and honest 
methods, we shall show presently. With justice, therefore, we may class 
it amongst honourable employments. In the first place, the occupation 
of the miner, which I must be allowed to compare with other methods of 
acquiring great wealth, is just as noble as that of agriculture ; for, as the 
farmer, sowing his seed in his fields injures no one, however profitable they 
may prove to him, so the miner digging for his metals, albeit he draws forth 
great heaps of gold or silver, hurts thereby no mortal man. Certainly these 
two modes of increasing wealth are in the highest degree both noble and 
honourable. The booty of the soldier, however, is frequently impious, 
because in the fury of the fighting he seizes all goods, sacred as well as 
profane. The most just king may have to declare war on cruel tyrants, 
but in the course of it wicked men cannot lose their wealth and possessions 
without dragging into the same calamity innocent and poor people, old 
men, matrons, maidens, and orphans. But the miner is able to accumu- 
late great riches in a short time, without using any violence, fraud, or 
malice. That old saying is, therefore, not always true that " Every rich 
man is either wicked himself, or is the heir to wickedness." 

Some, however, who contend against us, censure and attack miners by 
saying that they and their children must needs faU into penury after a short 
time, because they have heaped up riches by improper means. According 
to them nothing is truer than the saying of the poet Naevius : 
" lU gotten gains in iU fashion shp away." 

The following are some of the wicked and sinful methods by which 
they say men obtain riches from mining. When a prospect of obtaining 
metals shows itself in a mine, either the ruler or magistrate drives out the 
rightful owners of the mines from possession, or a shrewd and cunning 
neighbour perhaps brings a law-suit against the old possessors in order to 
rob them of some part of their property. Or the mine superintendent imposes 
on the owners such a heavy contribution on shares, that if they cannot pay, 
or win not, they lose their rights of possession ; while the superintendent, 
contrary to all that is right, seizes upon all that they have lost. Or, 

BOOK I. 21 

finaUy, the mine foreman may conceal the vein by plastering over with 
clay that part where the metal abounds, or by covering it with earth, 
stones, stakes, or poles, in the hope that after several years the pro- 
prietors, thinking the mine exhausted, wiU abandon it, and the foreman 
can then excavate that remainder of the ore and keep it for himself. 
They even state that the scum of the miners exist wholly by fraud, 
deceit, and lying. For to speak of nothing else, but only of those 
deceits which are practised in buying and selling, it is said they either 
advertise the veins with false and imaginary praises, so that they can 
sell the shares in the mines at one-half more than they are worth, or 
on the contrary, they sometimes detract from the estimate of them so 
that they can buy shares for a small price. By exposing such frauds our 
critics suppose all good opinion of miners is lost. Now, all wealth, 
whether it has been gained by good or evil means, is liable by some adverse 
chance to vanish away. It decays and is dissipated by the fault and care- 
lessness of the owner, since he loses it through laziness and neglect, or 
wastes and squanders it in luxuries, or he consumes and exhausts it in gifts, 
or he dissipates and throws it away in gambling : 

" Just as though money sprouted up again, renewed from an exhausted 
coffer, and was always to be obtained from a fuU heap." 

It is therefore not to be wondered at if miners do not keep in mind the 
counsel given by King Agathocles : " Unexpected fortune should be held 
in reverence," for by not doing so they fall into penury ; and particularly 
when the miners are not content with moderate riches, they not rarely spend 
on new mines what they have accumulated from others. But no just ruler 
or magistrate deprives owners of their possessions ; that, however, may be 
done by a tyrant, who may cruelly rob his subjects not only of their goods 
honestly obtained, but even of life itself. And yet whenever I have inquired 
into the complaints which are in common vogue, I always find that the 
owners who are abused have the best of reasons for driving the men from 
the mines ; while those who abuse the owners have no reason to complain 
about them. Take the case of those who, not having paid their contributions, 
have lost the right of possession, or those who have been expelled by the magis- 
trate out of another man's mine : for some wicked men, mining the small 
veins branching from the veins rich in metal, are wont to invade the property 
of another person. So the magistrate expels these men accused of wrong, 
and drives them from the mine. They then very frequently spread 
unpleasant rumours concerning this amongst the populace. Or, to take 
another case: when, as often happens, a dispute arises between neighbours, 
arbitrators appointed by the magistrate settle it, or the regular judges 
investigate and give judgment. Consequently, when the judgment is given, 
inasmuch as each party has consented to submit to it, neither side should 
complain of injustice ; and when the controversy is adjudged, inasmuch as 
the decision is in accordance with the laws concerning mining, one of the 
parties cannot be injured by the law. I do not vigorously contest the point, 
that at times a mine superintendent may exact a larger contribution 

22 BOOK I. 

from the owners than necessity demands. Nay, I will admit that a fore- 
man may plaster over, or hide with a structure, a vein where it is rich in 
metals. Is the wickedness of one or two to brand the many honest with 
fraud and trickery ? What body is supposed to be more pious and virtuous 
in the Republic than the Senate ? Yet some Senators have been detected 
in peculations, and have been punished. Is this any reason that so honour- 
able a house should lose its good name and fame ? The superintendent 
cannot exact contributions from the owners without the knowledge and 
permission of the Bergmeister or the deputies ; for this reason decep- 
tion of this kind is impossible. Should the foremen be convicted of 
fraud, they are beaten with rods ; or of theft, they are hanged. It 
is complained that some sellers and buyers of the shares in mines are 
fraudulent. I concede it. But can they deceive anyone except a stupid, 
careless man, unskilled in mining matters ? Indeed, a wise and prudent 
man, skilled in this art, if he doubts the trustworthiness of a seller or 
buyer, goes at once to the mine that he may for himself examine the vein 
which has been so greatly praised or disparaged, and may consider whether 
he will buy or sell the shares or not. But people say, though such an one 
can be on his guard against fraud, yet a simple man and one who is easily 
credulous, is deceived. But we frequently see a man who is trying to mislead 
another in this way deceive himself, and deservedly become a laughing- 
stock for everyone ; or very often the defrauder as well as the dupe is 
entirely ignorant of mining. If, for instance, a vein has been found to be 
abundant in ore, contrary to the idea of the would-be deceiver, then he who 
was to have been cheated gets a profit, and he who has been the deceiver 
loses. Nevertheless, the miners themselves rarely buy or sell shares, but 
generally they have juraii venditor es'^^ who buy and sell at such prices as they 
have been instructed to give or accept. Seeing therefore, that magistrates 
decide disputes on fair and just principles, that honest men deceive nobody, 
while a dishonest one cannot deceive easily, or if he does he cannot do so 
with impunity, the criticism of those who wish to disparage the honesty of 
miners has therefore no force or weight. 

In the next place, the occupation of the miner is objectionable to 
nobody. For who, unless he be naturally malevolent and envious, will 
hate the man who gains wealth as it were from heaven ? Or who will hate 
a man who to amplify his fortune, adopts a method which is free from 
reproach ? A moneylender, if he demands an excessive interest, incurs the 
hatred of men. If he demands a moderate and lawful rate, so that he is not 
injurious to the public generally and does not impoverish them, he fails to 
become very rich from his business. Further, the gain derived from mining 
is not sordid, for how can it be such, seeing that it is so great, so plentiful, 
and of so innocent a nature. A merchant's profits are mean and base when 
he sells counterfeit and spurious merchandise, or puts far too high a price 
on goods that he has purchased for little ; for this reason the merchant 

'^Juraii Venditores — " Sworn brokers." (?) 

BOOK I. 23 

would be held in no loss odium amongst good men than is the usurer, did 
they not take account of the risk he runs to secure his merchandise. In 
truth, those who on tliis point speak abusively of mining for the sake of 
detracting from its merits, say that in former days men convicted of crimes 
and misdeeds were sentenced to the mines and were worked as slaves. But 
to-day the miners receive pay, and are engaged like other workmen in the 
common trades. 

Certainly, if minmg is a shameful and discreditable employment for a 
gentleman because slaves once worked mines, then agriculture also will not be 
a very creditable employment, because slaves once cultivated the fields, and 
even to-day do so among the Turks ; nor will architecture be considered 
honest, because some slaves have been found skilful in that profession ; 
nor medicine, because not a few doctors have been slaves ; nor will any other 
worthy craft, because men captured by force of arms have practised it. 
Yet agriculture, architecture, and medicine are none the less counted 
amongst the number of honourable professions ; therefore, mining 
ought not for this reason to be excluded from them. But suppose we 
grant that the hired miners have a sordid employment. We do not mean 
by miners only the diggers and other workmen, but also those skilled in the 
mining arts, and those who invest money in mines. Amongst them can be 
counted kings, princes, republics, and from these last the most esteemed 
citizens. And finally, we include amongst the overseers of mines the noble 
Thucydides, the historian, whom the Athenians placed in charge of the 
mines of Thasos.^^ And it would not be unseemly for the owners themselves 
to work with their own hands on the works or ore, especially if they them- 
selves have contributed to the cost of the mines. Just as it is not undignified 
for great men to cultivate their own land. Otherwise the Roman Senate 
would not have created Dictator L. Quintius Cincinnatus, as he was at 
work in the fields, nor would it have summoned to the Senate House the 
chief men of the State from their country villas. Similarly, in our day, 
Maximilian Caesar would not have enrolled Conrad in the ranks of the nobles 
known as Counts ; Conrad was really very poor when he served in the mines 
of Schneeberg, and for that reason he was nicknamed the " poor man " ; but 

''There is no doubt that Thucydides had some connection with gold mines ; he himself 
is the authority for the statement that he worked mines in Thrace. Agricola seems to have 
obtained his idea that Thucydides held an appointment from the Athenians in charge of 
mines in Thasos, from Marcellinus (Vita, Thucydides, 30), who also says that Thucydides 
obtained possession of mines in Thrace through his marriage with a Thracian woman, and 
that it was while residing on the mines at Scapte-Hyle that he wrote his history. Later 
scholars, however, find little warrant for these assertions. The gold mines of Thasos — an 
island off the mainland of Thrace — are frequently mentioned by the ancient authors. 
Herodotus, vi., 46-47, says : — " Their (the Thasians') revenue was derived partly from 
" their possessions upon the mainland, partly from the mines which they owned. They 
" were masters of the gold mines of Scapte-Hyle, the yearly produce of which amounted to 
" eighty talents. Their mines in Thasos yielded less, but still were so prolific that besides 
" being entirely free from land-tax they had a surplus of income derived from the two 
" sources of their territory on the mainland and their mines, in common years two hundred 
" and in best years three hundred talents. I myself have seen the mines in question. By 
" far the most curious of them are those which the Phoenicians discovered at the time 
" when they went with Thasos and colonized the island, which took its name from him. 

24 BOOK I. 

not many years after, he attained wealth from the mines of Fiirst, which 

is a city in Lorraine, and took his name from " Luck."*" Nor would 

King Vladislaus have restored to the Assembly of Barons, Tursius, a 

citizen of Cracow, who became rich through the mines in that part of the 

kingdom of Hungary which was formerly called Dacia.^^ Nay, not even the 

common worker in the mines is vile and abject. For, trained to vigilance 

and work by night and day, he has great powers of endurance when occasion 

demands, and easily sustains the fatigues and duties of a soldier, for he is 

accustomed to keep long vigils at night, to wield iron tools, to dig trenches, 

to drive tunnels, to make machines, and to carry burdens. Therefore, experts 

in military affairs prefer the miner, not only to a commoner from the town, 

but even to the rustic. 

But to bring this discussion to an end, inasmuch as the chief callings 

are those of the moneylender, the soldier, the merchant, the farmer, and the 

miner, I say, inasmuch as usury is odious, while the spoil cruelly captured 

from the possessions of the people innocent of wrong is wicked in the sight 

of God and man, and inasmuch as the calling of the miner excels in honour 

and dignity that of the merchant trading for lucre, while it is not less noble 

though far more profitable than agriculture, who can fail to realize that 

mining is a calling of peculiar dignity ? Certainly, though it is but one of 

ten important and excellent methods of acquiring wealth in an honourable 

way, a careful and diligent man can attain this result in no easier way 

than by mining. 

" These Phoenician workings are in Thasos itself, between Coenyra and a place called 
" Aenyra over against Samothrace ; a high mountain has been turned upside down in 
" the search for ores." (Rawlinson's Trans.). The occasion of this statement of Herodotus 
was the relations of the Thasians with Darius (521-486 B.C.). The date of the Phoenician 
colonization of Thasos is highly nebular — anywhere from 1200 to goo B.C. 

^"Agricola, De Veterihus et Novis Meiallis, Book i., p. 392, says ; — " Conrad, whose 
" nickname in former years was ' pauper,' suddenly became rich from the silver mines of 
" Mount Jura, known as the Firstum." He was ennobled with the title of Graf Cuntz 
von Gliick by the Emperor Maximilian (who was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, 
I493-I5I9)- "t^onrad was originally a working miner at Schneeberg where he was known 
as Armer Cuntz (poor Cuntz or Conrad) and grew wealthy from the mines of Fiirst in 
Leberthal. This district is located in the Vosges Mountains on the borders of Lorraine 
and Upper Alsace. The story of Cunt? or Conrad von Gliick is mentioned by Albinus 
(Meissnische Land und Berg Chronica, Dresden, 1589, p. 116), Mathesius {Sarepta, Nurem- 
berg, 157S, fol. XVI.), and by others. 

^"^Vladislaus III. was King of Poland, 1434-44, S-^d also became King of Hungary in 
1440. Tursius seems to be a Latinized name and cannot be identified. 



UALITIES which the perfect miner should possess 
and the arguments whicli are urged for and against 
the arts of mining and metallurgy, as well 
as the people occupied in the industry, I 
have sufficiently discussed in the first Book. Now 
I have determined to give more ample information 
concerning the miners. 

In the first place, it is indispensable that they 
should worship God with reverence, and that they 
understand the matters of which I am going to speak, and that they 
take good care that each individual performs his duties efficiently and 
diligently. It is decreed by Divine Providence that those who know 
what they ought to do and then take care to do it properly, for the 
most part meet with good fortune in all they undertake ; on the other 
hand, misfortune overtakes the indolent and those who are careless in 
their work. No person indeed can, without great and sustained effort and 
labour, store in his mind the knowledge of every portion of the metallic 
arts which are involved in operating mines. If a man has the means 
of paying the necessary expense, he hires as many men as he needs, and 
sends them to the various works. Thus formerly Sosias, the Thracian, sent 
into the silver mines a thousand slaves whom he had hired from the Athenian 
Nicias, the son of Niceratus^. But if a man cannot afford the expenditure 
he chooses of the various kinds of mining that work which he himself can 
most easity and efficiently do. Of these kinds, the two most important 
are the making prospect trenches and the washing of the sands of rivers, for 
out of these sands are often collected gold dust, or certain black stones 
from which tin is smelted, or even gems are sometimes found in them ; the 
trenching occasionally lays bare at the grass-roots veins which are found rich 
in metals. If therefore by skill or by luck, such sands or veins shall fall 
into his hands, he will be able to establish his fortune without expenditure, 
and from poverty rise to wealth. If on the contrary, his hopes are not realised, 
then he can desist from washing or digging. 

When anyone, in an endeavour to increase his fortune, meets the 
expenditure of a mine alone, it is of great importance that he should attend 
to his works and personally superintend everything that he has ordered to 
be done. For this reason, he should either have his dweUing at the mine, 

^Xenophon. Essay on the Revenues of Athens, iv., 14. 

" But we cannot but feel surprised that the State, when it sees many private individuals 
" enriching themselves from its resources, does not imitate their proceedings ; for we heard 
" long ago, indeed, at least such of us as attended to these matters, that Nicias the son of 
"Niceratus kept a thousand men employed in the silver mines, whom he let on hire to 
" Sosias of Thrace on condition that he should give him for each an obolus a day, free of all 
" charges ; and this number he always supplied undiminished." (See also Note 6). 
An obolus a day each, would be about 23 oz. Troy of silver per day for the whole number. 
In modern value this would, of course, be but about 50s. per day, but in purchasing power 
the value would probably be 100 to i (see Note on p 28). Nicias was estimated to have a 
fortune of 100 talents — about 83,700 Troy ounces of silver, and was one of the wealthiest of 
the Athenians. (Plutarch, Life of Nicias). 

26 BOOK 11. 

where he may always be in sight of the workmen and always take care that 
none neglect their duties, or else he should live in the neighbourhood, so 
that he may frequenth^ inspect his mining works. Then he may send word 
by a messenger to the workmen that he is coming more frequently than 
he really intends to come, and so either by his arrival or by the intimation 
of it, he so frightens the workmen that none of them perform their duties 
otherwise than diligently. When he inspects the mines he should praise the 
dihgent workmen and occasionally give them rewards, that they and the 
others may become more zealous in their duties ; on the other hand, he 
should rebuke the idle and discharge some of them from the mines and 
substitute industrious men in their places. Indeed, the owner should 
frequently remain for days and nights in the mine, which, in truth, is no 
habitation for the idle and luxurious ; it is important that the owner who 
is diligent in increasing his wealth, should frequent!}^ himself descend into 
the mine, and devote some time to the study of the nature of the veins and 
stringers, and should observe and consider all the methods of working, both 
inside and outside the mine. Nor is this all he ought to do, for sometimes 
he should undertake actual labour, not thereby demeaning himself, but in 
order to encourage his workmen by his own diligence, and to teach 
them their art : for that mine is well conducted in which not only the 
foreman, but also the owner himself, gives instruction as to what ought to 
be done. A certain barbarian, according to Xenophon, rightly remarked 
to the King of Persia that " the eye of the master feeds the horse, "^ for the 
master's watchfulness in all things is of the utmost importance. 

When several share together the expenditure on a mine, it is convenient 
and useful to elect from amongst their own number a mine captain, and 
also a foreman. For, since men often look after their own interests but 
neglect those of others, they cannot in this case take care of their own without 
at the same time looking after the interests of the others, neither can they 
neglect the interests of the others without neglecting their own. But if 
no man amongst them be willing or able to undertake and sustain the bur- 
dens of these offices, it will be to the common interest to place them in the 
hands of most diligent men. Formerly indeed, these things were looked 
after by the mining prefect^, because the owners were kings, as Priam, who 
owned the gold mines round Abydos, or as Midas, who was the owner of 
those situated in Mount Bermius, or as Gyges, or as Alyattes, or as Croesus, 
who was the owner of those mines near a deserted town between Atarnea 
and Pergamum* ; sometimes the mines belonged to a Republic, as, for 

^Xenophon. Oeconomicus xii., 20. "'I approve,' said Ischomachus, 'of the bar- 
" barian's answer to the King who found a good horse, and, wishing to fatten it as soon as 
" possible, asked a man with a good reputation for horsemanship what would do it ? ' The 
" man's reply was : ' Its master's eye.' " 

^Praefecius Mctallorum. In Saxony this official was styled the Berghauptmann. For 
further information see page ()4 and note on page 78. 

*This statement is either based upon ApoUodorus, whom Agricola does not mention 
among his authorities, or on Straljo, whom he does so include. The former in his work on 
Mythology makes such a statement, for which Strabo (xiv., 5, 28) takes him to task as 
follows : " With this vain intention they collected the stories related by the Scepsian 

BOOK II. 27 

instance, the prosperous silver mines in Spain which belonged to Carthage' ; 
sometimes thej' were the property of great and illustrious families, as were 
the Athenian mines in Mount Laurion*. 

When a man owns mines but is ignorant of the art of mining, then 
it is advisable that he should share in common with others the expenses, 
not of one only, but of several mines. When one man alone meets the 
expense for a long time of a whole mine, if good fortune bestows on him a 
vein abundant in metals, or in other products, he becomes very wealthy ; if, 
on the contrary, the mine is poor and barren, in time he will lose everything 
which he has expended on it. But the man who, in common with others, 
has laid out his money on several mines in a region renowned for its wealth 
of metaJs, rarely spends it in vain, for fortune usually responds to his 
hopes in part. For when out of twelve veins in which he has a joint interest 

■' (Demetrius), and taken from Callisthenes and other writers, who did not clear them from 
" false notions respecting the Halizones; for example, that the wealth of Tantalus and of the 
" Pelopidae was derived, it is said, from the mines about Phrygia and Sipylus ; that of Cadmus 
" from the mines of Thrace and Mount Pangaeum ; that of Priam from the gold mines of 
" Astyra, near Abydos (of which at present there are small remains, yet there is a large 
" quantity of matter ejected, and the excavations are proofs of former workings) ; that of 
" Midas from the mines about Mount Bermium ; that of Gyges, Alyattes, and Croesus, from 
" the mines in Lydia and the small deserted city between Atarneus and Pergamum, where 
" are the sites of exhausted mines." (Hamilton's Trans., Vol. in., p. 66). 

In adopting this view, Agricola apparently applied a wonderful realism to some Greek 
mythology — for instance, in the legend of Midas, which tells of that king being rewarded by 
the god Dionysus, who granted his request that all he touched might turn to gold ; but the 
inconvenience of the gift drove him to pray for relief, which he obtained by bathing in the 
Pactolus, the sands of which thereupon became highly auriferous. Priam was, of course, King 
of Troy, but Homer does not exhibit him as a mine-owner. Gyges, Alyattes, and Croesus 
were successively Kings of Lydia, from 687 to 546 B.C., and were no doubt possessed of great 
treasure in gold. Some few years ago we had occasion to inquire into extensive old workings 
locally reputed to be Croesus' mines, at a place some distance north of Smyrna, which would 
correspond very closely to the locality here mentioned. 

'There can be no doubt that the Carthaginians worked the mines of Spain on an 
extensive scale for a very long period anterior to their conquest by the Romans, but whether 
the mines were worked by the Government or not we are unable to find any evidence. 

'The silver mines of Mt. Laurion formed the economic mainstay of Athens for the 
three centuries during which the State had the ascendency in Greece, and there can be no 
doubt that the dominance of Athens and its position as a sea-power were directly due to the 
revenues from the mines. The first working of the mines is shrouded in mj'stery. The 
scarcity of silver in the time of Solon (638-598 B.C.) would not indicate any very considerable 
output at that time. According to Xenophon (Essay on Revenue of Athens, iv., 2), written 
about 355 B.C., " they were wrought in very ancient times." The first definite discussion of 
the mines in Greek record begins about 500 B.C., for about that time the royalties began to 
figure in the Athenian Budget (Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, 47). There can be no doubt 
that the mines reached great prosperity prior to the Persian invasion. In the year 484 B.C. 
the mines returned 100 Talents (about 83,700 oz. Troy) to the Treasury, and this, on the 
advice of Themistocles, was devoted to the construction of the fleet which conquered the 
Persians at Salamis (480 B.C.). The mines were much interfered with by the Spartan 
invasions from 431 to 425 B.C., and again by their occupation in 413 B.C. ; and by 355 B.C., 
when Xenophon wrote the " Revenues," exploitation had fallen to a low ebb, for which he 
proposes the remedies noted by Agricola on p. 28. By the end of the 4th Century, 
B.C., the mines had again reached considerable prosperity, as is evidenced by Demosthenes' 
orations against Pantaenetus and against Phaenippus, and by Lycurgus' prosecution of 
Diphilos for robbing the supporting pillars. The domination of the Macedonians under Philip 
and Alexander at the end of the 4th and beginning of the 3rd Centuries B.C., however, so 
flooded Greece with money from the mines of Thrace, that this probably interfered with 
Laurion, at this time, in any event, began the decadence of these mines. Synchronous 
also was the decadence of Athens, and, but foi fitful displays, the State was not able to main- 
tain even its own independence, not to mention its position as a dominant State. Finally, 
Strabo, writing about 30 B.C. gives the epitaph of every mining district — reworking the 
dumps. He says (ix., i, 23) : " The silver mines in Attica were at first of importance, but 

28 BOOK II. 

one yields an abundance of metals, it not only gives back to the owner the 
money he has spent, but also gives a profit besides ; certainly there will 
be for him rich and profitable mining, if of the whole number, three, or four, 
or more veins should yield metal. Very similar to this is the advice which 
Xenophon gave to the Athenians when they wished to prospect for new 
veins of silver without suffering loss. " There are," he said, " ten tribes 
of Athenians ; if, therefore, the State assigned an equal number of 
slaves to each tribe, and the tribes participated equally in all the new veins, 
undoubtedly by this method, if a rich vein of silver were found by one tribe, 
whatever profit were made from it would assuredty be shared by the whole 
number. And if two, three, or four tribes, or even half the whole number 
find veins, their works would then become more profitable ; and it is not 
" probable that the work of all the tribes will be disappointing "' Although 
this advice of Xenophon is full of prudence, there is no opportunity for it 
except in free and wealthy States ; for those people who are under the 
authority of kings and princes, or are kept in subjection bj^ tyranny, do not 
dare, without permission, to incur such expenditure ; those who are endowed 
with little wealth and resources cannot do so on account of insufficient funds. 
Moreover, amongst our race it is not customary for Republics to have slaves 
whom they can hire out for the benefit of the people^ ; but, instead, now- 
adays those who are in authority administer the funds for mining in the name 
of the State, not unlike private individuals. 

" are now exhausted. The workmen, when the mines yielded a bad return to their labour, 
" committed to the furnace the old refuse and scoria, and hence obtained very pure silver, 
" for the former workmen had carried on the process in the furnace unskilfully." 

Since i860, the mines have been worked with some success by a French Company, 
thus carrying the mining history of this district over a period of twenty-seven centuries. 
The most excellent of many memoirs upon the mines at Laurion, not only for its critical, 
historical, and archjeological value, but also because of its author's great insight into mining 
and metallurgy, is that of Edouard Ardaillon (Les Mines dtc Laurion dans V Aniiquite. Paris, 
1897). We have relied considerably upon this careful study for the following notes, and 
would refer others to it for a short bibliography on the subject. We would mention in passing 
that Augustus Boeckh's " Silver Mines of Laurion," which is incorporated with his " Public 
Economy of Athens " (English Translation by Lewis, London, 1842) has been too much 
relied upon by English students. It is no doubt the product of one acquainted with written 
history, but without any special knowledge of the industry and it is based on no antiquarian re- 
search. The Mt. Laurion mining district is located near the southern end of the Attic Peninsula. 
The deposits are silver-lead, and they occur along the contact between approximately hori- 
zontal limestones and slates. There are two principal beds of each, thus forming three 
principal contacts. The most metalliferous of these contacts are those at the base of the 
slates, the lowest contact of the series being the richest. The ore-bodies were most irregular, 
varying greatly in size, from a thin seam between schist planes, to very large bodies containing 
as much as 200,000 cubic metres. The ores are argentiferous galena, accompanied by con- 
siderable amounts of blende and pyrites, all oxidized near the surface. The ores worked by 
the .\ncients appear to have been fairly rich in lead, for the discards worked in recent years by 
the French Company, and the pillars left behind, ran 8% to 10% lead. The ratio of silver was 
from 40 to 90 ounces per ton of lead. The upper contacts were exposed by erosion and could 
be entered by tunnels, but the lowest and most prolific contact line was only to be reached by 
shafts. The shafts were ordinarily from four to six feet square, and were undoubtedly cut by 
hammer and chisel ; they were as much as 380 feet deep. In some cases long inclines for 
travelling roads join the vertical shafts in depth. The drives, whether tunnels or from 
shafts, were not level, but followed every caprice of the sinuous contact. They were from 
two to two and a half feet wide, often driven in parallels with cross-cuts between, in order to 
e.xploit every corner of the contact. The stoping of ore-bodies discovered was undertaken 
quite systematically, the methods depending in the main on the shape of the ore-body. If 
the body was large, its dimensions were first determined bj' drives, crosscuts, rises, and 

BOOK II. 29 

Some owners prefer to buy shares* in mines abounding in metals, 
rather than to be troubled themselves to search for the veins ; these men 
employ an easier and less uncertain method of increasing their property. 
Although their hopes in the shares of one or another mine may be frustrated, 
the buj'ers of shares should not abandon the rest of the mines, for all the 
money expended will be recovered with interest from some other mine. 
They should not buy only high priced shares in those mines producing metals, 
nor should they buy too many in neighbouring mines where metal has not 
yet been found, lest, should fortune not respond, they may be exhausted by 
their losses and have nothing with which they may meet their expenses 
or buy other shares which may replace their losses. This calamity over- 
takes those who wish to grow suddenly rich from mines, and instead, they 
become very much poorer than before. So then, in the buying of shares, 
as in other matters, there should be a certain limit of expenditure which 
miners should set themselves, lest blinded by the desire for excessive wealth, 
they throw all their money away. Moreover, a prudent owner, before he 
buys shares, ought to go to the mine and carefully examine the nature of the 
vein, for it is very important that he should be on his guard lest fraudulent 
sellers of shares should deceive him. Investors in shares may perhaps 
become less wealthy, but they are more certain of some gain than those who 
mine for metals at their own expense, as they are more cautious in trusting 
to fortune. Neither ought miners to be altogether distrustful of fortune, as 
we see some are, who as soon as the shares of any mine begin to go up in 

winzes, as the case might require. If the ore was mainly overhead it was overhand-stoped, 
and the stopes filled as work progressed, inclined winzes being occasionally driven from the 
stopes to the original entry drives. If the ore was mainly below, it was underhand-stoped, 
pillars being left if necessary — such pillars in some cases being thirty feet high. They also 
employed timber and artificial pillars. The mines were practically dry. There is little 
evidence of breaking by fire. The ore was hand-sorted underground and carried out by the 
slaves, and in some cases apparently the windlass was used. It was treated by grinding in 
mills and concentrating upon a sort of buddle. These concentrates — mostly galena — were 
smelted in low furnaces and the lead was subsequently cupelled. Further details of 
metallurgical methods will be found in Notes on p. 391 and p. 465, on metallurgical subjects. 

The mines were worked by slaves. Even the overseers were at times apparently 
slaves, for we find (Xenophon, Memorabilia, 11., 5) that Nicias paid a whole talent for a good 
overseer. A talent would be about 837 Troy ounces of silver. As wages of skilled labour 
were about two and one half pennyweights of silver per diem, and a family income of 100 
ounces of silver per anmnn was affluence, the ratio of purchasing power of Attic coinage to 
modern would be about 100 to i. Therefore this mine manager was worth in modern value 
roughly £8,000. The mines were the property of the State. The areas were defined by 
vertical boundaries, and were let on lease for definite periods for a fixed annual rent. 
More ample discussion of the law will be found on p. 83. 

'Xenophon. (Essay on The Revenues, iv., 30). " I think, however, that I am 
" able to give some advice with regard to this difficulty also (the risk of opening new mines), 
" and to show how new operations may be conducted with the greatest safety. There are ten 
" tribes at Athens, and if to each of these the State should assign an equal number of slaves, 
" and the tribes should all make new cuttings, sharing their fortunes in common, then if but 
" one tribe should make any useful discovery it would point out something profitable to the 
" whole ; but if two, three, or four, or half the number should make some discovery, it is 
" plain that the works would be more profitable in proportion, and that they should all fail 
" is contrary to all experience in past times." (Watson's Trans, p. 258). 

*Agricola here refers to the proposal of Xenophon for the State to collect slaves and 
hire them to work the mines of Laurion. There is no evidence that this recommendation was 
ever carried out. 

^Paries. Agricola, p. Sg-gi^-describes in detail the organization and management of 
these share companies. See Note 8, p. 90, 

30 BOOK II. 

value, sell them, on which account they seldom obtain even moderate wealth. 
There are some people who wash over the dumps from exhausted and 
abandoned mines, and those dumps which are derived from the drains of 
tunnels ; and others who smelt the old slags ; from all of which they make an 
ample return. 

Now a miner, before he begins to mine the veins, must consider seven 
things, namely : — the situation, the conditions, the water, the roads, the 
climate, the right of ownership, and the neighbours. There are four kinds 
of situations — mountain, hill, valley, and plain. Of these four, the 
first two are the most easily mined, because in them tunnels can be 
driven to drain off the water, which often makes mining operations very 
laborious, if it does not stop them altogether. The last two kinds of 
ground are more troublesome, especially because tunnels cannot be driven 
in such places. Nevertheless, a prudent miner considers all these four 
sorts of localities in the region in which he happens to be, and he searches for 
veins in those places where some torrent or other agency has removed and 
swept the soil away ; yet he need not prospect everywhere, but since there 
is a great variety, both in mountains and in the three other kinds of 
localities, he always selects from them those which will give him the best 
chance of obtaining wealth. 

In the first place, mountains differ greatly in position, some being 
situated in even and level plains, while others are found in broken and 
elevated regions, and others again seem to be piled up, one mountain upon 
another. The wise miner does not mine in mountains which are situated on 
open plains, neither does he dig in those which are placed on the summits of 
mountainous regions, unless by some chance the veins in those mountains 
have been denuded of their surface covering, and abounding in metals and 
other products, are exposed plainly to his notice, — for with regard to what 
I have already said more than once, and though I never repeat it again, 
I wish to emphasize this exception as to the localities which should 
not be selected. All districts do not possess a great number of mountains 
crowded together ; some have but one, others two, others three, or perhaps 
a few more. In some places there are plains lying between them ; in others 
the mountains are joined together or separated only by narrow valleys. 
The miner should not dig in those solitary mountains, dispersed through 
the plains and open regions, but only in those which are connected and 
joined with others. Then again, since mountains differ in size, some being 
very large, others of medium height, and others more like hills than 
mountains, the miner rarely digs in the largest or the smallest of them, 
but generally only in those of medium size. Moreover, mountains have a 
great variety of shapes ; for with some the slopes rise gradually, while 
others, on the contrary, are all precipitous ; in some others the slopes are 
gradual on one side, and on the other sides precipitous ; some are drawn 
out in length ; some are gently curved ; others assume different 
shapes. But the miner may dig in all parts of them, except where there 
are precipices, and he should not neglect even these latter if metallic veins 

BOOK II. 31 

are exposed before his eyes. There are just as great differences in hills as 
there are in mountains, yet the miner does not dig except in those situated 
in mountainous districts, and even very rarely in those. It is however very 
little to be wondered at that the hill in the Island of Lemnos was excavated, 
for the whole is of a reddish-3'ellow colour, which furnislies for the inhabit- 
ants that valuable clay so especially beneficial to mankind^". In like 
manner, other hills are excavated if chalk or other varieties of earth are 
exposed, but these are not prospected for. 

There are likewise many varieties of valleys and plains. One kind is 
enclosed on the sides with its outlet and entrance open ; another has either 
its entrance or its outlet open and the rest of it is closed in ; both of these are 
properly called valleys. There is a third variety which is surrounded on all 
sides by mountains, and these are called convalles. Some valleys again, 
have recesses, and others have none ; one is wide, another narrow ; one 
is long, another short ; yet another kind is not higher than the neighbouring 
plain, and others are lower than the surrounding flat country. But the 
miner does not dig in those surrounded on all sides by mountains, nor in those 
that are open, unless there be a low plain close at hand, or unless a vein 
of metal descending from the mountains should extend into the valley. 
Plains differ from one another, one being situated at low elevation, 
and others higher, one being level and another with a slight incline. The 
miner should never excavate the low-lying plain, nor one which is perfectly 
level, unless it be in some mountain, and rarely should he mine in the other 
kinds of plains. 

With regard to the conditions of the locality the miner should 
not contemplate mining without considering whether the place be 
covered with trees or is bare. If it be a wooded place, he who digs there 
has this advantage, besides others, that there will be an abundant supply of 
wood for his underground timbering, his machinery, buildings, smelting, 
and other necessities. If there is no forest he should not mine there unless 
there is a river near, by which he can carry down the timber. Yet wherever 
there is a hope that pure gold or gems may be found, the ground can 
be turned up, even though there is no forest, because the gems need only 
to be polished and the gold to be purified. Therefore the inhabitants of 
hot regions obtain these substances from rough and sandy places, where 
sometimes there are not even shrubs, much less woods. 

The miner should next consider the locality, as to whether it has a 
perpetual supply of running water, or whether it is always devoid of water 
except when a torrent supplied by rains flows down from the summits of the 
mountains. The place that Nature has provided with a river or stream can 

^°This island in the northern ^Egean Sea has produced this " earth " from before 
Theophrastus' time (372-287 B.C.) down to the present day. According to Dana (System of 
Mineralogy 689), it is cimolite, a hydrous silicate of aluminium. The Ancients distinguished 
two kinds, — one sort used as a pigment, and the other for medicinal purposes. This latter 
was dug with great ceremony at a certain time of the year, moulded into cubes, and stamped 
with a goat, — the symbol of Diana. It thus became known as terra sigillaia, and was an 
article of apothecary commerce down to the last century. It is described by Galen (xn., 12), 
Dioscorides (v., 63), and Pliny (xxxv., 14), as a remedy for ulcers and snake bites. 

32 BOOK II. 

be made serviceable for many things ; for water will never be wanting and 
can be carried through wooden pipes to baths in dwelling-houses ; it maj' 
be carried to the works, where the metals are smelted ; and finally, if the 
conditions of the place will allow it, the water can be diverted into the 
tunnels, so that it may turn the underground machinery. Yet on the other 
hand, to convey a constant supply of water by artificial means to mines 
where Nature has denied it access, or to convey the ore to the stream, 
increases the expense greatly, in proportion to the distance the mines are 
away from the river. 

The miner also should consider whether the roads from the neighbouring 
regions to the mines are good or bad, short or long. For since a region 
which is abundant in mining products very often jdelds no agricultural 
produce, and the necessaries of life for the workmen and others must all be 
imported, a bad and long road occasions much loss and trouble with 
porters and carriers, and this increases the cost of goods brought in, which, 
therefore, must be sold at high prices. This injures not so much the work- 
men as the masters ; since on account of the high price of goods, the work- 
men are not content with the wages customary for their labour, nor can 
they be, and they ask higher pay from the owners. And if the owners 
refuse, the men will not work any longer in the mines but will go elsewhere. 
Although districts which yield metals and other mineral products are 
generally healthy, because, being often situated on high and lofty ground, 
they are fanned by every wind, yet sometimes they are unhealthy, as has 
been related in my other book, which is called " De Natiira Eorum Quae 
Effluunt ex Terra." Therefore, a wise miner does not mine in such places, 
even if they are very productive, when he perceives unmistakable signs 
of pestilence. For if a man mines in an unhealthy region he may be alive 
one hour and dead the next. 

Then, the miner should make careful and thorough investigation con- 
cerning the lord of the locality, whether he be a just and good man or a 
tyrant, for the latter oppresses men by force of his authority, and seizes 
their possessions for himself ; but the former governs justly and lawfully 
and serves the common good. The miner should not start mining opera- 
tions in a district which is oppressed by a tyrant, but should carefully 
consider if in the vicinity there is any other locality suitable for mining and 
make up his mind if the overlord there be friendly or inimical. If he be 
inimical the mine will be rendered unsafe through hostile attacks, in one of 
which all of the gold or silver, or other mineral products, laboriously col- 
lected with much cost, will be taken away from the owner and his workmen 
will be struck with terror ; overcome by fear, they will hastily fly, to free 
themselves from the danger to which they are exposed. In this case, not 
only are the fortunes of the miner in the greatest peril but his verj' life is 
in jeopardy, for which reason he should not mine in such places. 

Since several miners usually come to mine the veins in one locality, a 
settlement generally springs up, for the miner who began first cannot keep 
it exclusively for himself. The Bergmeister gives permits to some to mine 

BOOK II. 33 

the superior and some the inferior parts of the veins ; to some he gives 
the cross veins, to others the inclined veins. If the man who first starts 
work finds the vein to be metal-bearing or yielding other mining products, 
it will not be to his advantage to cease work because the neighbourhood may 
be evil, but he will guard and defend his rights both by arms and by the law. 
When the Bergmeister^^ delimits the boundaries of each owner, it is the duty 
of a good miner to keep within his bounds, and of a prudent one to repel 
encroachments of his neighbours by the help of the law. But this is enough 
about the neighbourhood. 

The miner should try to obtain a mine, to which access is not difficult, 
in a mountainous region, gently sloping, wooded, healthy, safe, and not far 
distant from a river or stream by means of which he may convey his 
mining products to be washed and smelted. This indeed, is the best 
position. As for the others, the nearer they approximate to this position the 
better they are ; the further removed, the worse. 

Now I will discuss that kind of minerals for which it is not necessary 
to dig, because the force of water carries them out of the veins. Of these 
there are two kinds, minerals — and their fragments^^ — and juices. When 
there are springs at the outcrop of the veins from which, as I have already said, 
the above-mentioned products are emitted, the miner should consider these 
first, to see whether there are metals or gems mixed with the sand, or whether 
the waters discharged are filled with juices. In case metals or gems have 
settled in the pool of the spring, not only should the sand from it be 
washed, but also that from the streams which flow from these springs, and 
even from the river itself into which they again discharge. If the springs dis- 
charge water containing some juice, this also should be collected ; the further 
such a stream has flowed from the source, the more it receives plain water and 
the more diluted does it become, and so much the more deficient in strength. 
If the stream receives no water of another kind, or scarcely any, not only 
the rivers, but Ukewise the lakes which receive these waters, are of the same 
nature as the springs, and serve the same uses ; of this kind is the lake 
which the Hebrews call the Dead Sea, and which is quite full of bituminous 
fiuids^^. But I must return to the subject of the sands. 

Springs may discharge their waters into a sea, a lake, a marsh, a river, 
or a stream ; but the sand of the sea-shore is rarely washed, for although the 
water flowing down from the springs into the sea carries some metals or 
gems with it, yet these substances can scarcely ever be reclaimed, because 
they are dispersed through the immense body of waters and mixed up with 

''■^Magister Metallorum. See Note i, p. 78, for the reasons of the adoption of 
the term Bergmeisier and page 95 for details of his duties. 

^^Ramenla. " Particles." The author uses this term indifferently for fragments, 
particles of mineral, concentrates, gold dust, black tin, etc., in all cases the result of either 
natural or artificial concentration. As in technical English we have no general term for both 
natural and artificial " concentrates," we have rendered it as the context seemed to demand. 

"A certain amount of bitumen does float ashore in the Dead Sea ; the origin of it is, 
however, uncertain. Strabo (xvi., 2, 42), Pliny (v., 15 and 16), and Josephus (iv., 8), all 
mention this fact. The lake for this reason is often referred to by the ancient writers by the 
name Asphaltites. 

34 BOOK II. 

other sand, and scattered far and wide in different directions, or they 
sink down into the depths of the sea. For the same reasons, the sands of 
lakes can very rarely be washed successfully, even though the streams rising 
from the mountains pour their whole volume of water into them. The 
particles of metals and gems from the springs are very rarely carried into the 
marshes, which are generally in level and open places. Therefore, the 
miner, in the first place, washes the sand of the spring, then of the stream 
which flows from it, then finally, that of the river into which the stream 
discharges. It is not worth the trouble to wash the sands of a large 
river which is on a level plain at a distance from the mountains. Where 
several springs carrying metals discharge their waters into one river, there 
is more hope of productive results from washing. The miner does not 
neglect even the sands of the streams in which excavated ores have been 

The waters of springs taste according to the juice they contain, and 
they differ greatly in this respect. There are six kinds of these tastes which 
the worker^* especially observes and examines ; there is the salty kind, 
which shows that salt may be obtained by evaporation ; the nitrous, which 
indicates soda ; the aluminous kind, which indicates alum ; the vitrioline, 
which indicates vitriol ; the sulphurous kind, which indicates sulphur ; 
and as for the bituminous juice, out of which bitumen is melted down, the 
colour itself proclaims it to the worker who is evaporating it. The sea- 
water however, is similar to that of salt springs, and may be drawn into 
low-lying pits, and, evaporated by the heat of the sun, changes of 
itself into salt ; similarly the water of some salt-lakes turns to salt when dried 
by the heat of summer. Therefore an industrious and diligent man observes 
and makes use of these things and thus contributes something to the 
common welfare. 

The strength of the sea condenses the Uquid bitumen which flows into 
it from hidden springs, into amber and jet, as I have described already in 
my books " De Suhterraneorum Ortu et Causis "^^. The sea, with certain 

^*Excoctor,—]iteTSL\ly, " Smelter " or " Metallurgist." 

^^This reference should be to the De Naiura Fossilium (p. 230), although there is a short 
reference to the matter in De Ortu et Causis (p. 59). Agricola maintained that not only were 
jet and amber varieties of bitumen, but also coal and camphor and obsidian. As jet 
(gagates) is but a compact variety of coal, the ancient knowledge of this substance has more 
interest than would otherwise attach to the gem, especially as some materials described in this 
connection were no doubt coal. The Greeks often refer to a series of substances which burned, 
contained earth, and which no doubt comprised coal. Such substances are mentioned by 
Aristotle (De Mirahilihus. 33, 41, 125), Nicander (Theriaca. 37), and others, previous to 
the 2nd Century B.C., but the most ample description is that of Theophrastus (23-28) : " Some 
" of the more brittle stones there also are, which become as it were burning coals when put into 
" a fire, and continue so a long time ; of this kind are those about Bena, found in mines and 
" washed down by the torrents, for they will take fire on burning coals being thrown on them, 
" and will continue burning as long as anyone blows them ; afterward they will deaden, and 
" may after that be made to burn again. They are therefore of long continuance, but their 
" smell is troublesome and disagreeable. That also which is called the spinas, is found in 
" mines. This stone, cut in pieces and thrown together in a heap, exposed to the sun, burns ; 
" and that the more, if it be moistened or sprinkled with water (a pyritiferous shale ?). But 
" the I.ipara stone empties itself, as it were, in burning, and becomes like the pumice, 
" changing at once both its colour and density ; for before burning it is black, smooth, and 
" compact. This stone is found in the Pumices, separately in different places, as it were, in 

BOOK II. 35 

directions of tlic wind, throws both these substances on shore, and for this 
reason the search for amber demands as much care as does that for coral. 

Moreover, it is necessary that those who wash the sand or evaporate 
the water from the springs, should be careful to learn the nature of the 
locality, its roads, its salubrity, its overlord, and the neighbours, lest on 
account of difificulties in the conduct of their business they become either 
impoverished by exhaustive expenditure, or their goods and lives are 
imperilled. But enough about this. 

The miner, after he has selected out of many places one particular spot 
adapted by Nature for mining, bestows much labour and attention on the^ 
veins. These have either been stripped bare of their covering by chance 
and thus lie exposed to our view, or lying deeply hidden and concealed they 
are found after close search ; the latter is more usual, the former more 
rarely happens, and both of these occurrences must be explained. There 
is more than one force which can lay bare the veins unaided by the industry 
or toil of man ; since either a torrent might strip off the surface, which hap- 
pened in the case of the silver mines of Freiberg (concerning which I have 

" cells, nowhere continuous to the matter of them. It is said that in Melos the pumice 
" is produced in this manner in some other stone, as this is on the contrary in it ; but the 
" stone which the pumice is found in is not at all like the Lipara stone which is found in it. 
" Certain stones there are about Tetras, in SicUy, which is over against Lipara, which 
" empty themselves in the same manner in the fire. And in the promontory called Erineas, 
" there is a great quantity of stone like that found about Bena, which, when 
" burnt, emits a bituminous smell, and leaves a matter resembling calcined earth. Those 
" fossil substances that are called coals, and are broken for use, are earthy ; they kindle, 
" however, and burn like wood coals. These are found in Liguria, where there also is amber, 
" and in Elis, on the way to Olympia over the mountains. These are used by smiths." 
(Based on Hill's Trans.). Dioscorides and Pliny add nothing of value to this description. 

Agricola (De Nat. Fos., p. 229-230) not only gives various localities of jet, but also 
records its relation to coal. As to the latter, he describes several occurrences, and describes 
the deposits as vena dilatata. Coal had come into considerable use all over Europe, particu- 
larly in England, long before Agricola's time ; the oft-mentioned charter to mine sea-coal 
given to the Monks of Newbottle Abbey, near Preston, was dated 1210. 

Amber was known to the Greeks by the name eUctriim, but whether the alloy of the 
same name took its name from the colour of amber or vice versa is uncertain. The gum is 
supposed to be referred to by Homer (Od. xv. 460), and Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.) 
is supposed to have first described its power of attraction. It is mentioned by many other 
Greek authors, ^Eschylus, Euripides, Aristotle, and others. The latter (De Mirabilibus, 
81) records of the amber islands in the Adriatic, that the inhabitants tell the story that 
on these islands amber falls from poplar trees. " This, they say, resembles gum and hardens 
" like stone, the story of the poets being that after Phaeton was struck by lightning his sisters 
" turned to poplar trees and shed tears of amber." Theophrastus (53) says : " Amber is 
" also a stone ; it is dug out of the earth in Liguria and has, like the before-mentioned (lode- 
" stone), a power of attraction." Pliny (xxxvil., 11) gives a long account of both the 
substance, literature, and mythology on the subject. His view of its origin was : 
" Certainly amber is obtained from the islands of the Northern Ocean, and is called by the 
" Germans glaesum. For this reason the Romans, when Germanicus Caesar commanded in 
" those parts, called one of them Claesaria, which was known to the barbarians as 
" Austeravia. Amber originates from gum discharged by a kind of pine tree, like gum from 
" cherry and resin from the ordinary pine. It is liquid at first, and issues abundantly and 
" hardens in time by cold, or by the sea when the rising tides carry off the fragments from 
" the shores of those islands. Certainly it is thrown on the coasts, and is so light that it 
" appears to roll in the water. Our forefathers believed that it was the juice of a tree, for 
" they called it succinum. And that it belongs to a kind of pine tree is proved by the odour 
" of the pine tree which it gives when rubbed, and that it burns when ignited like a pitch 
" pine torch." The term amber is of Arabic origin — from Ambar — and this term was 
adopted by the Greeks after the Christian era. Agricola uses the Latin term 
succinum and {De Nat. Fos., p. 231-5) disputes the origin from tree gum, and contends for 
submarine bitumen springs. 

36 BOOK II. 

written in Book I. of my work " De Veteribus et Novis Metallis ")i* ; or they 
may be exposed through the force of the wind, when it uproots and destroys 
the trees which have grown over the veins ; or by the breaking away of the 
rocks ; or by long-continued heavy rains tearing away the mountain ; or by 
an earthquake ; or by a Ughtning flash ; or by a snowshde ; or by the 
violence of the winds : "Of such a nature are the rocks hurled down from 
the mountains by the force of the winds aided by the ravages of time." Or 
the plough maj' uncover the veins, for Justin relates in his history that 
nuggets of gold had been turned up in Galicia by the plough ; or this may 
occur through a fire in the forest, as Diodorus Siculus tells us happened in the 
silver mines in Spain ; and that saying of Posidonius is appropriate enough : 
" The earth violently moved by the fires consuming the forest sends forth new 
products, namely, gold and silver." i'. And indeed, Lucretius has ex- 
plained the same thing more fully in the following lines : " Copper and gold 
and iron were discovered, and at the same time weighty silver and the sub- 
stance of lead, when fire had burned up vast forests on the great hills, either 
by a discharge of heaven's lightning, or else because, when men were waging 
war with one another, forest fires had carried fire among the enemy in order to 
strike terror to them, or because, attracted by the goodness of the soil, they 
wished to clear rich fields and bring the country into pasture, or else to destroy 
wild beasts and enrich themselves with the game ; for hunting with pitfalls 
and with fire came into use before the practice of enclosing the wood with 
toils and rousing the game with dogs. Whatever the fact is, from 

^"The statement in De Veteribus et Novis Metallis (p. 394) is as follows : — 
" It came about by chance and accident that the silver mines were discovered at 
" Freiberg in Meissen. By the river Sala, which is not unknown to Strabo, is Hala, which 
" was once country, but is now a large town ; the site, at any rate, even from Roman times 
" was famous and renowned for its salt springs, for the possession of which the Hermunduri 
" fought with the Chatti. When people carried the salt thence in wagons, as they now do 
" straight through Meissen (Saxony) into Bohemia — which is lacking in that seasoning to-day 
" no less than formerly — they saw galena in the wheel tracks, which had been uncovered by 
" the torrents. This lead ore, since it was similar to that of Goslar, they put into their carts 
" and carried to Goslar, for the same carriers were accustomed to carry lead from that city. 
"And since much more silver was smelted from this galena than from that of Goslar, certain 
" miners betook themselves to that part of Meissen in which is now situated Freiberg, a 
" great and wealthy town ; and we are told by consistent stories and general report that 
" they grew rich out of the mines." Agricola places the discovery of the mines at Freiberg 
at about 1170. See Note 11, p. 5. 

"Diodorus Siculus (v., 35). " These places being covered with woods, it is said that 
" in ancient times these mountains were set on fire by shepherds, and continued burning for 
" many days, and parched the earth, so that an abundance of silver ore was melted, and 
" the metal flowed in streams of pure silver like a river." Aristotle, nearly three centuries 
belore Diodorus, mentions this same story (De Mirabilibus, 87) : " They say that in Ibernia 
" the woods were set on fire by certain shepherds, and the earth thus heated, the country 
" visibly flowed sflver ; and when some time later there were earthquakes, and the earth 
" burst asunder at different places, a large amount of silver was collected." As the works 
of Posidonius are lost, it is probable that Agricola was quoting from Strabo (in., 2, 9), 
who says, in describing Spain : " Posidonius, in praising the amount and excellence of the 
" metals, cannot refrain from his accustomed rhetoric, and becomes quite enthusiastic in 
" exaggeration. He tells us we are not to disbelieve the fable that formerly the forests 
" having been set on fire, the earth, which was loaded with silver and gold, melted and 
" threw up these metals to the surface, for inasmuch as every mountain and wooded hill 
" seemed to be heaped up with money by a lavish fortune." (Hamilton's Trans. L, p. 220). 
Or he may have been quoting from the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus (vi.), where Posidonius 
is quoted : " And the moimtains . . . when once the woods upon them had caught fire, 
spontaneously ran with liquid silver." 

BOOK II. 37 

whatever cause the heat of flame had swallowed up the forests with a frightful 
crackling from their very roots, and had thoroughly baked the earth with 
fire, there would run from the boiling veins and collect into the hollows of the 
grounds a stream of silver and gold, as well as of copper and Icad."^^ But 
yet the poet considers that the veins are not laid bare in the first instance 
so much by this kind of fire, but rather that all mining had its 
origin in this. And lastly, some other force may by chance disclose the 
veins, for a horse, if this tale can be believed, disclosed the lead veins at 
Goslar by a blow from his hoof^^. By such methods as these does fortune 
disclose the veins to us. 

But by skill we can also investigate hidden and concealed veins, by 
observing in the first place the bubbling waters of springs, which cannot be 
very far distant from the veins because the source of the water is from 
them ; secondly, by examining the fragments of the veins which the torrents 
break off from the earth, for after a long time some of these fragments are 
again buried in the ground. Fragments of this kind lying about on the 
ground, if they are rubbed smooth, are a long distance from the veins, 
because the torrent, which broke them from the vein, polished them while 
it rolled them a long distance ; but if they are fixed in the ground, or if 
they are rough, they are nearer to the veins. The soil also should be con- 
sidered, for this is often the cause of veins being buried more or less deeply 
under the earth ; in this case the fragments protrude more or less widely 
apart, and miners are wont to call the veins discovered in this manner 
" fyagmenta."^° 

Further, we search for the veins by observing the hoar-frosts, 
which whiten all herbage except that growing over the veins, because the 
veins emit a warm and dry exhalation which hinders the freezing of the 
moisture, for which reason such plants appear rather wet than whitened by 
the frost. This Taay be observed in all cold places before the grass has grown 
to its full size, as in the months of April and May ; or when the late crop of 

'^Lucretius De Rerum Natura v. 1241. 

^^Agricola's account of this event in De Veieribus et Novis Meiallis is as follows (p. 
393) : " Now veins are not always first disclosed by the hand and labour of man, nor has art 
" always demonstrated them ; sometimes they have been disclosed rather by chance or by 
" good fortune. I will explain briefly what has been written upon this matter in history, 
" what miners tell us, and what has occurred in our times. Thus the mines at Goslar are 
" said to have been found in the following way. A certain noble, whose name is not recorded, 
" tied his horse, which was named Ramelus, to the branch of a tree which grew on the 
" mountain. This horse, pawing the earth with its hoofs, which were iron shod, and thus 
" turning it over, uncovered a hidden vein of lead, not unlike the winged Pegasus, who in the 
" legend of the poets opened a spring when he beat the rock with his hoof. So just as that 
" spring is named Hipprocrene after that horse, so our ancestors named the mountain 
" Rammelsberg. Whereas the perennial water spring of the poets would long ago have dried 
" up, the vein even to-day exists, and supplies an abundant amount of excellent lead. That 
" a horse can have opened a vein will seem credible to anyone who reflects in how many ways 
" the signs of veins are shown by chance, all of which are explained in m}' work De Re 
" Metallica. Therefore, here we will believe the story, both because it may happen that a 
" horse may disclose a vein, and because the name of the mountain agrees with the story." 
Agricola places the discovery of Goslar in the Hartz at prior to 936. See Note 11, p. 5. 

^"Fragmenta. The glossary gives " Geschube." This term is defined in the Bergwerks' 
Lexicon {Chemnitz, 1743, p 250) as the pieces of stone, especially tin-stone, broken from 
the vein and washed out by the water — the croppings. 

38 BOOK II. 

hay, which is called the cordum, is cut with scythes in the month of 
-September. Therefore in places where the grass has a dampness that is not con- 
gealed into frost, there is a vein beneath ; also if the exhalation be excessively 
hot, the soil will produce only small and pale-coloured plants. Lastly, there 
are trees whose foliage in spring-time has a bluish or leaden tint, the upper 
branches more especially being tinged with black or with any other unnatural 
colour, the trunks cleft in two, and the branches black or discoloured. 
These phenomena are caused by the intensely hot and dry exhalations 
which do not spare even the roots, but scorching them, render the trees 
sickly ; wherefore the wind will more frequently uproot trees of this kind 
than any others. Verily the veins do emit this exhalation. Therefore, in a 
place where there is a multitude of trees, if a long row of them at an unusual 
time lose their verdure and become black or discoloured, and frequently fall 
by the violence of the wind, beneath this spot there is a vein. Likewise 
along a course where a vein extends, there grows a certain herb or fungus 
which is absent from the adjacent space, or sometimes Qven from the neigh- 
bourhood of the veins. By these signs of Nature a vein can be discovered. 
There are many great contentions between miners concerning the forked 
twig^^, for some say that it is of the greatest use in discovering veins, and 
others deny it. Some of those who manipulate and use the twig, first cut 
a fork from a hazel bush with a knife, for this bush they consider more 
efficacious than any other for revealing the veins, especially if the hazel 

"So far as we are able to discover, this is the first published description of the divining 
rod as applied to minerals or water. Like Agricola, many authors have sought to find its 
origin among the Ancients. The magic rods of Moses and Homer, especially the rod with 
which the former struck the rock at Horeb, the rod described by Ctesias (died 398 B.C.) which 
attracted gold and silver, and the virgula divina of the Romans have all been called up for 
proof. It is true that the Romans are responsible for the name virgula divina, " divining 
rod," but this rod was used for taking auguries by casting bits of wood (Cicero, De 
Divinatione). Despite all this, while the ancient naturalists all give detailed directions for 
finding water, none mention anything akin to the divining rod of the Middle Ages. It is 
also worth noting that the Monk Theophilus in the 12th Century also gives a detailed 
description of how to find water, but makes no mention of the rod. There are two authori- 
ties sometimes cited as prior to Agricola, the first being Basil Valentine in his " Last Will 
and Testament" (xxiv-vni.), and while there may be some reason (see Appendix) for accepting 
the authenticity of the " Triumphal Chariot of Antimony " by this author, as dating about 
1500, there can be little doubt that the " Last Will and Testament " was spurious and dated 
about 50 years after Agricola. Paracelsus {Ds Natura Rerum ix.), says : " These (divina- 
" tions) are vain and misleading, and among the first of them are divining rods, which have 
" deceived many miners. If they once point rightly they deceive ten or twenty times." 
In his De Origine Morborum Inmsibilium (Book I.) he adds that the " faith turns the rod." 
These works were no doubt written prior to De Re Metallica — Paracelsus died in 1541 — ■ 
but they were not published until some time afterward. Those interested in the strange 
persistence of this superstition down to the present day — and the files of the patent offices 
of the world are full of it — will find the subject exhaustively discussed in M. E. Chevreul's 
" De la Baguette Dinnatoire," Paris, 1845; L. Figuier, " Histoire du Merveilleux dans les 
temps moderne II.", Paris, i860 ; W. F. Barrett, Proceedings of the Society of Psychical 
Research, part 32, 1897, and 38, 1900 ; R. W. Raymond, American Inst, of Mining Engin- 
eers, 1883, p. 411. Of the descriptions by those who believed in it there is none better 
than that of William Pryce (Mineralogia Cornuhiensis, London, 1778, pp. 113-123), who 
devotes much pains to a refutation of Agricola. When we consider that a century later than 
Agricola such an advanced mind as Robert Boyle (1626-1691), the founder of the Royal 
Society, was convinced of the genuineness of the divining rod, one is more impressed with 
the clarity of Agricola's vision. In fact, there were few indeed, down to the 19th Century, 
who did not believe implicitly in the effectiveness of this instrument, and while science has 
long since abandoned it, not a year passes but some new manifestation of its hold on the 
popular mind breaks out. 

BOOK II. 39 

bush grows above a vein. Others use a different kind of twig for each metal, 
when they are seeking to discover the veins, for they employ hazel twigs 
for veins of silver ; ash twigs for copper ; pitch pine for lead and especially 
tin, and rods made of iron and steel for gold. All alike grasp the forks of 
the twig with their hands, clenching their fists, it being necessary that the 
clenched fingers should be held toward the sky in order that the twig should 
be raised at that end where the two branches meet. Then they wander 
hither and thither at random through mountainous regions. It is said 
that the moment they place their feet on a vein the twig immediately turns 
and twists, and so by its action discloses the vein ; when they move 
their feet again and go away from that spot the twig becomes once more 

The truth is, they assert, the movement of the twig is caused by the 
power of the veins, and sometimes this is so great that the branches of trees 
growing near a vein are deflected toward it. On the other hand, those 
who say that the twig is of no use to good and serious men, also deny that 
the motion is due to the power of the veins, because the twigs wiU not move 
for everybodJ^ but only for those who employ incantations and craft. More- 
over, they deny the power of a vein to draw to itself the branches of trees, 
but they say that the warm and dry exhalations cause these contortions. 
Those who advocate the use of the twig make this reply to these objections : 
when one of the miners or some other person holds the twig in his hands, 
and it is not turned by the force of a vein, this is due to some peculiarity 
of the individual, which hinders and impedes the power of the vein, for since 
the power of the vein in turning and twisting the twig may be not unlike 
that of a magnet attracting and drawing iron toward itself, this hidden 
quality of a man weakens and breaks the force, just the same as garlic 
weakens and overcomes the strength of a magnet. For a magnet smeared 
with garhc juice cannot attract iron ; nor does it attract the latter when 
rusty. Further, concerning the handhng of the twig, they warn us that 
we should not press the fingers together too lightly, nor clench them too 
firmly, for if the twig is held lightly they say that it wiU fall before the force 
of the vein can turn it ; if however, it is grasped too firmly the force of the 
hands resists the force of the veins and counteracts it. Therefore, they 
consider that five things are necessary to insure that the twig shall serve 
its purpose : of these the first is the size of the twig, for the force of the 
veins cannot turn too large a stick ; secondly, there is the shape of the twig, 
which must be forked or the vein cannot turn it ; thirdly, the power of the 
vein which has the nature to turn it ; fourthly, the manipulation of the twig ; 
fifthly, the absence of impeding peculiarities. These advocates of the twig 
sum up their conclusions as follows : if the rod does not move for every- 
body, it is due to unskilled manipulation or to the impeding peculiarities 
of the man which oppose and resist the force of the veins, as we said above, 
and those who search for veins by means of the twig need not necessarily make 
incantations, but it is sufficient that they handle it suitably and are devoid 
of impeding power ; therefore, the twig may be of use to good and serious 



A — Twig. B — Trench. 

men in discovering veins. With regard to deflection of branches of trees 
they sa}' nothing and adhere to their opinion. 

Since this matter remains in dispute and causes much dissention 
amongst miners, I consider it ought to be examined on its own merits. The 
wizards, who also make use of rings, mirrors and crystals, seek for veins 
with a divining rod shaped like a fork ; but its shape makes no difference 
in the matter, — it might be straight or of some other form — for it is not 
the form of the twig that matters, but the wizard's incantations 
which it would not become me to repeat, neither do I wish to do so. The 
Ancients, by means of the divining rod, not only procured those things neces- 
sary for a hvehhood or for luxurj'', but they were also able to alter the forms 
of things by it ; as when the magicians changed the rods of the Egyptians 
into serpents, as the writings of the Hebrews relate^^ ; and as in Homer, 
Minerva with a di\'ining rod turned the aged Ulysses suddenly into a youth, 
and then restored him back again to old age ; Circe also changed Ulysses' 
companions into beasts, but afterward gave them back again their human 
form^^ ; moreover by his rod, which was called " Caduceus," Mercury gave 

"Exodus VII., 10, II, 12. 
"Odyssey xvi., 172, and x., 2^8. 

BOOK II. 41 

sleep to watchmen and awoke slumberers^*. Therefore it seems that the 
divining rod passed to the mines from its impure origin with the magicians. 
Then wlien good men shrank with horror from the incantations and rejected 
them, the twig was retained by the unsophisticated common miners, and 
in searching for new veins some traces of tliese ancient usages remain. 

But since truly the twigs of the miners do move, albeit they do not 
generally use incantations, some say this movement is caused by the 
power of the veins, others say that it depends on the manipulation, and 
still others think that the movement is due to both these causes. But, in 
truth, all those objects which are endowed with the power of attraction 
do not twist things in circles, but attract them directly to themselves ; for 
instance, the magnet does not turn the iron, but draws it directly to itself, 
and amber rubbed until it is warm does not bend straws about, but simply 
draws them to itself. If the power of the veins were of a similar nature to 
that of the magnet and the amber, the twig would not so much twist as 
move once only, in a semi-circle, and be drawn directly to the vein, and unless 
the strength of the man who holds the twig were to resist and oppose the 
force of the vein, the twig would be brought to the ground ; wherefore, 
since this is not the case, it must necessarily follow that the manipulation 
is the cause of the twig's twisting motion. It is a conspicuous fact that 
these cunning manipulators do not use a straight twig, but a forked one 
cut from a hazel bush, or from some other wood equally flexible, so that if it 
be held in the hands, as they are accustomed to hold it, it turns in a circle 
for any man wherever he stands. Nor is it strange that the twig does not 
turn when held by the inexperienced, because they either grasp the forks of 
the twig too tightly or hold them too loosely. Nevertheless, these things 
give rise to the faith among common miners that veins are discovered by 
the use of twigs, because whilst using these they do accidentally discover 
some ; but it more often happens that they lose their labour, and although 
they might discover a vein, they become none the less exhausted in 
digging useless trenches than do the miners who prospect in an unfortunate 
locality. Therefore a miner, since we think he ought to be a good and 
serious man, should not make use of an enchanted twig, because if he is 
prudent and skilled in the natural signs, he understands that a forked stick 
is of no use to him, for as I have said before, there are the natural indica- 
tions of the veins which he can see for himself without the help of twigs. 
So if Nature or chance should indicate a locality suitable for mining, the 
miner should dig his trenches there ; if no vein appears he must dig 
numerous trenches until he discovers an outcrop of a vein. 

A vena dilatata is rarely discovered by men's labour, but usually some 
force or other reveals it, or sometimes it is discovered by a shaft or a tunnel 
on a vena profunda^^. 

^'Odyssey xxiv., i, etc. The Caduceus of Hermes had also the power of turning 
things to gold, and it is interesting to note that in its oldest form, as the insignia of heralds 
and of ambassadors, it had two prongs. 

''■^In a general way venae profundae were fissure veins and venae dilatatae were sheeted 
deposits. For description see Book III. 

42 BOOK II. 

The veins after they have been discovered, and likewise the shafts and 
tunnels, have names given them, either from their discoverers, as in the 
case at Annaberg of the vein called " Kolergang," because a charcoal 
burner discovered it ; or from their owners, as the Geyer, in Joachimstal, 
because part of the same belonged to Geyer ; or from their products, 
as the " Pleygang " from lead, or the " Bissmutisch " at Schneeberg from 
bismuth^^ ; or from some other circumstances, such as the rich alluvials from 
the torrent by which they were laid bare in the valley of Joachim. More 
often the first discoverers give the names either of persons, as those of 
German Kaiser, Apollo, Janus ; or the name of an animal, as that of lion, 
bear, ram, or cow ; or of things inanimate, as " silver chest " or " ox stalls "; 
or of something ridiculous, as "glutton's nightshade" ; or finally, for the sake 
of a good omen, they call it after the Deity. In ancient times they 
followed the same custom and gave names to the veins, shafts and tunnels, 
as we read in Pliny : " It is wonderful that the shafts begun by Hannibal in 
Spain are still worked, their names being derived from their discoverers. 
One of these at the present day, called Baebelo, furnished Hannibal with 
three hundred pounds weight (of silver) per day." ^' 

^^These mines are in the Erzgebirge. We have adopted the names given in the German 

" The quotation from Phny (xxxill., 31) as a whole reads as follows : — 
" Silver is found in nearly all the provinces, but the finest of all in Spain ; where it 
" is found in the barren lands, and in the mountains. Wherever one vein of silver has been 
" found, another is sure to be found not far away. This is the case of nearly all the metals, 
" whence it appears that the Greeks derived metalla. It is wonderful that the shafts begun 
" by Hannibal in Spain still remain, their names being derived from their makers. One of 
" these at the present day called Baebelo, furnished Hannibal with three hundred pounds' 
" weight (of silver) per day. This mountain is excavated for a distance of fifteen hundred 
" paces ; and for this distance there are waterbearers lighted by torches standing night and 
" day baling out the water in turns, thus making quite a river." Hannibal dates 247-183 B.C. 
and was therefore dead 206 years when Pliny was born. According to a footnote in Bostock 
and Riley's translation of Pliny, these workings were supposed to be in the neighbourhood 
of Castulo, now Cazlona, near Linares. It was at Castulo that Hannibal married his rich wife 
Himilce ; and in the hills north of Linares there are ancient silver mines still known as Los 
P020S de Anibal. 



REVIOUSLY I have given much information 
concerning the miners, also I have discussed the 
choice of locahtios for mining, for washing sands, 
and for evaporating waters ; further, I described 
the method of searching for veins. With such 
matters I was occupied in the second book ; now I 
come to the third book, which is about veins and 
stringers, and the seams in the rocks^. The 
term "vein" is sometimes used to indicate canales 
in the earth, but very often elsewhere by this name I have described that 
which may be put in vessels^ ; I now attach a second significance to 
these words, for by them I mean to designate any mineral substances which 
the earth keeps hidden within her own deep receptacles. 

'Modern nomenclature in the description of ore-deposits is so impregnated with modern 
views of their origin, that we have considered it desirable in many instances to adopt the 
Latin terms used by the author, for we beheve this method will allow the reader greater 
freedom of judgment as to the author's views. The Latin names retained are usually 
expressive even to the non-Latin student. In a general way, a vena profunda is a fissure vein, 
a vena dilatata is a bedded deposit, and a vena cumulata an impregnation, or a replacement 
or a stockwerk. The canales, as will appear from the following footnote, were ore channels. 
" The seams of the rocks " {commissurae saxorum) are very puzzling. The author states, as 
appears in the following note, that they are of two kinds, — contemporaneous with the formation 
of the rocks, and also of the nature of veinlets. However, as to their supposed relation to 
the strike of veins, we can offer no explanation. There are passages in this chapter where 
if the word "ore-shoot" were introduced for " seams in the rocks " the text would be in- 
telligible. That is, it is possible to conceive the view that the determination of whether an 
east-west vein ran east or ran west was dependent on the dip of the ore-shoot along the 
strike. This view, however, is utterly impossible to reconcile with the description and 
illustration of commissurae saxorum given on page 54, where they are defined as the finest 
stringers. The following passage from the NUtzliche Bergbiichlin (see Appendix), 
reads very much as though the dip of ore-shoots was understood at this time in relation to 
the direction of veins. " Every vein (gang) has two (outcrops) ausgehen, one of the 
" ausgehen is toward daylight along the whole length of the vein, which is called the ausgehen 
" of the whole vein. The other ausgehen is contrary to or toward the strike {streichen) of 
" the vein, according to its rock (gestein), that is called the gesteins ausgehen ; for instance, 
" every vein that has its strike from east to west has its gesteins ausgehen to the east, and 
" vice-versa." 

Agricola's classification of ore-deposits, after the general distinction between alluvial 
and in situ deposits, is based entirely upon form, as will be seen in the quotation below relating 
to the origin of canales. The German equivalents in the Glossary are as follows : — 

Fissure vein (vena profunda) Gang. 

Bedded deposit {vena dilatata) Schwebender gang oder flelze. 

Stockwerk or impregnation (vena cumulata) Geschute oder stock. 

Stringer (fibra) Klufft. 

Seams or joints (commissurae saxorum) Absetzen des gesteins. 

It is interesting to note that in De Natura Fossilium he describes coal and salt, and 
later in De Re Metallica he describes the Mannsfeld copper schists, as all being venae dilaiatae. 
This nomenclature and classification is not original with Agricola. Pliny (.xxxiii, 21) uses 
the term vena with no explanations, and while Agricola coined the Latin terms for various 
kinds of veins, they are his transliteration of German terms already in use. The Nutzliche 
Bergbiichlin gives this same classification. 

Historical Note on the Theory of Ore Deposits. Prior to Agricola there were 
three schools of explanation of the phenomena of ore deposits, the orthodox followers of the 
Genesis, the Greek Philosophers, and the Alchemists. The geology of the Genesis — the 
contemporaneous formation of everything — needs no comment other than that for anyone to 
have proposed an alternative to the dogma of the orthodox during the Middle Ages, required 

^he Latin vena, " vein," is also used by the author for ore ; hence this descriptive 
warning as to its intended double use. 


First I will speak of the veins, which, in depth, width, and length, differ 

very much one from another. Those of one variety descend from the surface 

of the earth to its lowest depths, which on account of this characteristic, 

I am accustomed to call " venae profundae." 

much independence of mind. Of the Greek views — which are meagre enough — that of the 
Peripatetics greatly dominated thought on natural phenomena down to the 17th century. 
Aristotle's views may be summarized : The elements are earth, water, air, and 
fire ; they are transmutable and never found pure, and are endowed with certain funda- 
mental properties which acted as an "efficient" force upon the material cause — the elements. 
These properties were dryness and dampness and heat and cold, the latter being active, 
the former passive. Further, the elements were possessed of weight and lightness, for 
instance earth was absolutely heavy, fire absolutely light. The active and passive proper- 
ties existed in binary combinations, one of which is characteristic, i.e., " earth " is cold 
and dry, water damp and cold, fire hot and dry, air hot and wet ; transmutation took place, 
for instance,^ by removing the cold from water, when air resulted (really steam), and by 
removing the dampness from water, when " earth " resulted (really any dissolved 
substance). The transmutation of the elements in the earth (meaning the globe) produces two 
" exhalations," the one fiery (probably meaning gases), the other damp (probably meaning 
steam). The former produces stones, the latter the metals. Theophrastus (On Stones, I 
to VII.) elaborates the views of Aristotle on the origin of stones, metals, etc. : "Of things 
" formed in the earth some have their origin from water, others from earth. Water is the 
" basis of metals, silver, gold, and the rest ; ' earth ' of stones, as well the more precious 
" as the common. . . . All these are formed by solidification of matter pure and 
" equal in its constituent parts, which has been brought together in that state by mere 
" afflux or by means of some kind of percolation, or separated. . . . The solidification 
" is in some of these substances due to heat and in others to cold:" (Based on Hill's Trans., 
pp. 3-11). That is, the metals inasmuch as they become liquid when heated must be in a 
large part water, and, like water, they solidify with cold. Therefore, the " metals are^cold 
and damp." Stones, on the other hand, solidify with heat and do not liquefy, therefore, 
they are " dry and hot " and partake largely of " earth." This " earth" was something 
indefinite, but purer and more pristine than common clay. In discussing the ancient 
beliefs with regard to the origin of deposits, we must not overlook the import of the use 
of the word "vein" (vena) by various ancient authors including Pliny (xxxiil, 21), although 
he offers no explanation of the term. 

During the Middle Ages there arose the horde of Alchemists and Astrologers, a review 
of the development of whose muddled views is but barren reading. In the main they held 
more or less to the Peripatetic view, with additions of their own. Geber (13th (?) century, see 
Appendix B) propounded the conception that all metals were composed of varying proportions 
of " spiritual " sulphur and quicksilver, and to these Albertus Magnus added salt. The 
Astrologers contributed the idea that the immediate cause of the metals were the various 
planets. The only work devoted to description of ore-deposits prior to Agricola was the 
Bergbiichlin (about 1,520, see Appendix B), and this little book exhibits the absolute apogee of 
muddled thought derived from the Peripatetics, the Alchemists, and the Astrologers. We 
believe it is of interest to reproduce the following statement, if for no other reason than to 
indicate the great advance in thought shown by Agricola. 

" The first chapter or first part ; on the common origin of ore, whether silver, gold, 
" tin, copper, iron, or lead ore, in which they all appear together, and are called by the common 
" name of metallic ore. It must be noticed that for the washing or smelting of metallic ore, 
" there must be the one who works and the thing that is worked upon, or the material upon 
" which the work is expended. The general worker (efficient force) on the ore and on all 
" things that are born, is the heavens, its movement, its light and influences, as the 
" philosophers say. The influence of the heavens is multiplied by the movement of the 
" firmaments and the movements of the seven planets. Therefore, every metallic ore 
" receives a special influence from its own particular planet, due to the properties of the 
" planet and of the ore, also due to properties of heat, cold, dampness, and dryness. Thus 
" gold is of the Sun or its influence, silver of the Moon, tin of Jupiter, copper of Venus, iron 
" of Mars, lead of Saturn, and quicksilver of Mercury. Therefore, metals are often called by 
" these names by hermits and other philosophers. Thus gold is called the Sun, in Latin Sol, 
" silver is called the Moon, in Latin Luna, as is clearly stated in the special chapters on each 
" metal. Thus briefly have we spoken of the ' common worker ' of metal and ore. But the 
" thing worked upon, or the common material of all metals, according to the opinion of 
" the learned, is sulphur and quicksilver, which through the movement and influence of the 
" heavens must have become united and hardened into one metallic body or one ore. 
" Certain others hold that through the movement and the influence of the heavens, vapours 
" or hraden, called mineral exhalations, are drawn up from the depths of the earth, from 
" sulphur and quicksilver, and the rising fumes pass into the veins and stringers and are 


A. C. — ^The mountain. B — Vena profunda. 

Another kind, unlike the venae profundae, neither ascend to the surface 
of the earth nor descend, but lying under the ground, expand over a large 
area; and on that account I call them " venae dilatatae." 

A. D. — The mountain. B. C — Vena dilatata. 


Another occupies a large extent of space in length and width ; there- 
fore I usually call it " vena cumulata," for it is nothing else than an accumu- 
lation of some certain kind of mineral, as I have described in the book 

" united through the effect of the planets and made into ore. Certain others hold that 
" metal is not formed from quicksilver, because in many places metallic ore is found and 
" no quicksilver. But instead of quicksilver they maintain a damp and cold and slimy 
" material is set up on all sulphur which is drawn out from the earth, like your perspiration, 
" and from that mixed with sulphur all metals are formed. Now each of these opinions is 
" correct according to a good understanding and right interpretation ; the ore or metal is 
" formed from the fattiness of the earth as the material of the first degree (primary element), 
" also the vapours or hraden on the one part and the materials on the other part, both of which 
" are called quicksilver. Likewise in the mingling or union of the quicksilver and the 
" sulphur in the ore, the sulphur is counted the male and quicksilver the female, as in the 
" bearing or conception of a child. Also the sulphur is a special worker in ore or metal. 

" The second chapter or part deals with the general capacity of the mountain. 
" Although the influence of the heavens and the fitness of the material are necessary to the 
" formation of ore or metal, yet these are not enough thereto. But there must be adapt- 
" ability of the natural vessel in which the ore is formed, such are the veins, namely 
" sieinendegange, flachgange, schargange, creutzgange, or as these may be termed in provincial 
" names. Also the mineral force must have easy access to the natural vessel such as 
" through the kluffte (stringers), namely hengkluft, querklufte, flachekluffte, creutzklnffi, and 
" other occasional floizwerk, according to their various local names. Also there must be a 
" suitable place in the mountain which the veins and stringers can traverse." 

Agricola's Views on the Origin of Ore Deposits. Agricola rejected absolutely 
the Biblical view which, he says, was the opinion of the vulgar ; further, he repudiates 
the alchemistic and astrological view with great vigour. There can be no doubt, however, 
that he was greatly influenced by the Peripatetic philosophy. He accepted absolutely the -four 
elements — earth, fire, water, and air, and their " binary " properties, and the theory that every 
substance had a material cause operated upon by an efficient force. Beyond this he did 
not go, and a large portion of De Ortu et Causis is devoted to disproof of the origin of 
metals and stones from the Peripatetic " exhalations." 

.No one should conclude that Agricola's theories are set out with the clarity of Darwin 
or Lyell. However, the matter is of such importance in the history of the theory of ore- 
deposits, and has been either so ignored or so coloured by the preconceptions of narrators, 
that we consider it justifiable to devote the space necessary to a reproduction of his own 
statements in De Ortu et Causis and other works. Before doing so we believe it will be of 
service to readers to summarize these views, and in giving quotations from the Author's 
other works, to group them under special headings, following the outline of his theory 
given below. His theory was : — 

(i) Openings in the earth (canales) were formed by the erosion of subterranean 

(2) These ground waters were due (a) to the infiltration of the surface waters, rain, 
river, and sea water ; (b) to the condensation of steam (halitus) arising from the penetration 
of the surface waters to greater depths, — the production of this halitus being due to sub- 
terranean heat, which in his view was in turn due in the main to burning bitumen (a com- 
prehensive genera which embraced coal). 

(3) The filling of these canales is composed of " earth," " solidified juices," " stone," 
metals, and " compounds," all deposited from water and " juices " circulating in the canales. 
(See also note 4, page i). 

" Earth " comprises clay, mud, ochre, marl, and " peculiar earths " generally. The 
origin of these " earths " was from rocks, due to erosion, transportation, and deposition 
by water. " Solidified juices " (sued concreti) comprised salt, soda, vitriol, bitumen, etc., 
being generally those substances which he conceived were soluble in and deposited from 
water. " Stones " comprised precious, semi-precious, and unusual stones, such as quartz, 
fluor-spar, etc., as distinguished from country rock ; the origin of these he attributed in 
minor proportion to transportation of fragments of rock, but in the main to deposits from 
ordinary mineral juice and from " stone juice " (succiis lapidescens). Metals comprised the 
seven traditional metals ; the " compounds " comprised the metallic minerals ; and both 
were due to deposition from juices, the compounds being due to a mixture of juices. The 
" juices " play the most important part in Agricola's theory. Each substance had its own 
particular juice, and in his theory every substance had a material and an efficient cause, the 
first being the juice, the second being heat or cold. Owing to the latter the juices fell into 
two categories — those solidified by heat (i.e., by evaporation, such as salt), and those solidi- 
fied by cold, (i.e, because metals melt and flow by heat, therefore their sohdification 
was due to cold, and the juice underwent similar treatment). As to the origin of these 
juices, some were generated by the solution of their own particular substance, but in the 


entitled De Sjihlerraneorum Ortu et Causis. It occasionally happens, 
though it is unnsual and rare, that several accumulations of this kind are 
found in one place, each one or more fathoms in depth and four or five in 

main thrir origin was duo to the combination of " dry things," such as " earth," with 
water, tin' mixture being heated, and the resultant metals depended upon the propor- 
tions of "earth" and water. In some cases we have been inclined to translate si(ccms 
(juice) as " solution," but in other cases it embraced substances to which this would not 
apply, and we feared implying in the text a chemical understanding not warranted prior to 
the atomic theory. In order to distinguish between earths, (clays, etc.,) the Peripatetic 
" earth " (a pure element) and the earth (the globe) we have given the two former in 
quotation marks. There is no doubt some confusion between earth (clays, etc.) and the 
Peripatetic " earth," as the latter was a pure substance not found in its pristine form in 
nature ; it is, however, difficult to distinguish between the two. 

Origin of Canales {Dc Ortu, p. 35). " I now come to the canales in the earth. 
" These are veins, veinlets, and what are called ' seams in the rocks.' These serve as 
" vessels or receptacles for the material from which minerals {res fossiles) are formed. 
" The term vena is most frequently given to what is contained in the canales, but likewise 
" the same name is applied to the canales themselves. The term vein is borrowed from 
" that used for animals, for just as their veins are distributed through all parts of the 
" body, and just as by means of the veins blood is diffused from the liver throughout the 
" whole body, so also the veins traverse the whole globe, and more particularly the 
" mountainous districts ; and water runs and flows through them. With regard to veinlets 
" or stringers and ' seams in the rocks,' which are the thinnest stringers, the following is the 
" mode of their arrangement. Veins in the earth, just like the veins of an animal, have certain 
" veinlets of their own, but in a contrary way. For the larger veins of animals pour blood 
" into the veinlets, while in the earth the humours are usually poured from the veinlets into 
" the larger veins, and rarely flow from the larger into the smaller ones. As for the seams in 
" the rocks [commissurae saxorum) we consider that they are produced by two methods : by 
" the first, which is peculiar to themselves, they are formed at the same time as the rocks, 
" for the heat bakes the refractory material into stone and the non-refractory material 
" similarly heated exhales its humours and is made into ' earth,' generally friable. The 
" other method is common also to veins and veinlets, when water is collected into one 
" place it softens the rock by its liquid nature, and by its weight and pressure breaks and 
" divides it. Now, if the rock is hard, it makes seams in the rocks and veinlets, and if it is 
" not too hard it makes veins. However, if the rocks are not hard, seams and veinlets are 
" created as well as veins. If these do not carry a very large quantity of water, or if they 
" are pressed by a great volume of it, they soon discharge themselves into the nearest veins. 
" The following appears to be the reason why some veinlets or stringers and veins are 
" prof undae and others dilatatae. The force of the water crushes and splits the brittle rocks ; 
" and when they are broken and split, it forces its way through them and passes on, at one 
" time in a downward direction, making small and large venae profundae, at another time 
" in a lateral direction, in which way venae dilatatae are formed. Now since in each 
" class there are found some which are straight, some inclined, and some crooked, it should 
" be explained that the water makes the vena profunda straight when it runs straight 
" downward, inclined when it runs in an inclined direction ; and that it makes a vena 
" dilatata straight when it runs horizontally to the right or left, and in a similar way inclined 
" when it runs in a sloping direction. Stringers and large veins of the profunda sort, extending. 
" for considerable lengths, become crooked from two causes. In one case when narrow 
" veins are intersected by wide ones, then the latter bend or drag the former a little. In 
" the other case, v/hen the water runs against very hard rock, being unable to break through, 
" it goes around the nearest way, and the stringers and veins are formed bent and crooked. 
" This last is also the reason we sometimes see crooked small and large venae dilatatae, not 
" unlike the gentle rise and fall of flowing water. Next, venae profundae are wide, either 
" because of abundant water or because the rock is fragile. On the other hand, they are 
" narrow, either because but little water flows and trickles through them, or because the 
" rock is very hard. The venae dilatatae, too, for the same reasons, are either thin or thick. 
" There are other differences, too, in stringers and veins, which I will explain in my work 
" De Re Metallica. . . . There is also a third kind of vein which, as it cannot be 
" described as a wide vena profunda, nor as a thick vena dilatata, we will call a vena cumulata. 
" These are nothing else than places where some species of mineral is accumulated ; 
" sometimes exceeding in depth and also in length and breadth 600 feet ; sometimes, or 
" rather generally, not so deep nor so long, nor so wide. These are created when water 
" has broken away the rock for such a length, breadth, and thickness, and has flung aside 
" and ejected the stones and sand from the great cavern which is thus made ; and afterward 
"when. the mouth is obstructed and closed up, the whole cavern is filled with material 
" from which there is in time produced some one or more minerals. Now I have stated 


width, and one is distant from another two, three, or more fathoms. When 
the excavation of these accumulations begins, they at first appear in the 
shape of a disc ; then they open out wider ; finally from each of such 

" when discoursing on the origin of subterranean humours, that water erodes away 
" substances inside the earth, just as it does those on the surface, and least of all does it 
" shun minerals ; for which reason we may daily see veinlets and veins sometimes filled with 
" air and water, but void and empty of mining products, and sometimes full of these same 
" materials. Even those which are empty of minerals become finally obstructed, and when 
" the rock is broken through at some other point the water gushes out. It is certain that 
" old springs are closed up in some way and new ones opened in others. In the same 
" manner, but much more easily and quickly than in the solid rock, water produces stringers 
" and veins in surface material, whether it be in plains, hills, or mountains. Of this kind are 
" the stringers in the banks of rivers which produce gold, and the veins which produce 
" peculiar earth. So in this manner in the earth are made canales which bear minerals." 

Origin of Ground Waters. (De Ortu p. 5). " .... Besides rain there is 
" another kind of water by which the interior of the earth is soaked, so that being heated 
" it can continually give off haliiiis, from which arises a great and abundant force of waters." 
In description of the modus operandi of haliium, he says (p. 6) : " . . . . Halilus 
" rises to the upper parts of the canales, where the congealing cold turns it into water, which 
" by its gravity and weight again runs down to the lowest parts and increases the flow of 
" water if there is any. If any finds its way through a canales dilatata the same thing 
" happens, but it is carried a long way from its place of origin. The first phase of distillation 
" teaches us how this water is produced, for when that which is put into the ampulla is 
" warmed it evaporates (expirare), and this halitus rising into the operculum is converted 
" by cold into water, which drips through the spout. In this waj' water is being continually 
" created underground." (De Ortu, p. 7) : " And so we know from all this that of the waters 
" which are under the earth, some are collected from rain, some arise from haliius (steam), some 
" from river-water, some from sea-water ; and we know that the haliium is produced within 
" the earth partly from rain-water, partly from river-water, and partly from sea-water." 
It would require too much space to set out Agricola's views upon the origin of the subter- 
ranean heat which produced this steam. It is an involved theory embracing clashing winds, 
burning bitumen, coal, etc., and is fully set out in the latter part of Book II, De Ortu et Causis. 

Origin of Gangue Minerals. It is necessary to bear in mind that Agricola 
divided minerals {res fossiles — " Things dug up," see note 4, p. i) into " earths," 
" solidified juices," " stones," " metals," and " compounds ; " and, further, to bear in mind 
that in his conception of the origin of things generally, he was a disciple of the Peripatetic 
logic of a " material substance " and an " efficient force," aS mentioned above. 

As to the origin of " earths," he says {De Ortu, p. 38) : " Pure and simple ' earth ' 
" originates in the canales in the following way : rain water, which is absorbed by the surface 
" of the earth, first of all penetrates and passes into the inner parts of the earth and 
" mixes with it ; next, it is collected from all sides into stringers and veins, where it, 
" and sometimes water of other origin, erodes the ' earth ' away, — a great quantity of it if the 
" stringers and veins are in ' earth,' a small quantity if they are in rock. The softer the 
" rock is, the more the water wears away particles by its continual movement. To this 
" class of rock belongs limestone, from which we see chalk, clay, and marl, and other unctuous 
" 'earths ' made ; also sandstone, from which are made those barren ' earths ' which we may 
" see in ravines and on bare rocks. For the rain softens limestone or sandstone and carries 
" particles away with it, and the sediment collects together and forms mud, which afterward 
" solidifies into some kind of ' earth.' In a similar way under the ground the power of water 
" softens the rock and dissolves the coarser fragments of stone. This is clearly shown by 
" the following circumstance, that frequently the powder of rock or marble is found in a 
" soft state and as if partly dissolved. Now, the water carries this mixture into the course 
" of some underground canalis, or dragging it into narrow places, filters away. And in each 
" case the water flows away and a pure and uniform material is left from which ' earth ' 
" is made. . . . Particles of rock, however, are only by force of long time so softened 
" by water as to become similar to particles of ' earth.' It is possible to see ' earth ' being 
" made in this way in underground canales in the earth, when drifts or tunnels are driven into 
" the mountains, or when shafts are sunk, for then the canales are laid bare ; also it can be 
" seen above ground in ravines, as I have said, or otherwise disclosed. For in both cases 
" it is clear to the eye that they are made out of the ' earth ' or rocks, which are often of the 
" same colour. And in just the same way they are made in the springs which the veins 
" discharge. Since all those things which we see with our eyes and which are perceived 
" with our senses, are more clearly understood than if they were learnt by means of reasoning, 
" we deem it sufficient to explain by this argument our view of the origin of ' earth.' In 
" the manner which I have described, ' earths ' originate in veins and veinlets, seams in the 
" rocks, springs, ravines, and other openings, therefore all ' earths ' are made in this way. 

A, B, C, D — The mountain. E, F, G, H, I, K — Vena cumulaia. 

accumulations is usually formed a " vena cumulata." 

" As to those that are found in underground canales which do not appear to have been derived 
" from the earth or rock adjoining, these have undoubtedly been carried by the water for a 
" greater distance from their place of origin ; which may be made clear to -anyone who seeks 
" their source." 

On the origin of solidified juices he states {De Ortu, p. 43) : "I will now speak of 
" solidified juices {sued concreti). I give this name to those minerals which are without 
" dif&culty resolved into liquids (humore). Some stones and metals, even though they are 
" themselves composed of juices, have been compressed so solidly by the cold that they can only 
" be dissolved with difficulty or not at all. . . . For juices, as I said above, are either 
" made when dry substances immersed in moisture are cooked by heat, or else they are 
" made when water flows over ' earth,' or when the surrounding moisture corrodes metallic 
" material ; or else they are forced out of the ground by the power of heat alone. There- 
" fore, solidified juices originate from liquid juices, which either heat or cold have condensed. 
" But that which heat has dried, fire reduces to dust, and moisture dissolves. Not only 
" does warm or cold water dissolve certain solidified juices, but also humid air ; and a juice 
" which the cold has condensed is liquefied by fire and warm water. A salty juice is con- 
" densed into salt ; a bitter one into soda ; an astringent and sharp one into alum or into 
" vitriol. Skilled workmen in a similar way to nature, evaporate water which contains 
" juices of this kind until it is condensed ; from salty ones they make salt, from 
" aluminous ones alum, from one which contains vitriol they make vitriol. These workmen 
" imitate nature in condensing liquid juices with heat, but they cannot imitate nature in 
" condensing them by cold. From an astringent juice not only is alum made and vitriol, but 
" also sory, chalcitis, and misy, which appears to be the ' flower ' of vitriol, just as melanteria 
" is of sory. (See note on p. 573 for these minerals.) When humour corrodes pyrites so that 
"it is friable, an astringent juice of this kind is obtained." 

On the Origin of Stones {De Ortu, p. 50), he states : " It is now necessary to 
" review in a few words what I have said as to all of the material from which stones are 
" made ; there is first of all mud ; next juice which is solidified by severe cold ; then frag- 
" ments of rock ; afterward stone juice {succus lapidescens), which also turns to stone when 
" it comes out into the air ; and lastly, everything which has pores capable of receiving a 
" stony juice." As to an " efficient force," he states (p. 54) : " But it is now necessary 
" that I should explain my own view, omitting the first and antecedent causes. Thus the 


A & B— Venae dilatatae. C — Intervenium. D & E — Other venae dilataiae. 


The space between two veins is called an intervenium ; this interval 
between the veins, if it is between venae dilatatae is entirely hidden under- 
ground. If, however, it lies betwci'n venae pro/imdac then the top is plainly 
in sight, and the remainder is hidden. 

Venae profundae differ greatly one from another in width, for some of 
them arc one fathom wide, some are two cubits, others one cubit ; others again 
are a foot wide, and some only half a foot ; all of which our miners call wide 
veins. Others on the contrar}^ are only a palm wide, others three digits, 

" immediate causes are heat and cold ; next in some way a stony juice. For we know that 
" stones which water has dissolved, are solidified when dried by heat ; and on the contrary, 
" we Ivnow that stones which melt by fire, such as quartz, solidify by cold. For solidification 
" and the conditions which are opposite thereto, namely, dissolving and liquefying, spring 
" from causes which are the opposite to each other. Heat, driving the water (humorem) out of 
" a substance, makes it hard ; and cold, by withdrawing the air, solidifies the same stone 
" firmly. But if a stony juice, either alone or mixed with water, finds its way into the pores 
" either of plants or animals .... it creates stones. ... If stony juice is 
" obtained in certain stony places and flows through the veins, for this reason certain springs, 
" brooks, streams, and lakes, have the power of turning things to stone." 

On the Origin of Metals, he says {De Orin, p. 71) : " Having now refuted the 
" opinions of others, I must e.xplajn what it really is from which metals are produced. 
" The best proof that there is water in their materials is the fact that they flow when 
" melted, whereas they are again solidified by the cold of air or water. This, however, 
" must be understood in the sense that there is more water in them and less 'earth ' ; for it 
" is not simply water that is their substance but water mixed with ' earth.' And such a 
" proportion of ' earth ' is in the mixture as may obscure the transparency of the water, but 
" not remove the brilliance which is frequently in unpolished things. Again, the purer the 
" mixture, the more precious the metal which is made from it, and the greater its resistance 
" to fire. But what proportion of ' earth ' is in each liquid from which a metal is made 
" no mortal can ever ascertain, or still less explain, but the one God has known it. Who has 
" given certain sure and fixed laws to nature for mixing and blending things together. It 
" is a juice (succiis) then, from which metals are formed; and this juice is created by various 
" operations. Of these operations the first is a flow of water which softens the 'earth' or 
" carries the 'earth' along with it, thus there is a mixture of ' earth ' and water, then the 
" power of heat works upon the mixtures so as to produce that kind of a juice. We have 
" spoken of the substance of metals ; we must now speak of their efficient cause. . . 
" (P- 75) : We do not deny the statement of Albertus Magnus that the mixture of 'earth' 
" and water is baked by subterranean heat to a certain denseness, but it is our opinion that 
" the juice so obtained is afterward solidified by cold so as to become a metal. . . . 
" We grant, indeed, that heat is the efficient cause of a good mixture of elements, and also 
" cooks this same mixture into a juice, but until this juice is solidified by cold it is not a 
" metal." ... (p. 76) : This view of Aristotle is the true one. For metals melt 
" through the heat and somehow become softened ; but those which have become softened 
" through heat are again solidified by the influence of cold, and, on the contrary, those 
" which become softened by moisture are solidified by heat." 

On the Origin of Compounds, he states [De Ortu, p. 80) : " There now remain 
" for our consideration the compound minerals (mistae), that is to say, minerals which 
" contain either solidified juice (succus concretus) and ' stone,' or else metal or metals and 
" ' stone,' or else metal-coloured ' earth,' of which two or more have so grown together 
" by the action of cold that one body has been created. By this sign they are distin- 
" guished from mixed minerals {composita), for the latter have not one body. For 
" example, pyrites, galena, and ruby silver are reckoned in the category of compound 
" minerals, whereas we say that metallic ' earths ' or stony ' earths ' or ' earths ' mingled with 
" juices, are mixed minerals ; or similarly, stones in which metal or solidified juices adhere, 
" or which contain ' earth.' But of both these classes I will treat more fully in my book De 
" Natura FossMum. I will now discuss their origin in a few words. A compound mineral 
" is produced when either a juice from which some metal is obtained, or a humour and some 
" other juice from which stone is obtained, are solidified by cold, or when two or more juices 
" of different metals mixed with the juice from which stone is made, are condensed by the saine 
" cold, or when a metallic juice is mixed with 'earth ' whose whole mass is stained with its 
" colour, and in this way they form one body. To the first class belongs galena, composed 
"•of lead juice and of that material which forms the substance of opaque stone. Similarly, 
" transparent ruby silver is made out of silver juice and the juice which forms the 


or even two ; these they call narrow. But in other places where there are 
very wide veins, the widths of a cubit, or a foot, or half a foot, are said to be 
narrow ; at Cremnitz, for instance, there is a certain vein which measures 
in one place fifteen fathoms in width, in another eighteen, and in another 
twenty ; the truth of this statement is vouched for by the inhabitants. 

" substance of transparent stone ; when it is smelted into pure silver, since from it is 
" separated the transparent juice, it is no longer transparent. Then too, there is pyrites, 
" or lapis fissilis, from which sulphur is melted. To the second kind belongs that kind of 
" pyrites which contains not only copper and stone, but sometimes copper, silver, and stone; 
" sometimes copper, silver, gold, and stone ; sometimes silver, lead, tin, copper and silver 
" glance. That compound minerals consist of stone and metal is sufficiently proved by 
" their hardness ; that some are made of ' earth ' and metal is proved from brass, which is 
" composed of copper and calamine ; and also proved from white brass, which is coloured 
" by artificial white arsenic. Sometimes the heat bakes some of them to such an extent that 
" they appear to have flowed out of blazing furnaces, which we may see in the case of 
" cadmia and pyrites. A metallic substance is produced out of ' earth ' when a metallic 
" juice impregnating the ' earth ' solidifies with cold, the ' earth ' not being changed. A 
" stony substance is produced when viscous and non- viscous ' earth ' are accumulated in 
" one place and baked by heat ; for then the viscous part turns into stone and the non- 
" viscous is only dried up." 

The Origin of Juices. The portion of Agricola's theory surrounding this subject 
is by no means easy to follow in detail, especially as it is difficult to adjust one's point of 
view to the Peripatetic elements, fire, water, earth, and air, instead of to those of the 
atomic theory which so dominates our every modern conception. That Agricola's 'juice' 
was in most cases a solution is indicated by the statement (De Ortii, p. 48) : " Nor is juice 
" anything but water, which on the other hand has absorbed ' earth ' or has corroded or 
" touched metal and somehow become heated." That he realized the difference between 
mechanical suspension and solution is evident from (De Oriu, p. 50) ; " A stony juice differs 
" from water which has abraded something from rock, either because it has more of that which 
" deposits, or because heat, by cooking water of that kind, has thickened it, or because there 
" is something in it which has powerful astringent properties." Much of the author's notion 
of juices has already been given in the quotations regarding various minerals, but his most 
general statement on the subject is as follows : — {De Oriu, p. 9) : " Juices, however, are 
" distinguished from water by their density (crassiiudo), and are generated in various ways — 
" either when dry things are soaked with moisture and the mixture is heated, in which way 
" by far the greatest part of juices arise, not only inside the earth, but outside it : or when 
" water running over the earth is made rather dense, in which way, for the most 
" part the juice becomes salty and bitter ; or when the moisture stands upon metal, 
" especially copper, and corrodes it, and in this way is produced the juice from which 
" chrysocoUa originates. Similarly, when the moisture corrodes friable cupriferous pyrites 
" an acrid juice is made from which is produced vitriol and sometimes alum ; or, finally, 
" juices are pressed out by the very force of the heat from the earth. If the force is great 
" the juice flows like pitch from burning pine .... in this way we know a kind of 
" bitumen is made in the earth. In the same way different kinds of moisture are generated 
" in living bodies, so also the earth produces waters differing in qucdity, and in the same 
" way juices." 

Conclusion. If we strip his theory of the necessary influence of the state of 
knowledge of his time, and of his own deep classical learning, we find two propositions 
original with Agricola, which still to-day are fundamentals : 

(i) That ore channels were of origin subsequent to their containing rocks ; (2) That 
ores were deposited from solutions circulating in these openings. A scientist's work must 
be judged by the advancement he gave to his science, and with this gauge one can say 
unhesitatingly that the theory which we have set out above represents a much greater step 
from what had gone before than that of almost any single observer since. Moreover, apart 
from any tangible proposition laid down, the deduction of these views from actual observation in- 
stead of from fruitless speculation was a contribution to the very foundation of natural science. 
Agricola was wrong in attributing the creation of ore channels to erosion alone, and it was not 
until Von Oppel {Anleiiung zur Markscheidekunst, Dresden, 1749 and other essays), two centuries 
after Agricola, that the positive proposition that ore channels were due to fissuring was 
brought forward. Von Oppel, however, in neglecting channels due to erosion (and in this term 
we include solution) was not altogether sound. Nor was it until late in the i8th century that 
the filling of ore channels by deposition from solutions was generally accepted. In the 
meantime, Agricola's successors in the study of ore deposits exhibited positive retrogression 
from the true fundamentals advocated by him. Gesner, Utman, Meier, Lohneys, Barba, 



A — Wide vena profunda 

Narrow vena profunda. 

Venae dilatatae, in truth, differ also in thickness, for some are one fathom 
thick, others two, or even more ; some are a cubit thick, some a foot, some 
only half a foot ; and all these are usually called thick veins. Some on the 
other hand, are but a palm thick, some three digits, some two, some one ; 
these are called thin veins. 

Rossler, Becher, Stahl, Henckel, and Zimmerman, all fail to grasp the double essentials. 
Other writers of this period often enough merely quote Agricola, some not even acknowledging 
the source, as, for instance, Pryce (Mineralogia Cornubiensis, London, 1778) and Williarhs 
(Natural History of the Mineral Kingdom, London, 1789). After Von Oppel, the two 
fundamental principles mentioned were generally accepted, but then arose the complicated 
and acrimonious discussion of the origin of solutions, and nothing in Agricola's view was so 
absurd as Werner's contention (Neue Theorie von der Entstehung der Gdnge, Freiberg, 1791) 
of the universal chemical deluge which penetrated fissures open at the surface. While it is 
not the purpose of these notes to pursue the history of these subjects subsequent to the 
author's time, it is due to him and to the current beliefs as to the history of the theory of ore 
deposits, to call the attention of students to the perverse representation of Agricola's views 
by Werner (op. cit.) upon which most writers have apparently relied. Why this author 
should be (as, for instance, by Posepny, Amer. Inst. Mining Engineers, 1901) so generally con- 
sidered the father of our modern theory, can only be explained by a general lack of knowledge of 
the work of previous writers on ore deposition. Not one of the propositions original with 
Werner still holds good, while his rejection of the origin of solutions within the earth itself 
halted the march of advance in thought on these subjects for half a century. It is our 
hope to discuss exhaustively at some future time the development of the history of this, 
one of the most far-reaching of geologic hypotheses. 



A — Thin vena dilatata. B — Thick vena dilaiata. 
Venae profundae vary in direction ; for some run from east to west. 


A, B, C — Vein. D, E, F — Seams in the Rock (Commissurac Saxorum). 


Others, on the other hand, run from west to east. 



A, B, C — Vein. D, E, F — Seams in the Rocks. 

Others run from south to north. 


A, B, C — Vein. D, E, F — Seams in the Rocks. 


Others, on the contrary, run from north to south. 

A, B, C — Vein. D, E, F — Seams in the Rocks. 

The seams in the rocks indicate to us whether a vein runs from the 
east or from the west. For instance, if the rock seams incline toward the 
westward as they descend into the earth, the vein is said to run from east 
to west ; if they incline toward the east, the vein is said to run from west 
to east ; in a similar manner, we determine from the rock seams whether 
the veins run north or south. 

Now miners divide each quarter of the earth into six divisions ; and by 
this method they apportion the earth into twenty-four directions, which they 
divide into two parts of twelve each.. The instrument which indicates these 
directions is thus constructed. First a circle is made ; then at equal 
intervals on one half portion of it right through to the other, twelve 
straight Hues called by the Greeks Sianirpot, and in the Latin dimetientes, 
are drawn through a central point which the Greeks call Khrpov, so that 
the circle is thus divided into twenty-four divisions, all being of an equal 
size. Then, within the circle are inscribed three other circles, the outer- 
most of which has cross-lines dividing it into twenty-four equal parts ; the 
space between it and the next circle contains two sets of twelve numbers, 
inscribed on the lines called " diameters "; while within the innermost circle 
it is hoUowed out to contain a magnetic needle*. The needle hes directly 

'The endeavour to discover the origin of the compass with the Chinese, Arabs, or other 
Orientals having now generally ceased, together with the idea that the knowledge of the 
lodestone involved any acquaintance with the compass, it is permissible to take a rational 



over that one of the twelve lines called " diameters " on which the number 
XII is inscribed at both ends. 



When the needle which is governed by the magnet points directly 
from the north to the south, the number XII at its tail, which is 
forked, signifies the north, that number XII which is at its point indicates 
the south. The sign VI superior indicates the east, and VI inferior the 
west. Further, between each two cardinal points there are always 
five others which are not so important. The first two of these directions 
are called the prior directions ; the last two are called the posterior, and 
the fifth direction lies immediately between the former and the latter; it 
is halved, and one half is attributed to one cardinal point and one half to the 
other. For example, between the northern number XII and the eastern 
number VI, are points numbered I, II, III, IV, V, of which I and 

view of the subject. The lodestone was well known even before Plato and Aristotle, and is 
described by Theophrastus (see Note lo, p. 115.) The first authentic and specific mention 
of the compass appears to be by Alexander Neckam (an Englishman who died in 1217), 
in his works De Utensilibus and De Naturis Rerum. The first tangible description of the 
instrument was in a letter to Petrus Peregrinus de Maricourt, written in 1269, a translation 
of which was published by Sir Sylvanus Thompson (London, 1902). His circle was divided into 
four quadrants and these quarters divided into 90 degrees each. The first mention of a 
compass in connection with mines so far as we know is in the Niiizlich Bergbilchlin, a review 
of which will be found in Appendix B. This book, which dates from 1500, gives a compass much 
like the one described above by Agricola. It is divided in like manner into two halves of 12 
divisions each. The four cardinal points being marked Mitiernacht, Morgen, Mitiag, and 
Abend. Thus the directions read were referred to as 11. after midnight, etc. According to 
Joseph Carne (Trans. Roy. Geol. Socy. of Cornwall, Vol. 11, 1814), the Cornish miners 
formerly referred to North-South veins as 12 o'clock veins ; South-East North- West veins as 
9 o'clock veins, etc. 



II are northern directions lying toward the east, IV and V are eastern 
directions lying toward the north, and III is assigned, half to the north and 
half to the east. 

One who wishes to know the direction of the veins underground, places 
over the vein the instrument just described ; and the needle, as soon as it 
becomes quiet, will indicate the course of the vein. That is, if the vein 
proceeds from VI to VI, it either runs from east to west, or from west to 
east ; but whether it be the former or the latter, is clearly shown by the 
seams in the rocks. If the vein proceeds along the hne which is between V 
and VI toward the opposite direction, it runs from between the fifth and 
sixth divisions of east to the west, or from between the fifth and sixth 
divisions of west to the east ; and again, whether it is the one or the other 
is clearly shown by the seams in the rocks. In a similar manner we 
determine the other directions. 

Now miners reckon as many points as the sailors do in reckoning up 
the number of the winds. Not only is this done to-day in this country, but 
it was also done by the Romans who in olden times gave the winds partly 
Latin names and partly names borrowed from the Greeks. Any miner who 
pleases may therefore call the directions of the veins by the names of the 
winds. There are four principal winds, as there are four cardinal points : 
the Suhsolanus, which blows from the east ; and its opposite the Favonius, 
which blows from the west ; the latter is called by the Greeks Zi^pvpoc, and 
the former 'ATr-iXiwrTjc. There is the Auster, which blows from the south ; 
and opposed to it is the SeptentHo, from the north ; the former the Greeks 
called Noroc, and the latter 'ATra/j.v-T.'ac. There are also subordinate winds, 
to the number of twenty, as there are directions, for between each two 
principal winds there are always five subordinate ones. Between the 
Suhsolanus (east wind) and the Auster (south wind) there is the OrnitMae 
or the Bird wind, which has the first place next to the Suhsolanus ; then 
comes Caecias ; then Eurus, which lies in the midway of these five ; next 
comes Vulturnus ; and lastly, Euronotus, nearest the Auster (south wind). 
The Greeks have given these names to all of these, with the exception of 
Vulturnus, but those who do not distinguish the winds in so precise a manner 
say this is the same as the Greeks called Eipcr. Between the Auster (south 
wind) and the Favonius (west wind) is first Altanus, to the right of the 
Auster (south wind) ; then Libonotus ; then Afrkus, which is the middle 
one of these five ; after that comes Suhvesperus ; next Argestes, to the left 
of Favonius (west wind). All these, with the exception of Libonotus and 
Argestes, have Latin names ; but Africus also is called by the Greeks All. 
In a similar manner, between Favonius (west wind) and Septentrio (north 
wind), first to the right of Favonius (west wind), is the Etesiae ; then 
Circius ; then Caurus, which is in the middle of these five ; then Corus ; 
and lastly Thrascias to the left of Septentrio (north wind). To all of 
these, except that of Caurus, the Greeks gave the names, and those 
who do not distinguish the winds by so exact a plan, assert that the wind 
which the Greeks called Ko>ot and the Latins Caurus is one and the same. 



Again, between Septentrio (north wind) and the Subsolanus (east wind), the 
first to the right of Septeitrio (north wind) is Gallicns ; then Supernas ; then 
Aquilo, which is the middle one of these five ; next comes Boreas ; and 
lastly Cartas , to the left of Siibsolamts (east wind). Here again, those who 
do not consider the winds to be in so great a multitude, but say there are 
but twelve winds in all, or at the most fourteen, assert that the wind called 


< i* tiAfoUnvt 


by the Greeks BopEac and the Latins Aquilo is one and the same. For our 
purpose it is not only useful to adopt this large number of winds, but even 
to double it, as the German sailors do. They always reckon that between 
each two there is one in the centre taken from both. By this method we 


also are able to signify the intermediate directions by means of the names of 
the winds. For instance, if a vein runs from VI east to VI west, it is said 
to proceed from Subsolanus (east wind) to favonius (west wind) ; but one 
which proceeds from between V and VI of the east to between V and VI 
west is said to proceed out of the middle of Cartas and Subsolanus to between 
Argestes and Favonius ; the remaining directions, and their intermediates 
are similarly designated. The miner, on account of the natural properties 
of a magnet, by which the needle points to the south, must fix the instru- 
ment already described so that east is to the left and west to the right. 

In a similar way to venae profundae, the venae dilatatae vary in their 
lateral directions, and we are able to understand from the seams in the 
rocks in which direction they extend into the ground. For if these incline 
toward the west in depth, the vein is said to extend from east to west ; 
if on the contrary, they incline toward the east, the vein is said to go from 
west to east. In the same way, from the rock seams we can determine 
veins running south and north, or the reverse, and likewise to the 
subordinate directions and their intermediates. 

A, B — Venae dilatatae. C — Sea?ns in the Rocks. 

Further, as regards the question of direction of a vena profunda, one 
runs straight from one quarter of the earth to that quarter which is opposite, 
while another one runs in a curve, in which case it may happen that a vein 
proceeding from the east does not turn to the quarter opposite, which is the 
west, but twists itself and turns to the south or the north. 

150()K III. 


A — Straight vena profunda. B — Curved vena profunda [ariould be vena dtlaiaia(?)]. 

Similarly some venae dilataiae are horizontal, some are inclined, and 
some are curved. 

A — Horizontal vena dilatata. B — Inclined vena dilaiaia. C— Curved vena dilataia. 


Also the veins which we call profundae differ in the manner in which 
they descend into the depths of the earth ; for some are vertical (A), some are 
inclined and sloping (B), other? crookedl(C). 

Moreover, venae profundae (B) differ much among themselves regarding 
the kind of locality through which they pass, for some extend along the 
slopes of mountains or hills (A-C) and do not descend down the sides. 



Other Venae Pro/tmdae (D, E, F) from the very summit of the mountain 
or hill descend the slope (A) to the hollow or valley (B) , and they again ascend 

the slope or the side of the mount.iin or hill opposite (C) 

Other Venae Profundae (C, D) descend the mountain or hill (A) and 
extend out into the plain (B). 


Some veins run straight along on the plateaux, the hills, or plains. 

A — Principal vein. B — Transverse vein. C — Vein cutting principal one 



In the next place, venae projundac differ not a little in the manner in 
which they intersect, since one may cross thi'ough a second transversely, or 
one ma\- cross another one obliquely as if cutting it in two. 

If a vein which cuts through another principal one obliquely be the 
harder of the two, it penetrates right through it, just as a wedge of beech or 
iron can be driven through soft wood by means of a tool. If it be softer, the 
principal vein either drags the soft one with it for a distance of three feet, or 
perhaps one, two, three, or several fathoms, or else throws it forward along 
the principal vein ; but this latter happens very rarely. But that the vein 
which cuts the principal one is the same vein on both sides, is shown by its 
having the same character in its foot walls and hanging walls. 


A — Principal veix. B — Vein which cuts A obliquely. C — Part carried away. 
D — That part which has been carried forward. 

Sometimes venae profundae join one with another, and from two or 
more outcropping veins*, one is formed ; or from two which do not outcrop 
one is made, if they are not far distant from each other, and the one dips 
into the other, or if each dips toward the other, and they thus join when they 
have descended in depth. In exactly the same way, out of three or more 
veins, one may be formed in depth. 

^Crudariis. Pliny (xxxill., 31), says : — " Argenti vena in summo repcria crudaria 
appellatur." " Silvei' veins discovered at the surface are called crudaria." The German 
translator of Agricola uses the term sylber gang — silver vein, obviously misunderstanding the 
author's meaning. 




C — Junction. Likewise two veins. D — Indicates one descending vertically. 
E — Marks the other descending inclined, which dips toward D. F — Their junction. 



However, such a junction of veins sometimes disunites and in this 
way it happens that the vein which was the right-hand vein becomes 
the left ; and again, the one which was on the left becomes the right. 

Furthermore, one vein may be spht and divided into parts by some hard 
rock resembling a beak, or stringers in soft rock may sunder the vein and 
make two or more. These sometimes join together again and sometimes 
remain divided. 

A, B — Veins dividing. C — The same joining. 

Whether a vein is separating from or uniting with another can be deter- 
mined only from the seams in the rocks. For example, if a principal 
vein nms from the east to the west, the rock seams descend in depth 
likewise from the east toward the west, and the associated vein which 
joins with the principal vein, whether it runs from the south or the north, 
has its rock seams extending in the same way as its own, and they do not 
conform with the seams in the rock of the principal vein — which remain 
the same after the junction — unless the associated vein proceeds in the same 
direction as the principal vein. In that case we name the broader vein the 
principal one, and the narrower the associated vein. But if the principal 
vein splits, the rock seams which belong respectively to the parts, keep 
the same course when descending in depth as those of the principal vein. 

But enough of venae profundae, their junctions and divisions. Now 
we come to venae dilatatae. A vena dilatata may either cross a vena profunda, 
or join with it, or it may be cut by a vena profunda, and be divided into parts. 



A, (,- -t ctia dUdtata crossing a vena profunda. B — '['ena profunda. D, E — Vena 

dilatata which junctions with a vena profunda. F — Vena -profunda. G — Vena dilaiaia. 

H, I — Its divided parts. K — Vena profunda which divides the vena dilatata. 

Finally, a vena profunda has a " beginning" (origo), an "end" (finis), a 
"head" (caput), and a "tail" (cauda). That part whence it takes its rise 
is said to be its " beginning," that in which it terminates the " end." Its 
"head"^ is that part which emerges into daylight; its "tail" that part 
which is hidden in the earth. But miners have no need to seek the 
" beginning " of veins, as formerly the kings of Egypt sought for the source 
of the Nile, but it is enough for them to discover some other part of the vein 
and to recognise itj direction, for seldom can either the " beginning " or the 
" end " be found. The direction in which the head of the vein comes into 
the light, or the direction toward which the tail extends, is indicated by its 
footwall and hangingwall. The latter is said to hang, and the former to lie. 
The vein rests on the footwall, and the hangingwall overhangs it ; thus, 
when we descend a shaft, the part to which we turn the face is the foot- 
wall and seat of the vein, that to which we turn the back is the hanging- 
wall. Also in another way, the head accords with the footwall and the tail 
with the hangingwall, for if the footwall is toward the south, the vein 
extends its head into the light toward the south ; and the hangingwall, 
because it is always opposite to the footwall, is then toward the north. 
Consequently the vein extends its tail toward the north if it is an inchned 
vena projunda. Similarly, we can determine with regard to east and west 
and the subordinate and their intermediate directions. A vena profunda 
which descends into the earth may be either vertical, inclined, or crooked , 
the footwall of an inchned vein is easily distinguished from the hangingwall. 
but it is not so with a vertical vein ; and again, the footwall of a crooked 
vein is inverted and changed into the hangingwall, and contrariwise thi: 
hangingwall is twisted into the footwall, but very many of these crooked 
veins may be turned back to vertical or inchned ones. 

^It might be considered that the term " outcrop " could be used for " liead," but it 
will be noticed that a vena dilatata would thus be stated to ha%'e no outcrop. 

BOOK Jll. 



A — The " beginning " (origo). B — The " end " (finis). C— The " head " [caput). 
D — The " tail " (catida). 

A vena dilatata has only a " beginning " and an "end," and in the place 
of the "head" and "tail" it has two sides. 

A — The "beginning." B — The "end." C, D— The "sides 



A— The " beginning." B— The ' end." C— The " head." D— The " tail." 
E — Transverse vein. 

A vena cumulata has a " beginning," an "end," a " head," and a 
" tail," just as a vena profunda. Moreover, a vena cumulata, and Hkewise 
a vena dUatata, are often cut through by a transverse vena profunda. 

Stringers {fibrae)^, which are little veins, are classified into fibrae trans- 
versae, fibrae obliquae which cut the vein obliquely, fibrae sociae, 
fibrae dilatatae, and fibrae incumbentes. The fibra transversa crosses 
the vein ; the fibra obliqua crosses the vein obliquely ; the fibra soda joins 
with the vein itself ; the fibra dilatata, like the vena dilatata, penetrates 
through it ; but the fibra dilatata, as well as the fibra profunda, is usually 
found associated with a vein. 

The fibra incumbens does not descend as deeply into the earth as the 
other stringers, but lies on the vein, as it were, from the surface to the 
hangingwall or footwaU, from which it is named Subdialis.'^ 

In truth, as to direction, junctions, and divisions, the stringers are not 
different from the veins. 

'It is possible that " veinlets " would be preferred by purists, but the word " stringer " 
has become fixed in the nomenclature of miners and we have adopted it. The old English 
term was " stringe," and appears in Edward Manlove's " Rhymed Chronicle," London, 
1653; Pryce's, Mineralogia Cornitbiensis, London, 1778, pp. 103 and 329; Mawe's " Mineralogy 
of Devonshire," London, 1802, p. 210, etc.. etc. 

''Subdialis. " In the open air." The Glossary gives the meaning as Ein tag klufft 
Oder tag gehenge — a surface stringer. 

BOOK in. 


A, B— Veins. C— Transverse stringer. D— Oblique stringer. 
E — Associated stringer. F — Flhni dilataia 

A — Vein. B — Fibra mcumhens from the surface of the hangingwall. C — Same 
from the footwall. 



Lastly, the seams, which are the very finest stringers {fibrae), divide 
the rock, and occur sometimes frequently, sometimes rarely. From 
whatever direction the vein comes, its seams always turn their heads 
toward the hght in the same direction. But, while the seams usually run 
from one point of the compass to another immediately opposite it, as 
for instance, from east to west, if hard stringers divert them, it may 
happen that these very seams, which before were running from east to 
west, then contrariwise proceed from west to east, and the direction of 
the rocks is thus inverted. In such a case, the direction of the veins is 
judged, not by the direction of the seams which occur rarely, but by those 
which constantly recur. 

A — Seams which proceed from the east. B — The inverse. 

Both veins or stringers may be solid or drusy, or barren of minerals, 
or pervious to water. Solid veins contain no water and very little air. The 
drusy veins rarely contain water ; they often contain air. Those which 
are barren of minerals often carry water. Solid veins and stringers con- 
sist sometimes of hard materials, sometimes of soft, and sometimes of a 
kind of medium between the two. 



A — Solid vein. B — Solid stringer. C — Cavernous vein. D — Cavernous 
STRINGER. E — Barren vein. F — Barren stringer. 

But to return to veins. A great number of miners consider^ that the 

best veins in depth are those which run from the VI or VII direction of the 

east to the VI or VII direction of the west, through a mountain slope which 

inchnes to the north ; and whose hangingwalls are in the south, and whose 

footwalls are in the north, and which have their heads rising to the north, 

as explained before, always like the footwall, and finally, whose rock 

seams turn their heads to the east. And the veins which are the next 

*The following from Chapter iv of the Nutzlich Bergbuchlin (see Appendix B) may 
indicate the source of the theory which Agricola here discards : — " As to those veins which 
" are most profitable to work, it must be remarked that the most suitable location for the vein 
" is on the slope of the mountain facing south, so its strike is from vii or vi east to vi or 
" VII west. According to the above-mentioned directions, the outcrop of the whole vein 
" should face north, its gesteins ausgang toward the east, its hangingwall toward the south, 
" and its footwall toward the north, for in such mountains and veins the influence of the 
" planets is conveniently received to prepare the matter out of which the silver is to be made 
" or formed. . . . The other strikes of veins from between east and south to the region 
" between west and north are esteemed more or less valuable, according to whether they are 
" nearer or further away from the above-mentioned strikes, but with the same hanging- 
" wall, footwall, and outcrops. But the veins having their strike from north to south, 
" their hangingwall toward the west, their footwall and their outcrops toward the east, 
" are better to work than veins which extend from south to north, whose hangingwalls 
" are toward the east, and footwalls and outcrops toward the west. Although the latter 
" veins sometimes 5deld solid and good silver ore, still it is not sure and certain, because 
'■ the whole mineral force is completely scattered and dispersed through the outcrop, etc." 


best are those which, on the contrary, extend from the VI or VII direction 
of the west to the VI or VII direction of the east, through the slope of a 
mountain which similarly inclines to the north, whose hangingwalls 
are also in the south, whose footwalls are in the north, and whose 
heads rise toward the north ; and lastly, whose rock seams raise 
their heads toward the west. In the third place, they recommend those 
veins which extend from XII north to XII south, through the slope 
of a mountain which faces east ; whose hangingwalls are in the 
west, whose footwalls are in the east ; whose heads rise toward 
the east ; and whose rock seams raise their heads toward the north. 
Therefore they devote all their energies to those veins, and give very httle 
or nothing to those whose heads, or the heads of whose rock seams rise 
toward the south or west. For although they say these veins some- 
times show bright specks of pure metal adhering to the stones, or they come 
upon lumps of metal, yet these are so few and far between that despite them 
it is not worth the trouble to excavate such veins ; and miners who persevere 
in digging in the hope of coming upon a quantity of metal, always lose their 
time and trouble. And they say that from veins of this kind, since the sun's 
rays draw out the metallic material, very little metal is gained. But in 
this matter the actual experience of the miners who thus judge of the veins 
does not always agree with their opinions, nor is their reasoning sound ; 
since indeed the veins which run from east to west through the slope of a 
mountain which inclines to the south, whose heads rise likewise to the 
south, are not less charged with metals, than those to which miners are 
wont to accord the first place in productiveness ; as in recent years has been 
proved by the St. Lorentz vein at Abertham, which our countrymen call 
Gottsgaab, for they have dug out of it a large quantity of pure silver ; and 
lately a vein in Annaberg, called by the name of Himmelsch hoz^, has made it 

'The names in the Latin are given as Donum Divinum — " God's Gift," and 
Coelestis Exerciius — " Heavenly Host." The names given in the text are from the German 
Translation. The former of these mines was located in the valley of Joachim, where Agricola 
spent many years as the town physician at Joachimsthal. It is of further interest, as Agricola 
obtained an income from it as a shareholder. He gives the history of the mine {De Veteribus 
ei Novis Meiallis, Book I.), as follows : — " The mines at Abertham were discovered, partly 
" by chance, partly by science. In the eleventh year of Charles V. (1530), on the i8th of 
" February, a poor miner, but one skilled in the art of mining, dwelt in the middle of the 
" forest in a solitary hut, and there tended the cattle of his employer. While digging a little 
" trench in which to store milk, he opened a vein. At once he washed some in a bowl and saw 
" particles of the purest silver settled at the bottom. Overcome with joy he informed his 
' ' employer, and went to the Bergmeister and petitioned that official to give him a head 
" mining lease, which in the language of our people he called Gottsgaab. Then he proceeded 
" to dig the vein, and found more fragments of silver, and the miners were inspired with 
" great hopes as to the richness of the vein. Although such hopes were not frustrated, 
" still a whole year was spent before they received any profits from the mine ; whereby 
" many became discouraged and did not persevere in paying expenses, but sold their shares 
" in the mine ; and for this reason, when at last an abundance of silver was being drawn 
" out, a great change had taken place in the ownership of the mine ; nay, even the first 
" finder of the vein was not in possession of any share in it, and had spent nearly all the 
" money which he had obtained from the selling of his shares. Then this mine yielded such 
" a quantity of pure silver as no other mine that has existed within our own or our 
" fathers' memories, with the exception of the St. George at Schneeberg. We, as a share- 
" holder, through the goodness of God, have enjoyed the proceeds of this ' God's Gift ' 
" since the very time when the mine began first to bestow such riches." Later on in the 


plain by the production of much silver that veins which extend from the 
north to the south, with their heads rising toward the west, are no less rich 
in metals than those whose heads rise toward the east. 

It may be denied that the heat of the sun draws the metallic material 
out of these veins ; for though it draws up vapours from the surface of the 
ground, the rays of the sun do not penetrate right down to the depths ; because 
the air of a tunnel which is covered and enveloped by solid earth to the depth of 
only two fathoms is cold in summer, for the intermediate earth holds in check 
the force of the sun. Having observed this fact, the inhabitants and dwellers 
of very hot regions lie down by day in caves which protect them from the 
excessive ardour of the sun. Therefore it is unlikely that the sun draws 
out from within the earth the metallic bodies. Indeed, it cannot even dry 
the moisture of many places abounding in veins, because they are pro- 
tected and shaded by the trees. Furthermore, certain miners, out of all 
the different kinds of metallic veins, choose those which I have described, 
and others, on the contrary, reject copper mines which are of this sort, so 
that there seems to be no reason in this. For what can be the reason if the 
sun draws no copper from copper veins, that it draws silver from silver veins, 
and gold from gold veins ? 

Moreover, some miners, of whose number was Calbus^", distinguish 

between the gold-bearing rivers and streams. A river, they say, or a stream, 

is most productive of fine and coarse grains of gold when it comes from the 

east and flows to the west, and when it washes against the foot of mountains 

which are situated in the north, and when it has a level plain toward the 

south or west. In the second place, they esteem a river or a stream which 

flows in the opposite course from the west toward the east, and which has 

the mountains to the north and the level plain to the south. In the third 

place, they esteem the river or the stream which flows from the north to the 

south and washes the base of the mountains which are situated in the east. 

But they say that the river or stream is least productive of gold which flows 

in a contrary direction from the south to the north, and washes the base of 

same book he gives the following further information with regard to these mines : — " Now 
" if all the individual mines which have proved fruitful in our own times are weighed in 
" the balance, the one at Annaberg, which is known as the Himmelsch hoz, surpasses all 
" others. For the value of the silver which has been dug out has been estimated at 420,000 
" Rhenish gulden. Next to this comes the lead mine in Joachimsthal, whose name is the 
" Siernen, from which as much silver has been dug as would be equivalent to 350,000 Rhenish 
" gulden ; from the Gottsgaab at Abertham, explained before, the equivalent of 300,000. 
" But far before all others within our fathers' memory stands the St. George of Schneeberg, 
" whose silver has been estimated as being equal to two million Rhenish gulden." A Rhenish 
gulden was about 6.9 shillings, or, say, Si.66. However, the ratio value of silver to gold at 
this period was about 11. 5 to one, or in other words an ounce of silver was worth about a 
gulden, so that, for purposes of rough calculation, one might say that the silver product 
mentioned in gulden is practically of the same number of ounces of silver. Moreover, it must 
be remembered that the purchasing power of money was vastly greater then. 

i°The following passage occurs in the Niitzlich Bergbiichlin (Chap. V.), which is interesting 
on account of the great similarity to Agricola's quotation : — " The best position of the stream is 
"when it has a cliff beside it on the north and level ground on the south, but its current should 
"be from east to west — that is the most suitable. The next best after this is from west to 
" east, with the same position of the rocks as already stated. The third in order is when the 
" stream flows from north to south with rocks toward the east, but the worst flow of water 
" for the preparation of gold is from south to north if a rock or hill rises toward the west." 
Calbus was probably the author of this booklet. 


mountains which are situated in the west. Lastly, of the streams or rivers 
which flow from the rising sun toward the setting sun, or which flow from 
the northern parts to the southern parts, they favour those which approach 
the nearest to the lauded ones, and say they are more productive of gold, 
and the further they depart from them the less productive they are. Such 
are the opinions held about rivers and streams. Now, since gold is not 
generated in the rivers and streams, as we have maintained against 
Albertus^^ in the book entitled " De Subterraneorum Ortu et Causis," Book 
V, but is torn away from the veins and stringers and settled in the sands of 
torrents and water-courses, in whatever direction the rivers or streams flow, 
therefore it is reasonable to expect to find gold therein ; which is not 
opposed by experience. Nevertheless, we do not deny that gold is generated 
in veins and stringers which lie under the beds of rivers or streams, as in 
other places. 

"Albertus Magnus. 



HE third book has explained the various and 
manifold varieties of veins and stringers. This 
fourth book will deal with mining areas and the 
method of delimiting them, and will then pass on to 
the officials who are connected with mining affairs^. 
Now the miner, if the vein he has uncovered 
is to his liking, first of all goes to the Bergmeister 
to request to be granted a right to mine, this 
official's special function and office being to adjudi- 
cate in respect of the mines. And so to the first man who has discovered 
the vein the Bergmeister awards the head meer, and to others the remaining 
meers, in the order in which each makes his application. The size of 
a meer is measured by fathoms, which for miners are reckoned at six feet 
each. The length, in fact, is that of a man's extended arms and hands 
measured across his chest ; but different peoples assign to it different lengths, 

^The nomenclature in this chapter has given unusual difficulty, because the organisa- 
tion of mines, either past or present, in English-speaking countries provides no exact 
equivalents for many of these offices and for many of the legal terms. The Latin terms in 
the text were, of course, coined by the author, and have no historical basis to warrant their 
adoption, while the introduction of the original German terms is open to much objection, as 
they are not only largely obsolete, but also in the main would convey no meaning to the 
majority of readers. We have, therefore, reached a series of compromises, and in the main 
give the nearest English equivalent. Of much interest in this connection is a curious exotic 
survival in mining law to be found in the High Peak of Derbyshire. We believe (see note 
on p. 85) that the law of this district was of Saxon importation, for in it are not only 
many terms of German origin, but the character of the law is foreign to the older 
English districts and shows its near kinship to that of Saxony. It is therefore of interest 
in connection with the nomenclature to be adopted in this book, as it furnishes about the 
only English precedents in many cases. The head of the administration in the Peak was the 
Steward, who was the chief judicial officer, with functions somewhat similar to the 
Berghauplman7i. However, the term Steward has come to have so much less significance 
that we have adopted a literal rendering of the Latin. Under the Steward was the Barmaster, 
Barghmaster, or Barmar, as he was variously called, and his duties were similar to those of 
the Bergmeister. The English term would seem to be a corruption of the German, and as 
the latter has come to be so well understood by the English-speaking mining class, we have 
in this case adopted the German. The Barmaster acted always by the consent and with the 
approval of a jury of from 12 to 24 members. In this instance the English had functions 
much like a modern jury, while the Geschwornen of Saxony had much more widely extended 
powers. The German Geschwornen were in the main Inspectors ; despite this, however, we 
have not felt justified in adopting any other than the literal English for the Latin 
and German terms. We have vacillated a great deal over the term PraefecUis Fodinae, the 
German Steiger having, like the Cornish " Captain," in these days degenerated into a foreman, 
whereas the duties as described were not only those of the modern Superintendent or 
Manager, but also those of Treasurer of the Company, for he made the calls on shares 
and paid the dividends. The term Purser has been used for centuries in English mining for 
the Accountant or Cashier, but his functions were limited to paying dividends, wages, etc., 
therefore we have considered it better not to adopt the latter term, and have compromised 
upon the term Superintendent or Manager, although it has a distinctly modern flavor. The 
word for area has also caused much hesitation, and the " meer " has finally been adopted 
with some doubt. The title described by Agricola has a very close equivalent in the meer 
of old Derbyshire. As will be seen later, the mines of Saxony were Regal property, and 
were held subject to two essential conditions, i.e., payment of a tithe, and continuous 
operation. This form of title thus approximates more closely to the " lease " of Australia 
than to the old Cornish sett, or the American claim. The fundgrube of Saxony and Agricola's 
equivalent, the area capitis — head lease — we have rendered literally as " head meer," 
although in some ways " founders' meer " might be better, for, in Derbyshire, this was called 
the " finder's " or founder's meer, and was awarded under similar circumstances. It has 
also an analogy in Australian law in the " reward " leases. The term " measure " has the 
merit of being a literal rendering of the Latin, and also of being the identical term in the same 



for among the Greeks, who called it an opyvia, it was six feet, among the 
Romans five feet. So this measure which is used by miners seems to 
have come down to the Germans in accordance with the Greek mode of 
reckoning. A miner's foot approaches very nearly to the length of a Greek 
foot, for it exceeds it by only three-quarters of a Greek digit, but like that 
of the Romans it is divided into twelve unciae^. 

Now square fathoms are reckoned in units of one, two, three, or more 
" measures ", and a " measure " is seven fathoms each way. Mining 
meers are for the most part either square or elongated ; in square meers all the 
sides are of equal length, therefore the numbers of fathoms on the two sides 
multiplied together produce the total in square fathoms. Thus, if the 
shape of a " measure " is seven fathoms on every side, this number multi- 
phed by itself makes forty-nine square fathoms. 

The sides of a long meer are of equal length, and similarly its ends are 
equal ; therefore, if the number of fathoms in one of the long sides be multi- 
plied by the number of fathoms in one of the ends, the total produced by the 

use in the High Peak. The following table of the principal terms gives the originals of the 
Latin text, their German equivalents according in the Glossary and other sources, and those 
adopted in the translation : — 

German Glossary. 


Praefedus Metallorum 
Magisier Metallicorum 
Scriba Magisier Metallicorum 

Piiblicus Signaior 
Scriba pariium 
Scriba fodinarum . . 
Praefectus fodinae 
Praefedus cuniculi 
Praeses fodinae 
Praeses cuniculi 
Fossores . . 
Ingestores . . 
Vectarii . . 

Pur gator Argenti . . 
M agister Moneiariorum 
Area fodinarum 
Area Capitis Fodinarum 

Bergmeister's schreiber 


Gemeiner sigler 









Ertzpucher . . 

Wescher und seiffner 


Silber brenner 




Fundgrube . . 


^The following are the equivalents of the measures mentioned in this book. It is 
not always certain which " foot " or " fathom " Agricola actually had in mind although 
they were probably the German. 

Term Adopted. 
Mining Prefect. 
Bergmeister's clerk. 
Jurates or Jurors. 
Notary. . 
Tithe gatherer. 
Share clerk. 
Mining clerk. 
Manager of the Mine. 
Manager of the Tunnel. 
Foreman of the Mine. 
Foreman of the Tunnel. 
Miners or diggers. 

Lever workers (windlass men). 

Washers, buddlers, sifters, etc. 
Silver refiner. 
Master of the Mint. 

Head meer. 

Greek — 

Dadylos = 

Uncia = 
German — 



.76 inches 16 = Pous 

12.13 inches 6 = Orguia — 72.81 inches. 

= -97 

= -93 

12 = Pes 

12 = Werckschuh 
12 = Foot 


5 = Passus = 58.1 

6 = Lachier = 67.5 
6 = Fathom = 72.0 

The discrepancies are due to variations in authorities and to decimals dropped. The 
werckschuh taken is the Chemnitz foot deduced from Agricola's statement in his De Mensuris 
et Ponderibus, Basel, 1533, p. 29. For further notes see Appendix C. 







OF A Square 



multiplication is the total number of square fathoms in the long meer. For 
example, the double measure is fourteen fathoms long and seven broad, 
which two numbers multipUed together make ninety-eight square fathoms. 




Shape of a Long Meer or Double Measure. 

Since meers vary in shape according to the different varieties of veins 
it is necessary for me to go more into detail concerning them and 
their measurements. If the vein is a vena profunda, the head meer is 
composed of three double measures, therefore it is forty-two fathoms in 
length and seven in width, which numbers multiplied together give two 
hundred and ninety-four square fathoms, and by these hmits the Bergmeister 
bounds the owner's rights in a head-meer. 




Shape of a Head Meer. 

The area of every other meer consists of two double measures, on which- 
ever side of the head meer it lies, or whatever its number in order may be, 
that is to say, whether next to the head meer, or second, third, or any later 
number. Therefore, it is twenty-eight fathoms long and seven wide, so 
multiplying the length by the width we get one hundred and ninety-six 
square fathoms, which is the extent of the meer, and by these boundaries 
the Bergmeister defines the right of the owner or company over each mine. 

8o BOOK IV. 





Shape of a Meer. 

Now we call that part of the vein which is first discovered and mined, 
the head-meer, because all the other meers run from it, just as the nerves 
from the head. The Bergmeister begins his measurements from it, and the 
reason why he apportions a larger area to the head-meer than to the others, is 
that he may give a suitable reward to the one who first found the vein 
and may encourage others to search for veins. Since meers often reach 
to a torrent, or river, or stream, if the last meer cannot be completed 
it is called a fraction*. If it is the size of a double measure, the Bergmeister 
grants the right of mining it to him who makes the first application, but if 
it is the size of a single measure or a little over, he divides it between the 
nearest meers on either side of it. It is the custom among miners that 
the first meer beyond a stream on that part of the vein on the opposite 
side is a new head-meer, and they call it the " opposite,"* while the 
other meers beyond are only ordinary meers. Formerly every head-meer 
was composed of three double measures and one single one, that is, it was 
forty-nine fathoms long and seven wide, and so if we multiply these two 
together we have three hundred and forty-three square fathoms, which 
total gives us the area of an ancient head-meer. 




Shape of an ancient Head-Meer. 

Every ancient meer was formed of a single measure, that is to say, it 
was seven fathoms in length and width, and was therefore square. In 
memory of which miners even now call the width of every meer which is 
located on a vena profunda a " square "*. The following was formerly the 

^Suhcisivum — " Remainder." German Glossary, Ueberschar. The term used in Mendip 
and Derbyshire was frungap or primegap. It did not, however, in this case belong to adjacent 
mines, but to the landlord. 

^Adversum. Glossary, gegendrumb. The Bergwerk Lexicon, Chemnitz, 1743, gives 
gegendrom or gegeniramm, and defines it as the masse or lease next beyond a stream. 

^Quadratum. Glossary, vierung. The vierung in old Saxon title meant a definite 
zone on either side of the vein, 3J lachter (lachter = 5ft. 7.5 inches) into the hanging-wall 
and the same into the footwall, the length of one vierung being 7 lachter along the strike. It 

BOOK IV. 8i 

usual method of delimiting a vein : as soon as the miner found metal, he 
gave information to the Bergmeister and the tithe-gatherer, who either 
proceeded personally from the town to the mountains, or sent thither men 
of good repute, at least two in number, to inspect the metal-bearing vein. 
Thereupon, if they thought it of sufficient importance to survey, the Bergmeister 
again having gone forth on an appointed day, thus questioned him who first 
found the vein, concerning the vein and the diggings : " Which is your 
vein ? " " Which digging carried metal ? " Then the discoverer, pointing 
his finger to his vein and diggings, indicated them, and next the Bergmeister 
ordered him to approach the windlass and place two fingers of his right hand 
upon his head, and swear this oath in a clear voice : "I swear by God and 
all the Saints, and I call them all to witness, that this is my vein ; and more- 
over if it is not mine, may neither this my head nor these my hands henceforth 
perform their functions." Then the Bergmeister, having started from the 
centre of the windlass, proceeded to measure the vein with a cord, and to 
give the measured portion to the discoverer, — in the first instance a half and 
then three full measures ; afterward one to the King or Prince, another to 
his Consort, a third to the Master of the Horse, a fourth to the Cup-bearer, 
a fifth to the Groom of the Chamber, a sixth to himself. Then, starting 
from the other side of the windlass, he proceeded to measure the vein in a 
similar manner. Thus the discoverer of the vein obtained the head-meer, 
that is, seven single measures ; but the King or Ruler, his Consort, the leading 
dignitaries, and lastly, the Bergmeister, obtained two measures each, or two 
ancient meers. This is the reason there are to be found at Freiberg in Meissen 
so many shafts with so many intercommunications on a single vein — which are 
to a great extent destroyed by age. If, however, the Bergmeister had already 
fixed the boundaries of the meers on one side of the shaft for the benefit of 
some other discoverer, then for those dignitaries I have just mentioned, 
as many meers as he was unable to award on that side he duplicated 
on the other. But if on both sides of the shaft he had already defined the 
boundaries of meers, he proceeded to measure out only that part of the 
vein which remained free, and thus it sometimes happened that some of 
those persons I have mentioned obtained no meer at all. To-day, though 
that old-established custom is observed, the method of allotting the vein 
and granting title has been changed. As I have explained above, the head- 
meer consists of three double measures, and each other meer of two 
measures, and the Bergmeister grants one each of the meers to him who 
makes the first application. The King or Prince, since all metal is taxed, is 
himself content with that, which is usually one-tenth. 

Of the width of every meer, whether old or new, one-half lies on the 
footwall side of a vena profunda and one half on the hangingwall side. If 
the vein descends vertically into the earth, the boundaries similarly descend 

must be borne in mind that the form of rights here referred to entitled the miner to follow 
his vein, carrying the side line with him in depth the same distance from the vein, in much 
the same way as with the Apex Law of the United States. From this definition as given in the 
Bcrgmerk Lexicon, p. 585, it would appear that the vein itself was not included in the measure- 
ments, but that they started from the walls. 

82 BOOK IV. 

vertically ; but if the vein inclines, the boundaries hkewise will be inclined. 
The owner always holds the mining right for the width of the meer, however 
far the vein descends into the depth of the earth.* Further, the Bergmeister, 
on application being made to him, grants to one owner or company a right 

"Historical Note on the Development of Mining Law. — There is no branch of the 
law of property, of which the development is more interesting and illuminating from a social 
point of view than that relating to minerals. Unlike the land, the minerals have ever been 
regarded as a sort of fortuitous property, for the title of which there have been four principal 
claimants — that is, the Overlord, as represented by the King, Prince, Bishop, or what not ; 
the Community or the State, as distinguished from the Ruler ; the Landowner ; and the 
Mine Operator, to which class belongs the Discoverer. The one of these that possessed the 
dominant right reflects vividly the social state and sentiment of the period. The Divine 
Right of Kings ; the measure of freedom of their subjects ; the tyranny of the land-owning 
class ; the rights of the Community as opposed to its individual members ; the rise of indivi- 
dualism ; and finally, the modern return to more communal view, have all been reflected 
promptly in the mineral title. Of these parties the claims of the Overlord have been limited 
only by the resistance of his subjects ; those of the State limited by the landlord ; those of 
the landlord by the Sovereign or by the State ; while the miner, ever in a minority in in- 
fluence as well as in numbers, has been buffeted from pillar to post, his only protection 
being the fact that all other parties depended upon his exertion and skill. 

The conception as to which of these classes had a right in the title have been by no 
means the same in different places at the same time, and in all it varies with different periods ; 
but the whole range of legislation indicates the encroachment of one factor in the community 
over another, so that their relative rights have been the cause of never-ending contention, 
ever since a record of civil and economic contentions began. In modern times, practically 
over the whole world, the State has in effect taken the rights from the Overlord, but his claims 
did not cease until his claims over the bodies of his subjects also ceased. However, he still 
remains in many places with his picture on the coinage. The Landlord has passed through 
many vicissitudes ; his complete right to minerals was practically never admitted until the 
doctrine of laissez-faire had become a matter of faith, and this just in time to vest him with 
most of the coal and iron deposits in the world ; this, no doubt, being also partially due to the 
little regard in which such deposits were generally held at that time, and therefore to the 
little opposition to his ever-ready pretentions. Their numbers, however, and their prominence 
in the support of the political powers de fure have usually obtained them some recognition. 
In the rise of individualism, the apogee of the laissez-faire fetish came about the time of the 
foundation of the United States, and hence the relaxation in the claims of the State in that 
country and the corresponding position attained by the landlord and miner. The discoverer 
and the operator — that is, the miner himself — has, however, had to be reckoned with by all 
three of the other claimants, because they have almost universally sought to escape the risks of 
mining, to obtain the most skilful operation, and to stimulate the productivity of the mines ; 
thereupon the miner has secured at least partial consideration. This stands out in all times 
and all places, and while the miner has had to take the risks of his fortuitous calling, the Over- 
lord, State, or Landlord have all made for complacent safety by demanding some kind of a 
tithe on his exertions. Moreover, there has often been a low cunning displayed by these powers 
in giving something extra to the first discoverer. In these relations of the powers to the mine 
operator, from the very first we find definite records of the imposition of certain conditions with 
extraordinary persistence — so fixed a notion that even the United States did not quite escape it. 
This condition was, no doubt, designed as a stimulus to productive activity, and was the 
requirement that the miner should continuously employ himself digging in the piece of ground 
allotted to him. The Greeks, Romans, Mediseval Germans, old and modern Englishmen, 
modern Australians, all require the miner to keep continuously labouring at his mines, or lose 
his title. The American, as his inauguration of government happened when things were easier 
for individuals, allows him a vacation of ii months in the year for a few years, and finally a 
holiday altogether. There are other points where the Overlord, the State, or the Landlord 
have always considered that they had a right to interfere, principally as to the way the miner 
does his work, lest he should miss, or cause to be missed, some of the mineral ; so he has usually 
been under pains and penalties as to his methods — these quite apart from the very proper 
protection to human life, which is purely a modern invention, largely of the miner himself. 
Somebody has had to keep peace and settle disputes among the usually turbulent miners 
(for what other sort of operatorswould undertake the hazards and handicaps ?), and therefore 
special officials and codes, or Courts, for his benefit are of the oldest and most persistent of 

Between the Overlord and the Landowner the fundamental conflict of view as to their 
respective rights has found its interpretation in the form of the mineral title. The Overlord 
claimed the metals as distinguished from the land, while the landowner claimed all beneath his 

BOOK IV. 83 

over not only the head meer, or another nicer, but also the head meer and 
the next meer or two adjoining meers. So much for the shape of meers 
and their dimensions in the case of a vena profunda. 

I now come to the case of venae dilatatae. The boundaries of the areas 

soil. Therefore, we find two forms of title — that in which the miner could follow the ore 
regardless of the surface (the " apex " conception), and that in which the boundaries were 
vertical from the land surface. Lest the Americans think that the Apex Law was a 
sin original to themselves, we may mention that it was made use of in Europe a few centuries 
before Agricola, who will be found to set it out with great precision. 

From these points of view, more philosophical than legal, we present a few notes on 
various ancient laws of mines, though space forbids a discussion of a tithe of the amount it 
deserves at some experienced hand. 

Of the Ancient Egyptian, Lydian, Assyrian, Persian, Indian, and Chinese laws as to 
mines we have no record, but they wore of great simplicity, for the bodies as well as the property 
of subjects were at the abject disposition of the Overlord. We are informed on countless occasions 
of Emperors, Kings, and Princes of various degree among these races, owning and operating 
mines with convicts, soldiers, or other slaves, so we may take it for certain that continuous 
labour was enforced, and that the boundaries, inspection, and landlords did not cause much 
anxiety. However, herein lies the root of regalian right. 

Our first glimpse of a serious right of the subject to mines is among some of the Greek 
States, as could be expected from their form of government. With republican ideals, a rich 
mining district at Mount Laurion, an enterprising and contentious people, it would be sur- 
prising indeed if Athenian Literature was void on the subject. While we know that the 
active operation of these mines extended over some 500 years, from 700 to 200 B.C., the period 
of most literary reference was from 400 to 300 B.C. Our information on the subject is from two 
of Demosthenes' orations — one against Pantaenetus, the other against Phaenippis — the first 
mining lawsuit in which the address of counsel is extant. There is also available some infor- 
mation in Xenophon's Essay upon the Revenues, Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, 
Lycurgus' prosecution of Diphilos, the Tablets of the Poletae, and many incidental references 
and inscriptions of minor order. The minerals were the property of the State, a conception 
apparently inherited from the older civilizations. Leases for exploitation were granted to indi- 
viduals for terms of three to ten years, depending upon whether the mines had been previc usly 
worked, thus a special advantage was conferred upon the pioneer. The leases did not carry 
surface rights, but the boundaries at Mt. Laurion were vertical, as necessarily must be the case 
everywhere in horizontal deposits. What they were elsewhere we do not know. The land- 
lord apparently got nothing. The miner must continuously operate his mine, and was 
required to pay a large tribute to the State, either in the initial purchase of his lease or in 
annual rent. There were elaborate regulations as to interference and encroachment, and 
proper support of the workings. Diphilos was condemned to death and his fortune con- 
fiscated for robbing pillars. The mines were worked with slaves. 

The Romans were most intensive miners and searchers after metallic wealth already 
mined. The latter was obviously the objective of most Roman conquest, and those nations 
rich in these commodities, at that time necessarily possessed their own mines. Thus a map 
showing the extensions of Empire coincides in an extraordinary manner with the metal dis- 
tribution of Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Further, the great indentations into the 
periphery of the Imperial map, though many were rich from an agricultural point of view, 
had no lure to the Roman because they had no mineral wealth. On the Roman law 
of mines the student is faced with many perplexities. With the conquest of the older States, 
the plunderers took over the mines and worked them, either by leases from the State to 
public companies or to individuals ; or even in some cases worked them directly by the State. 
There was thus maintained the concept of State ownership of the minerals which, although 
apparently never very specifically defined, yet formed a basis of support to the contention 
of regalian rights in Europe later on. Parallel with this system, mines were discovered 
and worked by individuals under tithe to the State, and in Pliny (xxxiv, 49) there is refer- 
ence to the miners in Britain limiting their own output. Individual mining appears 
to have increased with any relaxation of central authority, as for instance under 
Augustus. It appears, as a rule, that the mines were held on terminable leases, 
and that the State did at times resume them ; the labour was mostly slaves. 
As to the detailed conditions under which the mine operator held his title, we know 
less than of the Greeks — in fact, practically nothing other than that he paid a tithe. The 
Romans maintained in each mining district an official — the Procurator Metallorum — who 
not only had general charge of the leasing of the mines on behalf of the State, but was usually 
the magistrate of the district. A bronze tablet found near Aljustrel, in Portugal, in 1876, 
generally known as the Aljustrel Tablet, appears to be the third of a series setting out the 
regulations of the mining district. It refers mostly to the regulation of public auctions, 
the baths, barbers, and tradesmen ; but one clause (vii.) is devoted to the regulation of those 

84 BOOK IV. 

on such veins are not all measured by one method. For in some places the 
Bergmeister gives them shapes similar to the shapes of the meers on venae 
pro/midae, in which case the head-meer is composed of three double 
measures, and the area of every other mine of two measures, as I have 

who work dumps of scoria, etc., and provides for payment to the administrator of the mines 
of a capitation on the slaves employed. It does not, however, so far as we can determine, 
throw any light upon the actual regulations for working the mines. (Those interested will 
find ample detail in Jacques Flach, " La Table de Bronze d' Alpisirel : Notivelle Revue Hisiori- 
que de Droit Francais cl Elr anger, x%']'ii, p. 655 ; Estacio da Veiga, Memorias da Acad. Real 
das Ciencias de Lisbon, Nova Scrie, Tome V, Part II, Lisbon, 1S82.) Despite the systematic 
law of property evolved by the Romans, the codes contain but small reference to mines, and this 
in itself is indirect evidence of the concept that they were the property of the State. Any 
general freedom of the metals would have given rise to a more extensive body of law. There 
are, of course, the well-known sections in the Justinian and Theodosian Codes, but the former 
in the main bears on the collection of the tithe and the stimulation of mining by ordering 
migrant miners to return to their own hearths. There is also some intangible prohibition 
of mming near edifices. There is in the Theodosian code evident extension of individual 
right to mine or quarry, and this " freeing " of the mines was later considerably extended. 
The Empire was, however, then on the decline ; and no doubt it was hoped to stimulate the 
taxable commodities. There is nothing very tangible as to the position of the landlord with 
regard to minerals found on his property ; the metals were probably of insufficient frequency 
on the land of Italian landlords to matter much, and the attitude toward subject races was 
not usually such as to require an extensive body of law. 

In the chaos of the Middle Ages, Europe was governed by hundreds of potentates, 
great and small, who were unanimous on one point, and this that the minerals vvere their 
property. In the bickerings among themselves, the stronger did not hesitate to interpret 
the Roman la a' in affirming regalian rights as an excuse to dispossess the weaker. The rights 
to the mines form no small part of the differences between these Potentates and the more 
important of their subjects ; and with the gradual accretion of power into a few hands, we find 
only the most powerful of vassals able to resist such encroachment. However, as to what 
position the landlord or miner held in these rights, we have little indication until about the 
begianing of the 13th century, after which there appear several well-known charters, which 
as time went on were elaborated into practical codes of mining law. The earliest of these 
charters are those of the Bishop of Trent, 1185 ; that of the Harz Miners. 1219 ; of the town 
of Iglau in 1249. Many such in connection with other districts appear throughout the 13th, 
14th, and 15th centuries. (References to the most important of such charters may be found 
in Sternberg, Umri^se der Geschichte des Bergbaiies, Prague, 1838 ; Eisenhart, De Regali 
Metalli Fodinarittm, Helmestadt, 1681 ; Gmelin, Beytrdge zur Geschichte des Teutschen 
Bergbaus, Halle, 1783 ; Inama-Strenegg, Deutsche Wirthschaftsgeschichte, Leipzig, 1879- 
1901 ; Transactions, Royal Geol. Soc. Cornwall vi, 155 ; Lewis, The Stannaries, New 
York 1908.) By this time a number of mining communities had grown up, and the charters 
in the main are a confirmation to them of certain privileges ; they contain, nevertheless, rigor- 
ous reservation of the regalian right. The landlord, where present, was usually granted some 
interest in the mine, but had to yield to the miner free entry. The miner was simply a 
sort of tributer to the Crown, loaded with an obligation when upon private lands to pay a 
further portion of his profits to the landlord. He held tenure only during strenuous opera- 
tion. However, it being necessary to attract skilled men, they were granted many civil 
privileges not general to the people ; and from many of the principal mining towns " free 
cities " were created, possessing a measure of self-government. There appear in the Iglau 
charter of 1249 the first symptoms of the " apex " form of title, this being the logical 
development of the conception that the minerals were of quite distinct ownership from 
the land. The law, as outlined by Agricola, is much the same as set out in the Iglavian 
Charter of three centuries before, and we must believe that such fully developed conceptions 
as that charter conveys were but the confirmation of customs developed over generations. 

In France the landlord managed to maintain a stronger position vis-a-vis with the 
Crown, despite much assertion of its rights ; and as a result, while the landlord admitted the 
right to a tithe for the Crown, he maintained the actual possession, and the boundaries were 
defined with the land. 

In England the law varied with special mining communities, such as Cornwall, Devon, 
the Forest of Dean, the Forest of Mendip, Alston Moor, and the High Peak, and they exhibit 
a curious comple.x of individual growth, of profound interest to the student of the growth 
of institutions. These communities were of very ancient origin, some of them at least pre- 
Roman ; but we are, except for the reference in Pliny, practically without any idea of their 
legal doings until after the Norman occupation (1066 a.d.). The genius of these conquerors 
for systematic government soon led them to inquire into the doings of these communities, 
and while gradually systematising their customs into law, they lost no occasion to assert the 

BOOK IV. 85 

explained more {ully above. In this case, however, he measures the meers 
with a cord, not only forward and backward from the ends of the head- 
mecr, as he is wont to do in the case where the owner of a vena projimda has 
a mcer granted him, but also from the sides. In this way meers are marked 

rcgalian right to the minerals. In the two centuries subsequent to tlieir advent there are 
on record numerous inquisitions, with the recognition and confirmation of " the customs 
and hbcrties wliich liad e.\istcd from time immemorial," always with the reservation to the 
Crown of some sort of royalty. Except for the High Peak in Derbyshire, the period and 
origin of these " customs and liberties " are beyond finding out, as there is practically no 
record of English History between the Roman withdrawal and the Norman occupation. 
There may Iiave been " liberties " under the Romans, but there is not a shred of evidence 
on the subject, and our own belief is that the forms of self-government which sprang up were 
the result of the Roman evacuation. The miner had little to complain of in the Norman 
treatment in these matters ; but between the Crown and the landlord as represented by the 
Barons, Lords of the Manor, etc., there were wide differences of opinion on the regalian rights, 
for in the extreme interpretation of the Crown it tended greatly to curtail the landlord's 
position in the matter, and the success of the Crown on this subject was by no means universal. 
In fact, a considerable portion of English legal liistory of mines is but the outcropping of 
this conflict, and one of the concessions wrung from King John at Runnymede in 1215 was 
his abandonment of a portion of such claims. 

The mining communities of Cornwall and Devon were early in the 13th century 
definitely chartered into corporations — " The Stannaries " — possessing definite legislative 
and executive functions, judicial powers, and practical self-government ; but they were 
required to make payment of the tithe in the shape of " coinage " on the tin. Such recog- 
nition, while but a ratification of prior custom, was not obtained without struggle, for the 
Norman Kings early asserted wide rights over the mines. Tangible record of mining in 
these parts, from a legal point of view, practically begins with a report by William de Wrotham 
in 1198 upon his arrangements regarding the coinage. A charter of King John in 1201, while 
granting free right of entry to the miners, thus usurped the rights of the landlords — a claim 
which he was compelled by the Barons to moderate ; the Crown, as above mentioned did 
maintain its right to a royalty, but the landlord held the minerals. It is not, however, until 
the time of Richard Carew's " Survey of Cornwall " (London, 1602) that v/e obtain much 
insight into details of miners' title, and the customs there set out were maintained in broad 
principle down to the 19th century. At Carew's time the miner was allowed to prospect freely 
upon " Common " or wastrel lands (since mostly usurped by landlords), and upon mineral 
discovery marked his boundaries, within which he was entitled to the vertical contents. 
Even upon such lands, however, he must acknowledge the right of the lord of the manor to a 
participation in the mine. Upon " enclosed " lands he had no right of entry without the 
consent of the landlord ; in fact, the minerals belonged to the land as they do to-day except 
where voluntarily relinquished. In either case he was compelled to " renew his bounds " 
once a year, .T.nd to operate more or less continuously to maintain the right once obtained. 
There thus existed a " labour condition " of variable character, usually imposed more or less 
vigorously in the bargains with landlords. The regulations in Devonshire differed in the 
important particular that the miner had right of entry to private lands, although he was not 
relieved of the necessity to give a participation of some sort to the landlord. The Forests of 
Dean, Mendip, and other old mining communities possessed a measure of self-government, 
which do not display any features in their law fundamentally different from those of Cornwall 
and Devon. The High Peak lead mines of Derbyshire, however, exhibit one of the most pro- 
foundly interesting of these mining communities. As well as having distinctively Saxon names 
for some of the mines, the customs there are of undoubted Saxon origin, and as such their 
ratification by the Normans caused the survival of one of the few Saxon iiistitutions in 
England — a fact which, we believe, has been hitherto overlooked by historians. Beginning 
with inquisitions by Edward I. in 1288, there is in the Record Office a wealth of information, 
the bare titles of which form too extensive a list to set out here. (Of published works, the 
most important are Edward Manlove's " The Liberties and Customs of the Lead Mines within 
the Wapentake of Wirksworth," London, 1653, generally referred to as the " Rhymed 
Chronicle " ; Thomas Houghton, " Rara Avis in Terra," London, 1687 ; William Hardy, 
" The Miner's Guide," Shefiield, 1748 ; Thomas Tapping, " High Peak Mineral Customs," 
London, 1851.) The miners in this district were presided over by a " Barmaster," " Bargh- 
master," or " Barmar," as he was variously spelled, all being a corruption of the German 
Bergmeister, with precisely the same functions as to the allotment of title, settlement of 
disputes, etc., as his Saxon progenitor had, and, like him, he was advised by a jury. The 
miners had entry to all lands except churchyards (this regulation waived upon death), and a 
few similar exceptions, and was subject to royalty to the Crown and the landlord. The dis- 
coverer was entitled to a finder's " meer " of extra size, and his title was to the vein within 
the end lines, i.e., the " apex " law. This title was held subject to rigorous labour con- 



out when a torrent or some other force of Nature has laid open a vena 
dilatata in a valley, so that it appears either on the slope of a mountain 
or hill or on a plain. Elsewhere the Bergmeister doubles the width of the 
head-meer and it is made fourteen fathoms wide, while the width of each of 
the other meers remains single, that is seven fathoms, but the length is not 
defined by boundaries. In some places the head-meer consists of three 
double measures, but has a width of fourteen fathoms and a length of 


Shape of a Head-Meer. 

In the same way, every other meer is composed of two measures, 
doubled in the same fashion, so that it is fourteen fathoms in width and 
of the same length. 



Shape of every other Meer. 

ditions, amounting to forfeiture for failure to operate the mine for a period of nine weeks. 
Space does not permit of tfie elaboration of the details of this subject, which we hope to 
pursue elsewhere in its many historical bearings. Among these we may mention that if the 
American "Apex law" is of English descent, it must be laid to the door of Derbyshire, and 
not of Cornwall, as is generally done. Our own behef, however, is that the American 
" apex " conception came straight from Germany. 

It is not our purpose to follow these inquiries into mining law beyond the 15th century, 
but we may point out that with the growth of the sentiment of individualism the miners and 
landlords obtained steadily wider and wider rights at the cost of the State, until well within 
the igth century. The growth of stronger communal sentiment since the middle of the last 
century has already found its manifestation in the legislation with regard to mines, for the 
laws of South Africa, Australia, and England, and the agitation in the United States are all 
toward greater restrictions on the mineral ownership in favour of the State. 

BOOK IV. 87 

Elsewhere every meer, whether a head-meer or other meer, comprises 
forty-two fathoms in width and as many in length. 

In other places the Bergmeister gives the owner or company all of some 
locality defined by rivers or little valleys as boundaries. But the boundaries 
of every such area of whatsoever shape it be, descend vertically into the 
earth ; so the owner of that area has a right over that part of any vena 
dilatata which Ues beneath the first one, just as the owner of the meer on 
a vena profimda has a right over so great a part of all other venae profundae 
as hes within the boundaries of his meer ; for just as wherever one vena 
profunda is found, another is found not far away, so wherever one vena 
dilatata is found, others are found beneath it. 

Finally, the Bergmeister divides veyia cumulata areas in different ways, 
for in some localities the head-meer is composed of three measures, doubled 
in such a way that it is fourteen fathoms wide and twenty-one long ; and 
every other meer consists of two measures doubled, and is square, that is, 
fourteen fathoms wide and as many long. In some places the head-meer 
is composed of three single measures, and its width is seven fathoms and 
its length twenty-one, which two numbers multiplied together make one 
hundred and forty-seven square fathoms. 




Shape of a Head-Meer. 

Each other meer consists of one double measure. In some places the 
head-meer is given the shape of a double measure, and every other meer that 
of a single measure. Lastly, in other places the owner or a company is given 
a right over some complete specified locality bounded by little streams, 
valleys, or other limits. Furthermore, all meers on venae cumulatae, as in 
the case of dilatatae, descend vertically into the depths of the earth, and 
each meer has the boundaries so determined as to prevent disputes arising 
between the owners of neighbouring mines. 

The boundary marks in use among miners formerly consisted only of 
stones, and from this their name was derived, for now the marks of a 
boundary are called " boundary stones." To-day a row of posts, made either 
of oak or pine, and strengthened at the top with iron rings to prevent them 
from being damaged, is fixed beside the boundary stones to make them 
more conspicuous. By this method in former times the boundaries of the 
fields were marked by stones or posts, not only as written of in the book " De 
Limitihus Agrorum,'"' but also as testified to by the songs of the poets. Such 

' ?De Limitibus et de Re Agraria of Sextus Julius Frontinus (about 50-90 a.d.) 

88 BOOK IV. 

then is the shape of the meers, varjdng in accordance with the different 
kinds of veins. 

Now tunnels are of two sorts, one kind having no right of property, the 
other kind having some Hmited right. For when a miner in some particular 
locality is unable to open a vein on account of a great quantity of water, he 
runs a wide ditch, open at the top and three feet deep, starting on the slope 
and running up to the place where the vein is found. Through it the water 
flows off, so that the place is made dry and fit for digging. But if it is not 
sufficiently dried by this open ditch, or if a shaft which he has now for 
the first time begun to sink is suffering from overmuch water, he goes to 
the Bergmeister and asks that official to give him the right for a tunnel. 
Having obtained leave, he drives the tunnel, and into its drains all the 
water is diverted, so that the place or shaft is made fit for digging. If 
it is not seven fathoms from the surface of the earth to the bottom of this 
kind of tunnel, the owner possesses no rights except this one : namely, that 
the owners of the mines, from whose leases the owner of the tunnel extracts 
gold or silver, themselves pay him the sum he expends within their meer in 
driving the tunnel through it. 

To a depth or height of three and a half fathoms above and below the 
mouth of the tunnel, no one is allowed to begin another tunnel. The reason 
for this is that this kind of a tunnel is liable to be changed into the other 
kind which has a complete right of property, when it drains the meers to a 
depth of seven fathoms, or to ten, according as the old custom in each place 
acquires the force of law. In such case this second kind of tunnel has the 
following right ; in the first place, whatever metal the owner, or company 
owning it, finds in any meer through which it is driven, all belongs to the 
tunnel owner within a height or depth of one and a quarter fathoms. In 
the years which are not long passed, the owner of a tunnel possessed all the 
metal which a miner standing at the bottom of the tunnel touched with 
a bar, whose handle did not exceed the customary length ; but nowadays 
a certain prescribed height and width is allowed to the owner of the tunnel, 
lest the owners of the mines be damaged, if the length of the bar be 
longer than usual. Further, every metal-yielding mine which is drained 
and supplied with ventilation by a tunnel, is taxed in the proportion of one- 
ninth for the benefit of the owner of the tunnel. But if several tunnels of 
this kind are driven through one mining area which is yielding metals, and 
all drain it and supply it with ventilation, then of the metal which is dug 
out from above the bottom of each tunnel, one-ninth is given to the owner of 
that tunnel ; of that which is dug out below the bottom of each tunnel, 
one-ninth is in each case given to the owner of the tunnel which follows 
next in order below. But if the lower tunnel does not yet drain the shaft of 
that meer nor supply it with ventilation, then of the metal which is dug out 
below the bottom of the higher tunnel, one-ninth part is given to the owner 
of such upper tunnel. Moreover, no one tunnel deprives another of its 
right to one-ninth part, unless it be a lower one, from the bottom of which 
to the bottom of the one above must not be less than seven or ten fathoms, 

BOOK IV. 89 

according as the king or prince has decreed. Further, of all the money 
which the owner of the tunnel has spent on his tunnel while driving it 
through a meer, the owner of that meer pays one-fourth part. If he does 
not do so he is not allowed to make use of the drains. 

Finally, with regard to whatever veins are discovered by the owner 
at whose expense the tunnel is driven, the right of which has not been 
already awarded to anyone, on the application of such owner the Bergmeister 
grants him a right of a head-meer, or of a head-meer together with the next 
meer. Ancient custom gives the right for a tunnel to be driven in any 
direction for an unlimited length. Further, to-day he who commences a 
tunnel is given, on his application, not only the right over the tunnel, but 
even the head and sometimes the next meer also. In former days the owner 
of the tunnel obtained only so much ground as an arrow shot from the bow 
might cover, and he was allowed to pasture cattle therein. In a case where 
the shafts of several meers on some vein could not be worked on account of 
the great quantity of water, ancient custom also allowed the Bergmeister to 
grant the right of a large meer to anyone who would drive a tunnel. When, 
however, he had driven a tunnel as far as the old shafts and had found 
metal, he used to return to the Bergmeister and request him to bound and 
mark off the extent of his right to a meer. Thereupon, the Bergmeister, 
together with a certain number of citizens of the town — in whose place 
Jurors have now succeeded — used to proceed to the mountain and mark off 
with boundary stones a large meer, which consisted of seven double 
measures, that is to say, it was ninety-eight fathoms long and seven wide, 
which two numbers multiplied together make six hundred and eighty-six 
square fathoms. 




Large Area. 

But each of these early customs has been changed, and we now employ 
the new method. 

I have spoken of tunnels ; I will now speak about the division of owner- 
ship in mines and tunnels. One owner is allowed to possess and to work 
one, two, three, or more whole meers, or similarly one or more separate 
tunnels, provided he conforms to the decrees of the laws relating to 
metals, and to the orders of the Bergmeister. And because he alone pro- 
vides the expenditure of money on the mines, if they yield metal he alone 
obtains the product from them. But when large and frequent expenditures 
are necessary in mining, he to whom the Bergmeister first gave the right 

90 BOOK IV. 

often admits others to share with him, and they join with him in forming a 
company, and they each lay out a part of the expense and share with him 
the profit or loss of the mine. But the title of the mines or tunnels remains 
undivided, although for the purpose of dividing the expense and profit it 
may be said each mine or tunnel is divided into parts®. 

This division is made in various ways. A mine, and the same thing 
must be understood with regard to a tunnel, may be divided into two halves, 
that is into two similar portions, by which method two owners spend 
an equal amount on it and draw an equal profit from it, for each possesses 
one half. Sometimes it is divided into four shares, by which compact 
four persons can be owners, so that each possesses one-fourth, or also two 
persons, so that one possesses three-fourths, and the other only one-fourth ; 
or three owners, so that the first has two-fourths, and the second and third 
one-fourth each. Sometimes it is divided into eight shares, by which plan 
there may be eight owners, so that each is possessor of one-eighth ; some- 
times there are two owners, so that one has five-sixths® together with one 
twenty-fourth, and the other one-eighth ; or there may be three owners, in 
which one has three-quarters and the second and third each one-eighth ; 
or it may be divided so that one owner has seven-twelfths, together with 
one twenty-fourth, a second owner has one-quarter, and a third owner has 
one-eighth ; or so that the first has one-half, the second one-third and one 
twenty-fourth, and the third one-eighth ; or so that the first has one-half, 
as before, and the second and third each one-quarter ; or so that the first 
and second each have one-third and one twenty-fourth, and the third one- 
quarter ; and in the same way the divisions may be adjusted in all the other 
proportions. The different ways of dividing the shares originate from the 
different proportions of ownership. Sometimes a mine is divided into 
sixteen parts, each of which is a twenty-fourth and a forty-eighth ; or it may 
be divided into thirty-two parts, each of which is a forty-eighth and half a 
seventy-second and a two hundred and eighty-eighth ; or into sixty-four 
parts of which each share is one seventy-second and one five hundred and 
seventy-sixth ; or finally, into one hundred and twenty-eight parts, any one 
of which is half a seventy-second and half of one five hundred and seventy- 

Now an iron mine either remains undivided or is divided into two, 
four, or occasionally more shares, which depends on the excellence of the 
veins. But a lead, bismuth, or tin mine, and likewise one of copper or even 
quicksilver, is also divided into eight shares, or into sixteen or thirty-two, 
and less commonly into sixty-four. The number of the divisions of the silver 
mines at Freiberg in Meissen did not formerly progress beyond this ; but 

^Such a form of ownership is very old. Apparently upon the instigation of Xenophon 
(see Note 7, p. 29) the Greeks formed companies to work the mines of Laurion, further 
information as to which is given in note 6, p. 27. Pliny (Note 7, p. 232) mentions the 
Company working the quicksilver mines in Spain. In fact, company organization was 
very common among the Romans, who speculated largely in the shares, especially in those 
companies which farmed the taxes of the provinces, or leased public lands, or took military 
and civil contracts. 

'The Latin text gives one-sixth, obviously an error. 

BOOK IV. 91 

within the memory of our fathers, miners have divided a silver mine, and 
similarly the tunnel at Schneeberg, first of all into one hundred and twenty- 
eight shares, of which one hundred and twenty-six are the property of 
private owners in the mines or tunnels, one belongs to the State and one 
to the Church ; while in Joachimsthal only one hundred and twent3'-two 
shares of the mines or tunnels are the property of private owners, four 
are proprietary shares, and the State and Church each have one in the 
same way. To these there has lately been added in some places one share 
for the most needy of the population, which makes one hundred and twenty- 
nine shares. It is only the private owners of mines who pay contributions. 
A proprietary holder, though he holds as many as four shares such as I have 
described, does not pay contributions, but gratuitiously supplies the owners 
of the mines with sufficient wood from his forests for timbering, machinery, 
buildings, and smelting ; nor do those belonging to the State, Church, and 
the poor pay contributions, but the proceeds are used to build or repair 
public works and sacred buildings, and to support the most needy with the 
profits which they draw from the mines. Furthermore, in our State, the 
one hundred and twenty-eighth share has begun to be divided into two, 
four, or eight parts, or even into three, six, twelve, or smaller parts. This 
is done when one mine is created out of two, for then the owner who formerly 
possessed one-half becomes owner of one-fourth ; he who possessed one- 
fourth, of one-eighth ; he who possessed one-third, of one-sixth ; he who 
possessed one-sixth, of one-twelfth. Since our countrymen caU a mine a 
symposium, that is, a drinking bout, we are accustomed to call the money which 
the owners subscribe a symholum, or a contribution^". For, just as those who 
go to a banquet [symposium) give contributions [symbola), so those who purpose 
making large profits from mining are accustomed to contribute toward the 
expenditure. However, the manager of the mine assesses the contributions 
of the owners annually, or for the most part quarterly, and as often he 
renders an account of receipts and expenses. At Freiberg in Meissen the 
old practice was for the manager to exact a contribution from the owners 
every week, and every week to distribute among them the profits of the 
mines, but this practice during almost the last fifteen years has been so far 
changed that contribution and distribution are made four^^ times each 
year. Large or small contributions are imposed according to the number 
of workmen which the mine or tunnel requires ; as a result, those who 
possess many shares provide many contributions. Four times a year the 
owners contribute to the cost, and four times during the year the profits of 
the mines are distributed among them ; these are sometimes large, some- 
times small, according as there is more or less gold or silver or other metal 
dug out. Indeed, from the St. George mine in Schneeberg the miners extracted 
so much silver in a quarter of a year that silver cakes, which were worth 

^°A symposium is a banquet, and a symbola is a contribution of money to a banquet. 
This sentence is probably a play on the old German Zeche, mine, this being also a term for 
a drinking bout. 

'^In the Latin text this is " three " — obviously an error. 

92 BOOK IV. 

1,100 Rhenish guldens, were distributed to each one hundred and twenty-eighth 
share. From the Annaberg mine which is known as the Himmelich Hoz, 
they had a dole of eight hundred thaler ; from a mine in Joachimsthal 
which is named the Sternen, three hundred thaler ; from the head mine at 
Abertham, which is called St. Lorentz, two hundred and twenty-five thaler^^. 
The more shares of which any individual is owner the more profits he takes. 
I will now explain how the owners may lose or obtain the right over a 
mine, or a tunnel, or a share. Formerly, if anyone was able to prove by 
witnesses that the owners had failed to send miners for three continuous 
shifts^', the Bergmeister deprived them of their right over the mine, and 
gave the right over it to the informer, if he desired it. But although miners 
preserve this custom to-day, still mining share owners who have paid 
their contributions do not lose their right over their mines against their will. 
Formerly, if water which had not been drawn off from the higher shaft of 
some mine percolated through a vein or stringer into the shaft of another 
mine and impeded their work, then the owners of the mine which suffered 
the damage went to the Bergmeister and complained of the loss, and he sent 
to the shafts two Jurors. If they found that matters were as claimed, 
the right over the mine which caused the injury was given to the owners 
who suffered the injury. But this custom in certain places has been changed, 
for the Bergmeister, if he finds this condition of things proved in the case 
of two shafts, orders the owners of the shaft which causes the injury to 
contribute part of the expense to the owners of the shaft which receives the 
injury ; if they fail to do so, he then deprives them of their right over their 
mine ; on the other hand, if the owners send men to the workings to dig 
and draw off the water from the shafts, they keep their right over their 
mine. Formerly owners used to obtain a right over any tunnel, firstly, if 
in its bottom they made drains and cleansed them of mud and sand so that 
the water might fiow out without any hindrance, and restored those drains 
which had been damaged ; secondly, if they provided shafts or openings to 
supply the miners with air, and restored those which had fallen in ; and 
finally, if three miners were employed continuously in driving the tunnel. 
But the principal reason for losing the title to a tunnel was that for a period 
of eight days no miner was employed upon it ; therefore, when anyone 
was able to prove by witnesses that the owners of a tunnel had not done 
these things, he brought his accusation before the Bergmeister, who, after 
going out from the town to the tunnel and inspecting the drains and the 
ventilating machines and everything else, and finding the charge to be true, 
placed the witness under oath, and asked him : " Whose tunnel is this at the 
present time ? " The witness would reply : " The King's " or " The 

i^See Note 9, p. 74, for further information with regard to these mines. The Rhenish 
gulden was about 6.9 shillings, or $i.56. Silver was worth about this amount per Troy 
ounce at this period, so that roughly, silver of a value of 1,100 gulden would be about 1,100 
Troy ounces. The Saxon thaler was worth about 4.64 shillings or about $1.11. The thaler, 
therefore, represented about .65 Troy ounces of silver, so that 300 thalers were about 
195 Troy ounces, and 225 thalers about 146 Troy ounces. 

^^Opera continens. The Glossary gives schicht, — the origin of the English " shift," 

BOOK IV. 93 

Prince's." Thereupon the Bergmeister gave the right over the tunnel to 
the first appUcant. This was the severe rule under which the owners at one 
time lost their rights over a tunnel ; but its severity is now considerably 
mitigated, for the owners do not now forthwith lose their right over a tunnel 
through not having cleaned out the drains and restored the shafts or 
ventilation holes which have suffered damage ; but the Bergmeister orders 
the tunnel manager to do it, and if he does not obey, the authorities fine 
the tunnel. Also it is sufficient for one miner to be engaged in driving the 
tunnel. Moreover, if the owner of a tunnel sets boundaries at a fixed spot 
in the rocks and stops driving the tunnel, he may obtain a right over it so 
far as he has gone, provided the drains are cleaned out and ventilation 
holes are kept in repair. But any other owner is allowed to start from the 
established mark and drive the tunnel further, if he pays the former owners 
of the tunnel as much money every three months as the Bergmeister decides 
ought to be paid. 

There remain for discussion, the shares in the mines and tunnels. 
Formerly if anybody conveyed these shares to anyone else, and the latter 
had once paid his contribution, the seller^* was bound to stand by his bargain, 
and this custom to-day has the force of law. But if the seller denied that the 
contribution had been paid, while the buyer of the shares declared that he could 
prove by witnesses that he had paid his contribution to the other proprietors, 
and a case arose for trial, then the evidence of the other proprietors carried 
more weight than the oath of the seller. To-day the buyer of the shares proves 
that he has paid his contribution by a document which the mine or tunnel 
manager always gives each one ; if the buyer has contributed no money 
there is no obligation on the seller to keep his bargain. Formerly, as I have 
said above, the proprietors used to contribute money weekly, but now con- 
tributions are paid four times each year. To-day, if for the space of a month 
anyone does not take proceedings against the seller of the shares for the con- 
tribution, the right of taking proceedings is lost. But when the Clerk has 
already entered on the register the shares which had been conveyed or 
bought, none of the owners loses his right over the share unless the money 
is not contributed which the manager of the mine or tunnel has demanded 
from the owner or his agent. Formerly, if on the application of the manager 
the owner or his agent did not pay, the matter was referred to the Berg- 
meister, who ordered the owner or his agent to make his contribution ; then 
if he failed to contribute for three successive weeks, the Bergmeister gave 
the right to his shares to the first applicant. To-day this custom is un- 
changed, for if owners fail for the space of a month to pay the contribu- 
tions which the manager of the mine has imposed on them, on a stated day 
their names are proclaimed aloud and struck off the Ust of owners, in 
the presence of the Bergmeister, the Jurors, the Mining Clerk, and the Share 
Clerk, and each of such shares is entered on the proscribed list. If, how- 

^^The terms in the Latin text are donator, a giver of a gift, and donatus, a receiver. It 
appears to us, however, that some consideration passed, and we have, therefore, used " seller " 
and " buyer." 

94 BOOK IV. 

ever, on the third, or at latest the fourth day, they pay their contributions 
to the manager of the mine or tunnel, and pay the money which is due from 
them to the Share Clerk, he removes their shares from the proscribed 
list. They are not thereupon restored to their former position unless the 
other owners consent ; in which respect the custom now in use differs from 
the old practice, for to-day if the owners of shares constituting anything 
over half the mine consent to the restoration of those who have been 
proscribed, the others are obliged to consent whether they wish to or not. 
Formerly, unless such restoration had been sanctioned by the approval of 
the owners of one hundred shares, those who had been proscribed were not 
restored to their former position. 

The procedure in suits relating to shares was formerly as follows : he 
who instituted a suit and took legal proceedings against another in respect 
of the shares, used to make a formal charge against the accused possessor 
before the Bergmeister. This was done either at his house or in some public 
place or at the mines, once each day for three days if the shares belonged to 
an old mine, and three times in eight days if they belonged to a head- 
meer. But if he could not find the possessor of the shares in these places, it 
was valid and effectual to make the accusation against him at the house of 
the Bergmeister. When, however, he made the charge for the third time, he 
used to bring with him a notary, whom the Bergmeister would interrogate : 
" Have I earned the fee ? " and who would respond : " You have earned 
it " ; thereupon the Bergmeister would give the right over the shares to him 
who made the accusation, and the accuser in turn would pay down the 
customary fee to the Bergmeister. After these proceedings, if the man whom 
the Bergmeister had deprived of his shares dwelt in the city, one of the 
proprietors of the mine or of the head-mine was sent to him to acquaint him 
with the facts, but if he dwelt elsewhere proclamation was made in some 
public place, or at the mine, openly and in a loud voice in the hearing of 
numbers of miners. Nowadays a date is defined for the one who is answer- 
able for the debt of shares or money, and information is given the accused 
by an official if he is near at hand, or if he is absent, a letter is sent him ; 
nor is the right over his shares taken from anyone for the space of one and 
a half months. So much for these matters. 

Now, before I deal with the methods which must be employed in 
working, I will speak of the duties of the Mining Prefect, the Bergmeister, 
the Jurors, the Mining Clerk, the Share Clerk, the manager of the mine 
or tunnel, the foreman of the mine or tunnel, and the workmen. 

To the Mining Prefect, whom the King or Prince appoints as his deputy, 
all men of all races, ages, and rank, give obedience and submission. He 
governs and regulates everything at his discretion, ordering those things 
which are useful and advantageous in mining operations, and prohibiting 
those which are to the contrary. He levies penalties and punishes offenders ; 
he arranges disputes which the Bergmeister has been unable to settle, and if 
even he cannot arrange them, he allows the owners who are at variance over 
some point to proceed to litigation ; he even lays down the law, gives orders 

BOOK IV. 95 

as a magistrato, or bids them leave their rights in abeyance, and he deter- 
mines the pay of persons who hold any post or office. He is present in 
person when the mine managers present their quarterly accounts of profits 
and expenses, and generally represents the King or Prince and upholds his 
dignity. The Athenians in this way set Thucydides, the famous historian, 
over the mines of Thasos'^. 

Next in power to the Mining Prefect comes the Bergmeisler, since he 
has jurisdiction over all who are connected with mines, with a few exceptions, 
which are the Tithe Gatherer, the Cashier, the Silver Refiner, the Master 
of the Mint, and the Coiners themselves. Fraudulent, negligent, or dissolute 
men he either throws into prison, or deprives of promotion, or fines ; 
of these fines, part is given as a tribute to those in power. When the mine 
owners have a dispute over boundaries he arbitrates it ; or if he cannot 
settle the dispute, he pronounces judgment jointly with the Jurors ; 
from them, however, an appeal lies to the Mining Prefect. He transcribes 
his decrees in a book and sets up the records in public. It is also his duty 
to grant the right over the mines to those who apply, and to confirm their 
rights ; he also must measure the mines, and fix their boundaries, and see 
that the mine workings are not allowed to become dangerous. Some of 
these duties he observes on fixed days ; for on Wednesday in the presence 
of the Jurors he confirms the rights over the mines which he has granted, 
settles disputes about boundaries, and pronounces judgments. On Mondays, 
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, he rides up to the mines, and dismounting 
at some of them explains what is required to be done, or considers the 
boundaries which are under controversy. On Saturday all the mine managers 
and mine foremen render an account of the money which they have spent 
on the mines during the preceding week, and the Mining Clerk transcribes 
this account into the register of expenses. Formerly, for one Principality 
there was one Bergmeister, who used to create all the judges and exercise 
jurisdiction and control over them ; for every mine had its own judge, 
just as to-day each locality has a Bergmeister in his place, the name alone 
being changed. To this ancient Bergmeister, who used to dwell at Freiberg in 
Meissen, disputes were referred ; hence right up to the present time the one 
at Freiberg still has the power of pronouncing judgment when mine owners 
who are engaged in disputes among themselves appeal to him. The old 
Bergmeister could try everything which was presented to him in any mine 
whatsoever ; whereas the judge could only try the things which were done 
in his own district, in the same way that every modern Bergmeister can. 

To each Bergmeister is attached a clerk, who writes out a schedule 
signifying to the applicant for a right over a mine, the day and hour on which 
the right is granted, the name of the applicant, and the location of the mine. 
He also affixes at the entrance to the mine, quarterly, at the appointed time, 
a sheet of paper on which is shown how much contribution must be paid to 
the manager of the mine. These notices are prepared jointly with the 

i^See Note 29, p. 23. 

96 BOOK IV. 

Mining Clerk, and in common they receive the fee rendered by the foremen 
of the separate mines. 

I now come to the Jurors, who are men experienced in mining 
matters and of good repute. Their number is greater or less as there 
are few or more mines ; thus if there are ten mines there wiU be five 
pairs of Jurors, like a decemviral college'-^. Into however many 
divisions the total number of mines has been divided, so many divisions 
has the body of Jurors ; each pair of Jurors usually visits some of 
the mines whose administration is under their supervision on every 
day that workmen are emploj^ed ; it is usually so arranged that they 
visit all the mines in the space of fourteen days. They inspect and con- 
sider all details, and deliberate and consult with the mine foreman on 
matters relating to the underground workings, machinery, timbering, and 
everything else. They also jointly with the mine foreman from time to 
time make the price per fathom to the workmen for mining the ore, fixing 
it at a high or low price, according to whether the rock is hard or soft ; if, 
however, the contractors find that an unforeseen and unexpected hardness 
occurs, and for that reason have difficulty and dela}' in carrying out their 
work, the Jurors allow them something in excess of the price fixed ; 
while if there is a softness by reason of water, and the work is done more 
easily and quickly, they deduct something from the price. Further, if the 
Jurors discover manifest negligence or fraud on the part of any foreman 
or workman, they first admonish or reprimand him as to his duties and 
obligations, and if he does not become more diligent and improve, the matter 
is reported to the Bergmeister, who by right of his authority deprives such 
persons of their functions and office, or, if they have committed a crime, 
throws them into prison. Lastly, because the Jurors have been given 
to the Bergmeister as councillors and advisors, in their absence he does not 
confirm the right over any mine, nor measure the mines, nor fix their 
boundaries, nor settle disputes about boundaries, nor pronounce judgment, 
nor, finally, does he without them listen to any account of profits and 

Now the Mining Clerk enters each mine in his books, the new mines 
in one book, the old mines which have been re-opened in another. This 
is done in the following way : first is written the name of the man who has 
applied for the right over the mine, then the day and hour on which he 
made his application, then the vein and the locality in which it is situated, 
next the conditions on which the right has been given, and lastly, the day on 
which the Bergmeister confirmed it. A document containing aU these 
particulars is also given to the person whose right over a mine has been 
confirmed. The Mining Clerk also sets down in another book the names 
of the owners of each mine over which the right has been confirmed ; 
in another any intermission of work permitted to any person for cer- 

^^Decemviri — " The Ten Men." The original Decemviri were a bod^' appointed by 
the Romans in 452 B.C., principally to codify the law. Such commissions were afterward 
instituted for other purposes, but the analogy of the above paragraph is a little remote. 

BOOK IV. 97 

tain reasons by the Bergmeistcr ; in another the money which one mine 
supphes to another for drawing off water or making machinery ; and in 
another the decisions of the Bergmeistcr and the Jurors, and the disputes 
settled by them as honorary arbitrators. All these matters he enters in the 
books on Wednesday of every week ; if holidays fall on that day he does it 
on the following Thursday. Every Saturday he enters in another book the 
total expenses of the preceding week, the account of which the mine manager 
has rendered ; but the total quarterly expenses of each mine manager, he 
enters in a special book at his own convenience. He enters similarly in 
another book a hst of owners who have been proscribed. Lastly, that no one 
may be able to bring a charge of falsification against him, all these books 
are enclosed in a chest with two locks, the key of one of which is kept by the 
Mining Clerk, and of the other by the Bergmeister. 

The Share Clerk enters in a book the owners of each mine whom 
the first finder of the vein names to him, and from time to time replaces the 
names of the sellers with those of the buyers of the shares. It sometimes 
happens that twenty or more owners come into the possession of some 
particular share. Unless, however, the seller is present, or has sent a letter 
to the Mining Clerk with his seal, or better still with the seal of the Mayor 
of the town where he dwells, his name is not replaced by that of anyone else ; 
for if the Share Clerk is not sufficiently cautious, the law requires him 
to restore the late owner whoUy to his former position. He writes out a 
fresh document, cmd in this way gives proof of possession. Four times a 
year, when the accounts of the quarterly expenditure are rendered, he 
names the new proprietors to the manager of each mine, that the manager 
may know from whom he should demand contributions and among whom 
to distribute the profits of the mines. For this work the mine manager pays 
the Clerk a fixed fee. 

I win now speak of the duties of the mine manager. In the case of the 
oviTiers of every mine which is not yielding metal, the manager announces 
to the proprietors their contributions in a document which is affixed to the 
doors of the town haU, such contributions being large or small, according as 
the Bergmeister and two Jurors determine. If anyone fails to pay these 
contributions for the space of a month, the manager removes their names 
from the hst of owners, and makes their shares the common property of the 
other proprietors. And so, whomsoever the mine manager names as not 
having paid his contribution, that same man the Mining Clerk designates 
in writing, and so also does the Share Clerk. Of the contribution, the 
mine manager appHes part to the payment of the foreman and workmen, 
and lays by a part to purchase at the lowest price the necessary things for 
the mine, such as iron tools, nails, firewood, planks, buckets, drawing-ropes, 
or grease. But in the case of a mine which is 5delding metal, the Tithe- 
gatherer pays the mine manager week by week as much money as suffices 
to discharge the workmen's wages and to provide the necessary implements 
for mming. The mine manager of each mine also, in the presence of its 
foreman, on Saturday in each week renders an account of his expenses to 


the Bergmeistcr and the Jurors, he renders an account of his receipts, 
whether the money has been contributed by the owners or taken from the 
Tithe-gatherer ; and of his quarterly expenditure in the same way 
to them and to the Mining Prefect and to the Mining Clerk, four 
times a year at the appointed time ; for just as there are four seasons 
of the year, namely, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, so there are 
fourfold accounts of profits and expenses. In the beginning of the first 
month of each quarter an account is rendered of the money which the 
manager has spent on the mine during the previous quarter, then of the 
profit which he has taken from it during the same period ; for example, 
the account which is rendered at the beginning of spring is an account of all 
the profits and expenses of each separate week of winter, which have been 
entered by the Mining Clerk in the book of accounts. If the manager 
has spent the money of the proprietors advantageously in the mine and 
has faithfully looked after it, everyone praises him as a diligent and honest 
man ; if through ignorance in these matters he has caused loss, he is generally 
deprived of his office ; if by his carelessness and negligence the owners have 
suffered loss, the Bergmeister compels him to make good the loss ; and finally, 
if he has been guilty of fraud or theft, he is punished with fine, prison, or 
death. Further, it is the business of the manager to see that the foreman 
of the mine is present at the beginning and end of the shifts, that he digs 
the ore in an advantageous manner, and makes the required timbering, 
machines, and drains. The manager also makes the deductions from the 
pay of the workmen whom the foreman has noted as negligent. Next, 
if the mine is rich in metal, the manager must see that its ore-house is closed 
on those days on which no work is performed ; and if it is a rich vein of gold 
or silver, he sees that the miners promptly transfer the output from the shaft 
or tunnel into a chest or into the strong room next to the house where the 
foreman dwells, that no opportunity for theft may be given to dishonest 
persons. This duty he shares in common with the foreman, but the one 
which follows is pecuharly his own. When ore is smelted he is present in 
person, and watches that the smelting is performed carefully and advan- 
tageously. If from it gold or silver is melted out, when it is melted in the 
cupellation furnace he enters the weight of it in his books and carries it 
to the Tithe-gatherer, who similarly writes a note of its weight in his books ; 
it is then conveyed to the refiner. When it has been brought back, both 
the Tithe-gatherer and manager again enter its weight in their books. Why 
again ? Because he looks after the goods of the owners just as if they were 
his own. Now the laws which relate to mining permit a manager to have 
charge of more than one mine, but in the case of mines yielding gold or 
silver, to have charge of only two. If, however, several mines following the 
head-mine begin to produce metal, he remains in charge of these others until 
he is freed from the duty of looking after them by the Bergmeister. Last of 
all, the manager, the Bergmeister, and the two Jurors, in agreement 
with the owners, settle the remuneration for the labourers. Enough of the 
duties and occupation of the manager. 

BOOK IV. qg 

I will now leave the manager, and discuss him who controls the workmen 
of the mine, who is therefore called the foreman, although some call him 
the watchman. It is he who distributes the work among the labourers, and 
sees diligently that each faithfully and usefully performs his duties. He 
also discharges workmen on account of incompetence, or negligence, and 
supphes others in their places if the two Jurors and manager give their 
consent. He must be skilful in working wood, that he may timber shafts, 
place posts, and make underground structures capable of supporting an under- 
mined mountain, lest the rocks from the hangingwall of the veins, not being 
supported, become detached from the mass of the mountain and over- 
whelm the workmen with destruction. He must be able to make and lay 
out the drains in the tunnels, into which the water from the veins, stringers, 
and seams in the rocks may collect, that it may be properly guided and 
can flow away. Further, he must be able to recognize veins and stringers, 
so as to sink shafts to the best advantage, and must be able to discern one 
kind of material which is mined from another, or to train his subordinates 
that they may separate the materials correctly. He must also be well 
acquainted with all methods of washing, so as to teach the washers how 
the metaUiferous earth or sand is washed. He supplies the miners with iron 
tools when they are about to start to work in the mines, and apportions a 
certain weight of oil for their lamps, and trains them to dig to the best 
advantage, and sees that they work faithfully. When their shift is finished, 
he takes back the oil which has been left. On account of his numerous and 
important duties and labours, only one mine is entrusted to one foreman, 
nay, rather sometimes two or three foremen are set over one mine. 

Since I have mentioned the shifts, I will briefly explain how these are 
carried on. The twenty-four hours of a day and night are divided into three 
shifts, and each shift consists of seven hours. The three remaining hours are 
intermediate between the shifts, and form an interval during which the 
workmen enter and leave the mines. The first shift begins at the fourth hour 
in the morning and lasts till the eleventh hour ; the second begins at the 
twelfth and is finished at the seventh ; these two are day shifts in the 
morning and afternoon. The third is the night shift, and commences at the 
eighth hour in the evening and finishes at the third in the morning. The 
Bergmeister does not allow this third shift to be imposed upon the workmen 
unless necessity demands it. In that case, whether they draw water from 
the shafts or mine the ore, they keep their vigil by the night lamps, and to 
prevent themselves falling asleep from the late hours or from fatigue, they 
lighten their long and arduous labours by singing, which is neither wholly 
untrained nor unpleasing. In some places one miner is not allowed to 
undertake two shifts in succession, because it often happens that he either 
falls asleep in the mine, overcome by exhaustion from too much labour, or 
arrives too late for his shift, or leaves sooner than he ought. Elsewhere he 
is allowed to do so, because he cannot subsist on the pay of one shift, 
especially if provisions grow dearer. The Bergmeister does not, however, 
forbid an extraordinary shift when he concedes only one ordinary shift. 

100 BOOK IV. 

When it is time to go to work the sound of a great bell, which the foreigners 
call a " campana," gives the workmen warning, and when this is heard they 
run hither and thither through the streets toward the mines. Similarly, 
the same sound of the bell warns the foreman that a shift has just been 
finished ; therefore as soon as he hears it, he stamps on the woodwork of the 
shaft and signals the workmen to come out. Thereupon, the nearest as soon 
as they hear the signal, strike the rocks with their hammers, and the sound 
reaches those who are furthest away. Moreover, the lamps show that the 
shift has come to an end when the oil becomes almost consumed and fails 
them. The labourers do not work on Saturdays, but buy those things which 
are necessary to life, nor do they usually work on Sundays or annual 
festivals, but on these occasions devote the shift to holy things. However, 
the workmen do not rest and do nothing if necessity demands their labour ; 
for sometimes a rush of water compels them to work, sometimes an impending 
fall, sometimes something else, and at such times it is not considered 
irreligious to work on holidays. Moreover, aU workmen of this class are 
strong and used to toil from birth. 

The chief kinds of workmen are miners, shovelers, windlass men, carriers, 
sorters, washers, and smelters, as to whose duties I will speak in the fol- 
lowing books, in their proper place. At present it is enough to add this one 
fact, that if the workmen have been reported by the foreman for negligence, 
the Bergmeister, or even the foreman himself, jointly with the manager, 
dismisses them from their work on Saturday, or deprives them of part of 
their pay ; or if for fraud, throws them into prison. However, the owners 
of works in which the metals are smelted, and the master of the smelter, look 
after their own men. As to the government and duties of miners, I have 
now said enough ; I will explain them more fully in another work entitled 
De Jure et Legibus MetalHcis^''. 

I'This work was apparently never published ; see Appendix A. 








N the last book I have explained the methods of 
delimiting the meers along each kind of vein, and 
the duties of mine officials. In this book^ I will 
in hke manner explain the principles of under- 
ground mining and the art of surveying. First 
then, I will proceed to deal with those matters 
which pertain to the former heading, since both the 
subject and methodical arrangement require it. 
And so I will describe first of all the digging of 
shafts, tunnels, and drifts on venae profundae ; next I will discuss the good 
indications shown by canales^, by the materials which are dug out, and by 
the rocks ; then I will speak of the tools by which veins and rocks are broken 
down and excavated ; the method by which fire shatters the hard veins ; 
and further, of the machines with which water is drawn from the shafts 
and air is forced into deep shafts and long tunnels, for digging is impeded 
by the inrush of the former or the failure of the latter ; next I will deal 
with the two kinds of shafts, and with the making of them and of tunnels ; 
and finally, I will describe the method of mining venae dilatatae, venae cumu- 
latae, and stringers. 

^It has been suggested that we should adopt throughout this volume the mechanical 
and mining terms used in English mines at Agricola's time. We believe, however, that but 
a little inquiry would illustrate the undcsirability of this course as a whole. Where there 
is choice in modern miner's nomenclature between an old and a modern term, we have leaned 
toward age, if it be a term generally understood. But except where the subject described 
has itself become obsolete, we have revived no obsolete terms. In substantiation of this 
view, we append a few examples of terms which served the English miner well for centuries, 
some of which are still extant in some local communities, yet we believe they would carry 
as little meaning to the average reader as would the reproduction of the Latin terms coined 
by Agricola. 


= A perpendicular vein. 


= Walls of the vein. 


= Cracks in the walls. 


= Gouge. 


= Outcrop. 


= Incline or underlay of the 



= Impoverishment of the vein. 


= A " horse " in a vein. 


= " Pinching " of a vein. 

Slough = 

Drainage tunnel. 


Lowest drift. 


Face of a drift or 






Grove = 


Dutins = 

Set of timber. 

Stemple = 

Post or stuU. 



stations of 

terms in this book 

we m 

= Drift. 

= Crosscut. 

= Hangingwall. 

= FootwaU. 

= Wall plate. 

= Lagging. 

= Hitches. 

cite : — 

Fossa laiens 

Fossa latens transversa 



Tigna per iniervalla posiia 

Arbores dissectae 


We have adopted the term " tunnel " for openings by way of outlet to the mine. 
The word in this narrow sense is as old as " adit," a term less expressive and not so generally 
used in the English-speaking mining world. We have for the same reason adopted the word 
" drift " instead of the term " level " so generally used in America, because that term alwaj's 
leads to confusion in discussion of mine surveys. We may mention, however, that the term 
" level " is a heritage from theDerbyshire mines, and is of an equally respectable age as "drift." 
*See note on p. 46-47. The canales, as here used, were the openings in the earth, in 
which minerals were deposited. 

102 BOOK V. 

Now when a miner discovers a vena profunda he begins sinking a shaft 
and above it sets up a windlass, and builds a shed over the shaft to prevent 
the rain from falling in, lest the men who turn the windlass be numbed 
by the cold or troubled by the rain. The windlass men also place their 
barrows in it, and the miners store their iron tools and other implements therein. 
Next to the shaft-house another house is built, where the mine foreman and the 
other workmen dwell, and in which are stored the ore and other things which 
are dug out. Although some persons build only one house, yet because 
sometimes boys and other living things fall into the shafts, most miners 
deliberately place one house apart from the other, or at least separate them 
by a wall. 

Now a shaft is dug, usually two fathoms long, two-thirds of a fathom 
wide, and thirteen fathoms deep ; but for the purpose of connecting with a 
tunnel which has already been driven in a hill, a shaft may be sunk to a 
depth of only eight fathoms, at other times to fourteen, more or less^. A 
shaft may be made vertical or inclined, accorchng as the vein which the 
miners foUow in the course of digging is vertical or inclined. A tunnel is a 
subterranean ditch driven lengthwise, and is nearly twice as high as it is 
broad, and wide enough that workmen and others may be able to pass and 
carry their loads. It is usually one and a quarter fathoms high, while 
its width is about three and three-quarters feet. Usually two workmen are 
required to drive it, one of whom digs out the upper and the other the lower 
part, and the one goes forward, while the other follows closely after. Each 
sits upon small boards fixed securely from the footwall to the hangingwall, 
or if the vein is a soft one, sometimes on a wedge-shaped plank fixed on to the 
vein itself. Miners sink more inclined shafts than vertical, and some of each 
kind do not reach to tunnels, while some connect with them. But as for 
some shafts, though they have already been sunk to the required depth, 
the tunnel which is to pierce the mountain may not yet have been driven 
far enough to connect with them. 

It is advantageous if a shaft connects with a tunnel, for then the miners 
and other workmen carry on more easily the work they have undertaken ; 
but if the shaft is not so deep, it is usual to drift from one or both sides of it. 
From these openings the owner or foreman becomes acquainted with the 
veins and stringers that unite with the principal vein, or cut across it, or 

'This statement, as will appear by the description later on, refers to the depth of 
winzes or to the distance between drifts, that is " the lift." We have not, 

however, been justified in using the term "winze," because some of these were openings 
to the surface. As showing the considerable depth of shafts in Agricola's time, 
we may q^uote the following from Bermannus (p. 442) : " The depths of our shafts 
" forced us to invent hauling machines suitable for them. There are some of them 
" larger and more ingenious than this one, for use in deep shafts, as, for instance, 
" those in my native town of Geyer, but more especially at Schneeberg, where the 
" shaft of the mine from which so much treasure was taken in our memory has reached the 
" depth of about 200 fathoms (feet ?), wherefore the necessity of this kind of machinery. 
" Naevius : What an enormous depth ! Have you reached the Inferno ? Bermannus : Oh, 
" at Kuttenberg there are shafts more than 500 fathoms (feet ?) deep. Naevius : And 
" not yet reached the Kingdom of Pluto ? " It is impossible to accept these as fathoms, 
as this would in the last case represent 3,000 feet vertically. The expression used, however, 
for fathoms is passus. presumably the Roman measure equal to 58'i inches. 



divide it obliquely ; howcviT, my discourse is now concerned mainly with 
vena pro/ioulu, but most of all with the metallic material which it contains. 

Three vertical shafts, of which the first, A, does not reach the tunnel ; the 


DRIVEN. D — Tunnel. 

104 BOOK V. 

Excavations of this kind were called by the Greeks Kpu-jnai for, extending 
along after the manner of a tunnel, they are entirely hidden within the 

Three inxlined shafts, of which A does not yet reach the tunnel ; B reaches the 
tunnel; to the third, C, the tunnel has not yet been driven. D — Tunnel. 



ground. This kind of an opening, however, differs from a tunnel in that it 
is d irk thnmtthout its li ne;th whereas a tunnel has a mouth open to di\lii,ht 

A— Shaet, B, C — Drift. D— Another shaft. E — Tunnel, F— Mouth of tunnel. 

io6 BOOK V. 

I have spoken of shafts, tunnels, and drifts. I will now speak of the 
indications given by the canales, by the materials which are dug out, and by 
the rocks. These indications, as also many others which I will explain, are 
to a great extent identical in venae dilatatae and venae cii^nulatae with venae 

When a stringer junctions with a main vein and causes a swelling, a 
shaft should be sunk at the junction. But when we find the stringer inter- 
secting the main vein crosswise or obliquely, if it descends vertically down 
to the depths of the earth, a second shaft should be sunk to the point where 
the stringer cuts the main vein ; but if the stringer cuts it obliquely the 
shaft should be two or three fathoms back, in order that the junction may 
be pierced lower down. At such junctions lies the best hope of finding the 
ore for the sake of which we explore the ground, and if ore has already been 
found, it is usually found in much greater abundance at that spot. Again, 
if several stringers descend into the earth, the miner, in order to pierce 
through the point of contact, should sink the shaft in the midst of these 
stringers, or else calculate on the most prominent one. 

Since an inclined vein often lies near a vertical vein, it is advisable 
to sink a shaft at the spot where a stringer or cross-vein cuts them both ; 
or where a vena dilatata or a stringer dilatata passes through, for minerals 
are usually found there. In the same way we have a good prospect of finding 
metal at the point where an inclined vein joins a vertical one ; this is why 
miners cross-cut the hangingwall or footwall of a main vein, and in these 
openings seek for a vein which may junction with the principal vein a few 
fathoms below. Nay, further, these same miners, if no stringer or cross- 
vein intersects the main vein so that they can follow it in their workings, 
even cross-cut through the solid rock of the hangingwall or footwall. These 
cross-cuts are likewise called " Kprnm!," whether the beginning of the 
opening which has to be undertaken is made from a tunnel or from a drift. 
Miners have some hope when only a cross vein cuts a main vein. Further, 
if a vein which cuts the main vein obliquely does not appear anywhere 
beyond it, it is advisable to dig into that side of the main vein toward which 
the oblique vein inclines, whether the right or left side, that we may ascer- 
tain if the main vein has absorbed it ; if after cross-cutting six fathoms it 
is not found, it is advisable to dig on the other side of the main vein, that 
we maj' know for certain whether it has carried it forward. The owners 
of a main vein can often dig no less profitably on that side where the vein 
which cuts the main vein again appears, than where it first cuts it ; the 
owners of the intersecting vein, when that is found again, recover their title, 
which had in a measure been lost. 

The common miners look favourably upon the stringers which come 
from the north and join the main vein ; on the other hand, they look 
unfavourably upon those which come from the south, and say that these do 
much harm to the main vein, while the former improve it. But I think 
that miners should not neglect either of them : as I showed in Book III, 
experience does not confirm those who hold this opinion about veins, so now 



again I could furnish examples of each kind of stringers rejected by the 
common miners which have proved good, but I know this could be of little 
or no benefit to posterity. 

If the miners find no stringers or veins in the hanging wall or foot wall of 
the main vein, and if they do not find much ore, it is not worth while to 
undertake the labour of sinking another shaft. Nor ought a shaft to be sunk 
where a vein is divided into two or three parts, unless the indications are 
satisfactory that those parts may be united and joined together a little later. 
Further, it is a bad indication for a vein rich in mineral to bend and turn 
hither and thither, for unless it goes down again into the ground vertically or 
incHned, as it first began, it produces no more metal ; and even though it 
does go down again, it often continues barren. Stringers which in their 
outcrops bear metals, often disappoint miners, no metal being found in depth. 
Further, inverted seams in the rocks are counted among the bad indications. 

The miners hew out the whole of solid veins when they show clear evidence 
of being of good quality ; similarly they hew out the drusy* veins, 
especially if the cavities are plainly seen to have formerly borne metal, or 
if the cavities are few and small. They do not dig barren veins through 
which water flows, if there are no metallic particles showing ; occasionally, 
however, they dig even barren veins which are free from water, because 
of the pyrites which is devoid of all metal, or because of a fine black soft 
substance which is Hke wool. They dig stringers which are rich in metal, 
or sometimes, for the purpose of searching for the vein, those that are devoid 
of ore which lie near the hangingwall or footwall of the main vein. This 
then, generally speaking, is the mode of deaHng with stringers and veins. 

Let us now consider the metallic material which is found in the canales 
of venae frofundae, venae dilatatae, and venae cumulatae, being in all these 
either cohesive and continuous, or scattered and dispersed among them, 
or swelling out in bell5dng shapes, or found in veins or stringers which 
originate from the main vein and ramify like branches ; but these latter veins 
and stringers are very short, for after a little space they do not appear again. 
If we come across a small quantity of metallic material it is an indication ; 
but if a large quantity, it is not an " indication," but the very thing for 
which we explore the earth. As soon as a miner who searches for veins 
discovers pure metal or minerals, or rich metallic material, or a great 
abundance of material which is poor in metal, let him sink a shaft on the 
spot without any delay. If the material appears more abundant or of better 
quality on the one side, he will incline his digging in that direction. 

Gold, silver, copper, and quicksilver are often found native^ ; less 
often iron and bismuth ; almost never tin and lead. Nevertheless tin-stone 
is not far removed from the pure white tin which is melted out of them, and 
galena, from which lead is obtained, differs little from that metal itself. 

Now we may classify gold ores. Next after native gold, we come to the 

*Cavernos. The Glossary gives drusen, our word drusy having had this origin. 
^Purum, — " pure." Interpretatio gives the German as gedigen, — " native." 



rudis*, of yellowish green, yellow, purple, black, or outside red and inside 
gold colour. These must be reckoned as the richest ores, because the gold 
exceeds the stone or earth in weight. Next come all gold ores of which each 
one hundred librae contains more than three unciae of gold' ; for although but 
a small proportion of gold is found in the earth or stone, yet it equals in value 
other metals of greater weight.* All other gold ores are considered poor, because 

'Rudis, — " Crude." By this expression the author really means ores very rich in 
any designated metal. In many cases it serves to indicate the minerals of a given metal, as 
distinguished from the metal itself. Our system of mineralogy obviously does not afford an 
acceptable equivalent. Agricola {De Nat. Foss., p. 360) says : "I find it necessary to call 
" each genus (of the metallic minerals) by the name of its own metal, and to this I add a 
" word which differentiates it from the pure (puro) metal, whether the latter has been mined 
" or smelted ; so I speak of rudis gold, silver, quicksilver, copper, tin, bismuth, lead, or iron. 
" This is not because I am unaware that Varro called silver rudis which had not yet been 
" refined and stamped, but because a word which will distinguish the one from the other is 
" not to be found." 

'The reasons for retaining the Latin weights are given in the Appendix on Weights 
and Measures. A centumpondium weighs 70.6 lbs. avoirdupois, an uncia 412.2 Troy 
grains, therefore, this value is equal to 72 ounces 18 pennyweights per short ton. 

^Agricola mentions many minerals in De Re Metallica. but without such description 
as would make possible a hazard at their identity. From his De Natura Fossilium, however, 
and from other mineralogies of the l6th Century, some can be fully identified and others 
surmised. While we consider it desirable to set out the probable composition of these 
minerals, on account of the space required, the reasons upon which our' opinion has been based 
cannot be given in detail, as that would require extensive quotations. In a general way, we 
have throughout the text studiously evaded the use of modern mineralogical terms — unless 
the term used to-day is of Agricola's age — and have adopted either old English terms of 
pre-chemistry times or more loose terms used by common miners. Obviously modern 
mineralogic terms imply a precision of knowledge not existing at that period. It must not 
be assumed that the following is by any means a complete list of the minerals described by 
Agricola, but they include most of those referred to in this chapter. His system of min- 
eralogy v/e have set out in note 4, p. i, and it requires no further comment here. The 
grouping given below is simply for convenience and does not follow Agricola's method. Where 
possible, we tabulate in columns the Latin term used in De Re Metallica; the German equiv- 
alent given by the Author in either the Interpretatio or the Glossary ; our view of the probable 
modern equivalent based on investigation of his other works and other ancient mineralogies, 
and lastly the terms we have adopted in the text. The German spelling is that given in the 
original. As an indication of Agricola's position as a mineralogist, we mark with an asterisk 
the minerals which were first specifically described by him. We also give some notes on 
matters of importance bearing on the nomenclature used in De Re Metallica. Historical notes 
on the chief metals will be found elsewhere, generally with the discussion of smelting methods. 
We should not omit to express our indebtedness to Dana's great " System of Mineralogy," 
in the matter of correlation of many old and modern minerals. 

Gold Minerals. Agricola apparently believed that there were various gold 
minerals, green, yellow, purple, black, etc. There is nothing, however, in his works that 
permits of any attempt to identify them, and his classification seems to rest on gangue 

Silver Minerals. 
Argentum purum in venis 

reperitur . . . . Gedigen silber 

Argentum rude . . . . Gedigen silber eriz . . 

Argentum rude plumbei 
coloris . . 

Argentum rude rubrum . . 

Argentum rude rubrum 

translucidum . . 
Argentum rude album 

Glas ertz 
Rot gold ertz 

Durchsichtig rod 
gulden ertz . . 

Weis rod gulden ertz : 
Dan es ist frisch wie 
offtmals rod gulden 
ertz pfleget zusein . . 




(Ag3 As S3 ) 

•Native silver 
Rudis silver, or 
pure silver 

*Silver glance 

*Red silver 

♦Ruby silver 

White silver 



the earth or stone too far outweighs the gold. A vein which contains a 
larger proportion of silver than of gold is rarely found to be a rich one. 
Earth, whether it be dry or wet, rarely abounds in gold ; but in dry earth 
there is more often found a greater quantity of gold, especially if it has the 

Part Bromyrite 
(Ag Br) 

Part Cerargurite 
(Ag CI) (Horn 
Silver) Part 


Yellow silver 

*Grey silver 

*BIack silver 

*Purple silver 

Atgentum rude jecoris Gedigen leberfarbig 

colore . . . . . . ertz . . 

Atgentum rude liUeum . . Gedigen geelertz 

Argentum rude cineraceum Gedigen graw ertz 

Argentitm rude nigrum . . Gedigen schwartz ertz 

Argentum rude furpureum Gedigen braun ertz . . 

The last six may be in part also alteration products from all silver minerals. 

The reasons for indefiniteness in determination usually lie in the failure of ancient 
authors to give sufficient or characteristic descriptions. In many cases Agricola is sufficiently 
definite as to assure certainty, as the following description of what we consider to be silver 
glance, from De Nalura Fossilium (p. 360), will indicate : " Lead-coloured rudis silver is 
" called by the Germans from the word glass {glaseriz), not from lead. Indeed, it has 
" the colour of the latter or of galena (plumbago), but not of glass, nor is it transparent 
" like glass, which one might indeed expect had the name been correctly derived. This 
" mineral is occasionally so like galena in colour, although it is darker, that one who is not 
" experienced in minerals is unable to distinguish between the two at sight, but in substance 
"they differ greatly from one another. Nature has made this kind of silver out of a little 
" earth and much silver. Whereas galena consists of stone and lead containing some silver. 
" But the distinction between them can be easily determined, for galena may be ground 
" to powder in a mortar with a pestle, but this treatment flattens out this kind of rudis silver. 
" Also galena, when struck by a mallet or bitten or hacked with a knife, splits and breaks to 
" pieces ; whereas this silver is malleable under the hammer, may be dented by the teeth, 
" and cut with a knife." 

Copper Minerals. 
Aes piirum fossile Gedigen kupfer 

Aes rude plumhei 


Pyrites aurei 

Pyrites aerosols . . 

Lapis aerarius . . 
Aes caldarium 
rubrum fuscum 
Aes sui coloris . . 
Aes nigrum 

Kupferglas ertz 
Rodt atrament 

Geelkis oder 


Kupfer ertz 

Lebeter kupfer 

Schwartz kupfer 

Native copper 

Chalcocite (CU2S) 

A decomposed copper 

or iron sulphide 
Part chalcopyrite (Cu 
Fe S) part bornite 
(Cu3FeS3) .. 
I Part chrysocolla 
( Part Malachite 

When used for an ore, is 
probably cuprite . . 

Native copper 

*Copper glance 
Chalcitis (see notes 
on p. 573) 

Copper pyrites 


Chrysocolla (see 
note 7, p. 560) 
Copper ore 

*Ruby copper ore 

Probably CuO from 
oxidation of other 
minerals . . . . *Black copper 

In addition to the above the Author uses the following, which were in the main 
artificial products : 

Aes luteum 
Aes caldarium . 
Aeris squama . 

caeruleum or 
chalcanthum . 

Griinspan oder 
Gelfar kupfer 


Impure blister copper 

Cupric oxide scales . . 

Blaw kupfer wasser Chalcanthite 

( Unrefined copper 
1 (see note 16, p. 511) 
j Copper flower 
1 Copper scale (see 
note 9, p. 233) 

Native blue vitriol 
(see note on p. 572) 

no BOOK V. 

appearance of having been melted in a furnace, and if it is not lacking in 
scales resembling mica. The soUdified juices, azure, chrysocolla, orpiment, 
and realgar, also frequently contain gold. Likewise native or rudis gold is 
found sometimes in large, and sometimes in small quantities in quartz, 

Blue and green copper minerals were distinguished by all the ancient mineralogists. 
Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Pliny, etc., all give sufficient detail to identify their cyanus and 
caendeum partly with modern azurite, and their chrysocolla partly with the modern mineral 
of the same name. However, these terms were also used for vegetable pigments, as well 
as for the pigments made from the minerals. The Greek origin of chrysocolla {chrusos, gold 
and kolla, solder) may be blamed with another and distinct line of confusion, in that this 
term has been applied to soldering materials, from Greek down to modern times, some of the 
ancient mineralogists even asserting that the copper mineral chrysocolla was used for this 
purpose. Agricola uses chrysocolla for borax, but is careful to state in every case (see note 
XX., p. x) : " Chrysocolla made from nitrum," or " Chrysocolla which the Moors call Borax." 
Dioscorides and Pliny mention substances which were evidently copper sulphides, but no 
description occurs prior to Agricola that permits a hazard as to different species. 

Lead Minerals. 
Plumbarius lapis Glanlz . . _ . . Galena . . . . Galena 

Galena . . . . Glantz und pleieriz Galena . . . . Galena 

Plumbum nigrum \ 

lutei coloris . . [ Pleieriz oder pleischweis Cerussite (Pb CO3) . . Yellow lead ore 

Plumbago metallica I 

Cerussa .. Pleiweis .. .. Artificial White-lead. . White-lead (see 

Ochra facticia _ note 4, p. 440) 

or ochra plumbaria Pleigeel . . . . Massicot (Pb O) . . ' *Lead-ochre (see 

note 8, p. 232) 
Molybdaena .. l^erdplei .. .. Part litharge . . .. Hearth-lead (see 

Plumbago jornacis 1 '^ ° note 37, p. 476) 

Spuma argenti . . | ^^^^^ _ _ Litharge . . . . Litharge (see note 

Lithargyrum . . I ° on p. 465) 

Minium secundarium Menning .. .. Minium (Pbj O4 ) . .' Red-lead (see note 

7. P- 232) 

So far as we can determine, all of these except the first three were believed by Agricola 
to be artificial products. Of the first three, galena is certain enough, but while he obviously 
was familiar with the alteration lead products, his descriptions are inadequate and much 
confused with the artificial oxides. Great confusion arises in the ancient mineralogies over 
the terms molvbdaena, plumbago, plumbum, galena, and spuma argenii, all of which, from 
Roman mineralogists down to a century after Agricola, were used for lead in some form. Further 
discussion of such confusion will be found in note 37, p. 476. Agricola in Bermannus and 
De Natura Fossilium, devotes pages to endeavouring to reconcile the ancient usages of these 
terms, and all the confusion e.xisting in Agricola's time was thrice confounded when the 
names molybdaena and plumbago were assigned to non-lead minerals. 

Tin. Agricola knew only one tin mineral : Lapilli nigri ex quibus conflatur plumbum 
candidum, i.e., " Little black stones from which tin is smelted," and he gives the German 
equivalent as zwittcr, " tinstone." He describes them as being of different colours, but 
probably due to external causes. 

Antimo.njy. (Interpretatio, — spiesglas.) The stibi or stibium of Agricola was no 
doubt the sulphide, and he follows Dioscorides in dividing it into male and female species. 
This distinction, however, is impossible to apply from the inadequate descriptions given. 
The mineral and metal known to Agricola and his predecessors was almost always the sulphide, 
and we have not felt justified in using the term antimony alone, as that implies the refined 
product, therefore, we have adopted either the Latin term or the old English term " grey 
antimony." The smelted antimony of commerce sold under the latter term was the 
sulphide. For further notes see p. 428. 

Bismuth*. Plumbum cinereum (Interpretatio, — bismut). Agricola states that this 
mineral occasionally occurs native, " but more often as a mineral of another colour " (De 
Nat. Fos., p. 337), and he also describes its commonest form as black or grey. This, 
considering his localities, would indicate the sulphide, although he assigns no special name to 
it. Although bismuth is mentioned before Agricola in the Nutzliche Bergbikhlin, he was the 
first to describe it (see p. 433). 

Quicksilver. Apart from native quicksilver, Agricola adequately describes cinna- 
bar only. The term used by him for the mineral is minium nativum (Interpretatio, — 
bergzinober or cinnabaris). He makes the curious statement (De Nat. Fos. p. 335) that rudis 
quicksilver also occurs liver-coloured and blackish, — probably gangue colours. (See p. 432). 

BOOK V. Ill 

schist, marble, and also in stone which easily melts in fire of the second 
degree, and which is sometimes so porous that it seems completely decom- 
posed. Lastly, gold is found in pyrites, though rarely in large quantities. 
When considering silver ores other than native silver, those ores are 

Arsenical Minerals. Metallic arsenic was unknown, although it has been main- 
tained that a substance mentioned by Albertus Magnus {De Rebus Melnllicis) was the 
metallic form. Agricola, who was familiar witli all Albcrtus's writings, makes no mention 
of it. and it appears to us that the statement of Albertus referred only to the oxide from 
sublimation. Our word " arsenic " obviously takes root in the Greek for orpiment, which 
was also used by Pliny (xxxiv, 56) as arrhcnicum, and later was modified to arsenicum 
by the Alchemists, who applied it to the oxide. Agricola gives the following in Bermannus (p. 
448), who has been previously discussing realgar and orpiment : — " Ancon : Avicenna 
" also has a white variety. Bermannus. : I cannot at all believe in a mineral of a white 
" colour ; perhaps he was thinking of an artificial product ; there are two which the Alchemists 
" make, one yellow and the other white, and they are accounted the most powerful poisons 
" to-day, and are called only by the name arsenicum." In De Natura Fossilium (p. 219) is 
described the making of "the white variety" by sublimating orpiment, and also it is noted 
that realgar can be made from orpiment by heating the latter for five hours in a sealed 
crucible. In De Re Metallica (Book X.), he refers to auripigmenlitm faclicum, and no doubt 
means the realgar made from orpiment. The four minerals of arsenic base mentioned by 
Agricola were : — 

Operment . . Orpiment (As2 S3 ) . . Orpiment 

Rosgeel . . Realgar (As S) . . Realgar 

Arsenik .. Artificial arsenical oxide White arsenic 


Lapis subrulilus aique 
. splendens 



Arsenopyrite (Fe As S) 
We are somewhat uncertain as to the identification of the last. The yellow and red sul- 
phides, however, were well known to the Ancients, and are described by Aristotle, Theophrastus 
(71 and 89), Dioscorides (v, 81), Pliny (xxxm, 22, etc.) ; and Strabo (xii, 3, 40) mentions 
a mine of them near Pompeiopolis, where, because of its poisonous character none but slaves 
were employed. The Ancients believed that the yellow sulphide contained gold — hence 
the name auripigmentum, and Pliny describes the attempt of the Emperor Caligula to extract 
the gold from it, and states that he did obtain a small amount, but unprofitably. So late 
a mineralogist as Hill (1750) held this view, which seemed to be general. Both realgar and 
orpiment were important for pigments, medicinal purposes, and poisons among the Ancients. 
In addition to the above, some arsenic-cobalt minerals are included under cadmia. 

Iron Minerals. 
Ferrum purum 
Terra ferria . . 
Ferri vena 
Galenae gettus tertium 

omnis metalli 


Ferri vena jecoris 


Ochra nativa . . 

Gedigen eisen. 
Eisen erlz 
Eisen ertz 

Haematites . . 

Pyrites argenti coloris 

Misy .. 

Sory . . 

Eisen glantz . . 
Glaskopfe oder 

Leber ertz 
Rilst . . 
Siegelstein oder 

Berg geel 

BlUt stein 

Glas kopfe 
wasser oder 

weisser kis . . 
Gel atrameni . . 

Native iron 

Various soft and hard 
iron ores, probably 
mostly hematite . . 

♦Native iron 


Part limonite 


Part hematite 
Part jasper 
Part limonite . . 

Part copiapite 

Graw und Partly a decomposed 

Schwartz atrament iron pyrite . . 

Melanteria . . . . Schwartz und Melanterite (native 

grau atrameni vitriol) 

The classification of iron ores on the basis of exterior characteristics, 

Iron rust 

Yellow ochre or 

Bloodstone or 


*White iron pjn-ites 
Misy (see note on 

P- 373) 
Sory (see note on 

P- 573) 
Melanteria (see 
note on p. 573) 
chiefly hardness and 

112 BOOK V. 

classified as rich, of which each one hundred librae contains more than three 
librae of silver. This quality comprises rudis silver, whether silver glance or 
ruby silver, or whether white, or black, or grey, or purple, or yellow, or liver- 
brilliancy, does not justify a more narrow rendering than " ironstone." Agricola (De Nat. 
Fos., Book V.) gives elaborate descriptions of various iron ores, but the descriptions under 
any special name would cover many actual minerals. The subject of pyrites is a most con- 
fused one ; the term originates from the Greek word for fire, and referred in Greek and 
Roman times to almost any stone that would strike sparks. By Agricola it was a generic 
term in somewhat the same sense that it is still used in mineralogj', as, for instance, iron 
pyrite, copper pyrite, etc. So much was this the case later on, that Henckel, the leading 
mineralogist of the iSth Century, entitled his large volume Pyritologia, and in it embraces 
practically all the sulphide minerals then known. The term marcasite, of medijeval Arabic 
origin, seems to have had some vogue prior and subsequent to Agricola. He, however, puts 
it on one side as merely a synonym for pyrite, nor can it be satisfactorily defined in much 
better terms. Agricola apparently did not recognise the iron base of pyrites, for he says 
(De Nat. Fos., p. 366) : " Sometimes, however, pyrites do not contain any gold, silver, copper, 
" or lead, and yet it is not a pure stone, but a compound, and consists of stone and a substance 
" which is somewhat metallic, which is a species of its own." Many varieties were known 
to him and described, partly by their other metal association, but chiefly by their colour. 

Cadmia. The minerals embraced under this term by the old mineralogists form 
one of the most difficult chapters in the history of mineralogy. These complexities reached 
their height with Agricola, for at this time various new minerals classed under this heading 
had come under debate. All these minerals were later found to be forms of zinc, cobalt, or 
arsenic, and some of these minerals were in use long prior to Agricola. From Greek and 
Roman times down to long after Agricola, brass was made by cementing zinc ore with 
copper. Aristotle and Strabo mention an earth used to colour copper, but give no details. 
It is difficult to say what zinc mineral the cadmium of Dioscorides (v, 46) and Pliny 
(xxxiv, 2), really was. It was possibly only furnace calamine, or perhaps blende, for it was 
associated with copper. They amply describe cadmia produced in copper furnaces, and 
poinpholyx (zinc oxide). It was apparently not until Theophilus (1150) that the term 
calamina appears for that mineral. Precisely when the term " zinc," and a knowledge of 
the metal, first appeared in Europe is a matter of some doubt ; it has been attributed to 
Paracelsus, a contemporary of Agricola (see note on p. 409), but we do not believe that author's 
work in question was printed until long after. The quotations from Agricola given below, in 
which zincum is mentioned in an obscure way, do not appear in the first editions of these 
works, but only in the revised edition of 1559. In other words, Agricola himself only learned 
of a substance under this name a short period before his death in 1555. The metal was 
imported into Europe from China prior to this time. He however does describe actual 
metallic zinc under the term conterfei, and mentions its occurrence in the cracks of furnace 
walls. (See also notes on p. 409). 

The word cobalt (German kohelt) is from the Greek word cobalos, " mime," and its 
German form was the term for gnomes and goblins. It appears that the German minars, 
finding a material (Agricola's "corrosive material") which injured their hands and feet, con- 
nected it with the goblins, or used the term as an epithet, and finally it became established 
for certain minerals (see note 21, p. 214, on this subject). The first written appearance of the 
term in connection with minerals, appears in Agricola's Ber^nannus (1530). The first 
practical use of cobalt was in the form of zaffre or cobalt blue. There seems to be no mention 
of the substance by the Greek or Roman writers, although analyses of old colourings show 
some traces of cobalt, but whether accidental or not is undetermined. The first mention 
we know of, was by Biringuccio in 1540 {De La Piroiechnica, Book 11, Chap, ix.), who did 
not connect it with the minerals then called cohalt or cadmia. " Zaffera is another mineral 
" substance, like a metal of middle weight, which will not melt alone, but accompanied 
" by vitreous substances it melts into an azure col-iur so that those who colour glass, or 
" paint vases or glazed earthenware, make use of it. Not only does it serve for the above- 
" mentioned operations, but if one uses too great a quantity of it, it will be black and all other 
" colours, according to the quantity used." Agricola, although he does not use the word 
zaffre, does refer to a substance of this kind, and in any event also missed the relation 
between zaffre and cobalt, as he seems to think (De Nat. Fos., p. 347) that zaffre came from 
bismuth, a belief that existed until long after his time. The cobalt of the Erzgebirge was 
of course, intimately associated with this mineral. He says, " the slag of bismuth, mixed 
" together with metalliferous substances, which when melted make a kind of glass, will tint 
" glass and earthenware vessels blue." Zaffre is the roasted mineral ground with sand, while 
smalt, a term used more frequently, is the fused mixture with sand. 

The following are the substances mentioned by Agricola, which, we believe, relate 
to cobalt and zinc minerals, some of them arsenical compounds. Other arsenical minerals 
we give above. 



coloured, or any other. Sometimes quartz, schist, or marble is of this quality 
also, if much native or mdis silver adheres to it. But that ore is considered 
of poor quality if three librae of silver at the utmost are found in each 
one hundred librae of it®. Silver ore usually contains a greater quantity 

Cadmia fossilis 

Cadmia metallica . . 
Cadmia fornacis . . 

Bituminosa cadmia 

Galena inaiiis 
Cohalium cincraceuin 
Cobalhtm nigritm 
Coballum ferri 

Liquor Candidus 

ex fornace . . . etc 
Atrameniuin siitorium, 

candidiim, polis- 

simtim reperiiur 

Spodos snbterranea \ 
cinerea . . . . \ 

Spodos subierranea [ 

Spodos subierranea 

viridis . . 

Calmei ; lapis 
calaminaris . . 

Kobclt .. 

Mitlere mid obere 

Kobelt des bergwachl 

Blende . . 


Geeler zechen rauch 

Schwartzer zechen 
rauch, auff dem, 
Altenberge nennet 
man in kis 

Grauer zechen rauch 



Part cobalt . . 

Furnace accretions . . 

or furnace calamine 
(Mansleld copper 

Sphalerite* (Zii S) 
Smallite* (C0AS2) 

Cobaltite (CoAsA) . . 


Goslarite (Zn SO4 ) 

Either natural or arti- 
ficial zinc oxides, no 
doubt containing 
arsenical oxides 

*Cadmia metallica 

Furnace accretions 
Bituminosa cadmia 
(see note 4, p. 273) 

Cadmia metallica 


See note 48, p. 408 

*Native white vitriol 
I Grey spodos 

Black spodos 

Green s: 

Pompholyx (see 
\ note 26, p. 394) 

As seen from the following quotations from Agricola, on cadmia and cobalt, there was infinite 
confusion as to the zinc, cobalt, and arsenic minerals ; nor do we think any good purpose is 
served by adding to the already lengthy discussion of these passages, the obscurity of which 
is natural to the state of knowledge ; but we reproduce them as giving a fairly clear idea of 
the amount of confusion then existing. It is, however, desirable to bear in mind that the 
mines familiar to Agricola abounded in complex mixtures of cobalt, nickel, arsenic, bismuth, 
zinc, and antimony. Agricola frequently mentions the garlic odour from cadmia metallica, 
which, together with the corrosive qualities mentioned below, would obviousl}' be due to 
arsenic. Berniannus (p. 459). " This kind of pyrites miners call cobaltum, if it be allowed 
' to me to use our German name. The Greeks call it cadmia. The juices, however, out 
' of which pyrites and silver are formed, appear to solidify into one body, and thus is produced 
' what they call cobaltum. There are some who consider this the same as pyrites, because 
' it is almost the same. There are some who distinguish it as a species, which pleases me, 
' for it has the distinctive property of being extremely corrosive, so that it consumes the 
' hands and feet of the workmen, unless they are well protected, which I do not believe that 
' pyrites can do. Three kinds are found, and distinguished more by the colour than by other 
' properties ; they are black (abolite ?), grey (smallite ?), and iron colour (cobalt glance ?). 
' Moreover, it contains more silver than does pyrites. . ." Bermannus (p. 431). " It (a 
' sort of pyrites) is so like the colour of galena that not without cause might anybody have 
' doubt in deciding whether it be pyrites or galena. .... Perhaps this kind is neither 
' pyrites nor galena, but has a genus of its own. For it has not the colour of pyrites, nor the 
' hardness. It is almost the colour of galena, but of entirely different components. From 
' it there is made gold and silver, and a great quantity is dug out from Reichenstein which 
' is in Silesia, as was lately reported to me. Much more is found at Raurici, which they call 
' zincum ; which species differs from pyrites, for the latter contains more silver than gold, 
' the former only gold, or hardly any silver." 

(De Natura Fossilium, p. 170). " Cadmia fossilis has an odour like garlic " . . (p. 367). 
' We now proceed with cadmia, not the cadmia fornacis (furnace accretions) of 
' which I spoke in the last book, nor the cadmia fossilis (calamine) devoid of metal, which 
' is used to colour copper, whose nature I explained in Book V, but the metallic mineral 
' (fossilis metallica), which Pliny states to be an ore from which copper is made. The 
' Ancients have left no record that another metal could be smelted from it. Yet it is a fact 

'Three librae of silver per ceniumpondium would be equal to 875 ounces per short ton. 



than this, because Nature bestows quantity in place of quality ; such ore 
is mixed with all kinds of earth and stone compounds, except the various 
kinds of rudis silver ; especially with pyrites, cadmia metallica fossilis, galena, 
stibium, and others. 

that not only copper but also silver may be smelted from it, and indeed occasionally both 
copper and silver together. Sometimes, as is the case with pyrites, it is entirely devoid 
of metal. It is frequently found in copper mines, but more frequently still in silver mines. 
And there are likewise veins of cadmia itself. . . . There are several species of the 
cadmia fossilis just as there were of cadmia fornacum. For one kind has the form of grapes 
and another of broken tiles, a third seems to consist of layers. But the cadmia fossilis 
has much stronger properties than that which is produced in the furnaces. Indeed, it often 
possesses such highly corrosive power that it corrodes the hands and feet of the miners. 
It, therefore, differs from pyrites in colour and properties. For pyrites, if it does not 
contain vitriol, is generally either of a gold or silver colour, rarely of anj' other. Cadmia 
is either black or brown or grey, or else reddish like copper when melted in the furnace. 
. . . . For this cadmia is put in a suitable vessel, in the same way as quicksilver, so 
that the heat of the fire will cause it to sublimate, and from it is made a black or brown or 
grey body which the Alchemists call "sublimated cadmia" (cadmiam sublimatam). This 
possesses corrosive properties of the highest degree. Cognate with cadmia and pyrites 
is a compound which the Noricians and Rhetians call zincum. This contains gold and 
silver, and is either red or white. It is likewise found in the Sudetian mountains, and is 
devoid of those metals. . . . With this cadmia is naturally related mineral spodos, 
known to the Moor Serapion, but unknown to the Greeks ; and also pompholyx — for both 
are produced by fire where the miners, breaking the hard rocks in drifts, tunnels, and 
shafts, burn the cadmia or pyrites or galena or other similar minerals. From cadmia is 
made black, brown, and grey spodos ; from pyrites, white ponipholyx and spodos ; from 
galena is made yellow or grey spodos. But pompholyx produced from copper stone {lapide 
aeroso) after some time becomes green. The black spodos, similar to soot, is found at 
Altenberg in Meissen. The white pompholyx, like wool which floats in the air in summer, 
is found in Hildesheim in the seams in the rocks of almost all quarries except in the sand- 
stone. But the grey and the brown and the yellow pompholyx are found in those silver 
mines where the miners break up the rocks by fire. All consist of very fine particles which 
are very light, but the lightest of all is white pompholyx." 
Quartz Minerals. 

Quarzum (" which 

Quertz oder 


Quartz (see note 15, 

Latins call silex ") 


p. 380) 


Hornstein oder 

Flinty or jaspery 





Crystal . . 

Clear crystals . . 



Achat .. 

Agate . . 



Carneol . . 




Jaspis .. 

Part coloured quartz. 

part jade . . 


Murrhina . . 


Chalcedony . . 




A black silicious stone 

Touchstone (see 
note 37, p. 252) 





Lime Minerals. 

Lapis specularis . . 




Marmor . . 




Marmor alabastrites 




Marmor glarea 

Calcite (?) 

Calc spar(?) 

Saxum calcis 





Mergel . . 




Toffstein oder 

Sintry limestones, 

Tophus (see note 


stalagmites, etc. 

13, P- 233) 


Amiantus . . 

Federwis, pliant 

salamanderhar . . 

Usually asbestos 


Magnetis . . 

Silberweis oder 
kaizensilber . . 

Bracteolae magnetidi 

y Mica 



Katzensilber oder 

BOOK V. 115 

As regards other kinds of metal, although some rich ores are found, 
still, unless the veins contain a large quantity of ore, it is very rarely worth 
while to dig them. The Indians and some other races do search for gems in 
veins hidden deep in the earth, but more often they are noticed from their 
clearness, or rather their brilliancy, when metals are mined. When they 
outcrop, we follow veins of marble by mining in the same way as is 
done with rock or building-stones when we come upon them. But 
gems, properly so called, though they sometimes have veins of their own, 
are still for the most part found in mines and rock quarries, as the 
lodestone in iron mines, the emery in silver mines, the lapis judaicus, 
trochites, and the like in stone quarries where the diggers, at the bidding 
of the owners, usually collect them from the seams in the rocks.^" Nor does the 
miner neglect the digging of " extraordinary earths, "^^ whether they are found 

Silex ex eo ictu ferri 

facile ignis eliciiur. 
. . excubus 

figuris . . . . . . . . Feldspar . . . . *Feldspar 

Medulla saxorum .. Steinmarck . . .. Kaolinite.. .. Porcelain clay 

Fluores (lapides gem- 

maritm simili) . . Flusse . . .. Fluorspar . . 'Fluorspar (see note 

Marmor in tnetallis 15, p. 380) 

repertum .. .. Spat . . . . Barite . . . . *Heavy spar 

Apart from the above, many other minerals are mentioned in other chapters, and 
some information is given with regard to them in the footnotes. 

^"As stated in note on p. 2, Agricola divided " stones so called " into four kinds ; 
the first, common stones in which he included lodestone and jasper or bloodstone ; the 
second embraced gems ; the third were decorative stones, such as marble, porphyry, etc. ; 
the fourth were rocks, such as sandstone and limestone. 

Lodestone. {Magfies ; Interpretatio gives Siegchtein oder magnet). The lode- 
stone was well-known to the Ancients under various names — magnes, magnetis, heraclion, 
and sideriiis. A review of the ancient opinions as to its miraculous properties would require 
more space than can be afforded. It is mentioned by many Greek writers, including 
Hippocrates (460-372 B.C.) and Aristotle ; while Theophrastus (53), Dioscorides (v, 105), 
and Pliny (xxxiv, 42, xxxvi 25) describe it at length. The Ancients also maintained 
the existence of a stone, theamedcs, having repellant properties, and the two were supposed 
to exist at times in the same stone. 

Emery. (Smiris; Interpretatio gives smirgel). Agricola {De Natura Fossiliiim., p. 
265) says : " The ring-makers polish and clean their hard gems with smiris. The glaziers 
" use it to cut their glass into sheets. It is found in the silver mines of Annaberg in Meissen 
" and elsewhere." Stones used for polishing gems are noted by the ancient authors, and 
Dana (Syst. of Mineralogy, p. 211) considers the stone of Armenia, of Theophrastus (77), to be 
emery, although it could quite well be any hard stone, such as Novaculite — which is found 
in Armenia. Dioscorides (v, 166) describes a stone with which the engravers polish gems. 
Lapis Judaicus. {Interpretatio gives Jiiden stein). This was undoubtedly a fossil, 
possibly a peniremites. Agricola {De Natura Fosilium, p. 256) says : " It is shaped like an 
" acorn, from the obtuse end to the point proceed raised lines, all equidistant, etc." Many 
fossils were included among the semi-precious stones by the Ancients. Pliny (xxxvii, 55, 
66, 73) describes many such stones, among them the balanites, phoeniciiis and the pyren, 
which resemble the above. 

Trochitis. {Interpretatio gives spangen oder rederstein). This was also a fossil, 
probably crinoid stems. Agricola {De Natura Fosilium, p. 256) describes it : " Trochites is so 
" called from a wheel, and is related to lapis judaicus. Nature has indeed given it the shape 
" of a drum {tympanum). The round part is smooth, but on both ends as it were there is a 
" module from which on all sides there extend radii to the outer edge, which corresponds with 
" the radii. These radii are so much raised that it is fluted. The size of these trochites 
" varies greatly, for the smallest is so little that the largest is ten times as big, and the largest 
" are a digit in length by a third of a digit in thickness . . . when immersed in vinegar 
" they make bubbles." 

^^The " extraordinary earths " of Agricola were such substances as ochres, tripoli, 
fullers earth, potters' clay, clay used for medicinal purposes, etc., etc. 

ii6 BOOK V. 

in gold mines, silver mines, or other mines ; nor do other miners neglect them 
if they are found in stone quarries, or in their own veins ; their value is usually 
indicated by their taste. Nor, lastly, does the miner fail to give attention to 
the solidified juices which are found in metallic veins, as well as in their own 
veins, from which he collects and gathers them. But I will say no more 
on these matters, because I have explained more fully all the metals and 
mineral substances in the books " De Natura Fossilium." 

But I will return to the indications. If we come upon earth which is 
like lute, in which there are particles of any sort of metal, native or rudis, 
the best possible indication of a vein is given to miners, for the metallic 
material from which the particles have become detached is necessarily close 
by. But if this kind of earth is found absolutely devoid of all metallic 
material, but fatty, and of white, green, blue, and similar colours, they must 
not abandon the work that has been started. Miners have other indications in 
the veins and stringers, which I have described already, and in the rocks, about 
which I will speak a little later. If the miner comes across other dry earths 
which contain native or rudis metal, that is a good indication ; if he comes 
across yellow, red, black, or some other " extraordinary" earth, though it is 
devoid of mineral, it is not a bad indication. Chrysocolla, or azure, or verdigris, 
or orpiment, or realgar, when they are found, are counted among the good 
indications. Further, where underground springs throw up metal we ought 
to continue the digging we have begun, for this points to the particles having 
been detached from the main mass like a fragment from a body. In the 
same way the thin scales of any metal adhering to stone or rock are counted 
among the good indications. Next, if the veins which are composed partly 
of quartz, partly of clayey or dry earth, descend one and all into the depths 
of the earth together, with their stringers, there is good hope of metal being 
found ; but if the stringers afterward do not appear, or little metallic 
material is met with, the digging should not be given up until there is nothing 
remaining. Dark or black or horn or liver-coloured quartz is usually a good 
sign ; white is sometimes good, sometimes no sign at aU. But calc-spar, 
showing itself in a vena pro/unda, if it disappears a little lower down is not a 
good indication ; for it did not belong to the vein proper, but to some stringer. 
Those kinds of stone which easily melt in fire, especially if they are translucent 
(fluorspar?), must be counted among the medium indications, for if other 
good indications are present they are good, but if no good indications are 
present, they give no useful significance. In the same way we ought to form 
our judgment with regard to gems. Veins which at the hangingwall and 
footwall have horn-coloured quartz or marble, but in the middle clayey 
earth, give some hope ; likewise those give hope in which the hangingwall 
or footwall shows iron-rust coloured earth, and in the middle greasy and 
sticky earth ; also there is hope for those which have at the hanging or footwall 
that kind of earth which we call " soldiers' earth," and in the middle black 
earth or earth which looks as if burnt. The special indication of gold is 
orpiment ; of silver is bismuth and stibium ; of copper is verdigris, melanteria, 
sory, chalcitis, misy, and vitriol ; of tin is the large pure black stones of 

BOOK V. 117 

which the tin itself is made, and a material they dig up resembling litharge ; 
of iron, iron rust. Gold and copper are equally indicated by chrysocolla and 
azure ; silver and lead, by the lead. But, though miners rightly 
call bismuth " the roof of silver," and though copper pyrites is the common 
parent of vitriol and melanteria, still these sometimes have their own 
peculiar minerals, just as have orpiment and stibium. 

Now, just as certain vein materials give miners a favourable indication, 
so also do the rocks through which the canales of the veins wind their 
way, for sand discovered in a mine is reckoned among the good indications, 
especially if it is very fine. In the same way schist, when it is of a 
bluish or blackish colour, and also limestone, of whatever colour it may be, is 
a good sign for a silver vein. There is a rock of another kind that is a good sign ; 
in it are scattered tiny black stones from which tin is smelted ; especially when 
the whole space between the veins is composed of this kind of rock. 
Very often indeed, this good kind of rock in conjunction with valuable 
stringers contains within its folds the canales of mineral bearing veins : if 
it descends vertically into the earth, the benefit belongs to that mine in 
which it is seen first of all ; if inclined, it benefits the other neighbouring 
mines^^. As a result the miner who is not ignorant of geometry can calculate 
from the other mines the depth at which the canales of a vein bearing rich 
metal will wind its way through the rock into his mine. So much for these 

I now come to the mode of working, which is varied and complex, for in 
some places they dig crumbling ore, in others hard ore, in others a harder 
ore, and in others the hardest kind of ore. In the same way, in some places 
the hangingwall rock is soft and fragile, in others hard, in others harder, and 
instill others of the hardest sort. I call that ore " crumbling " which is com- 
posed of earth, and of soft solidified juices ; that ore " hard " which is composed 
of metallic minerals and moderately hard stones, such as for the most part 
are those which easily melt in a fire of the first and second orders, like lead 
and similar materials. I call that ore " harder " when with those I have already 
mentioned are combined various sorts of quartz, or stones which easily melt 
in fire of the third degree, or pyrites, or cadmia, or very hard marble. I call 
that ore hardest, which is composed throughout the whole vein of these hard 
stones and compounds. The hanging or footwalls of a vein are hard, when 
composed of rock in which there are few stringers or seams ; harder, in 
which they are fewer ; hardest, in which they are fewest or none at all. 
When these are absent, the rock is quite devoid of water which softens 
it. But the hardest rock of the hanging or footwall, however, is seldom as 
hard as the harder class of ore. 

Miners dig out crumbling ore with the pick alone. When the metal 
has not yet shown itself, they do not discriminate between the hangingwall 
and the veins ; when it has once been found, they work with the utmost care. 
For first of all they tear away the hangingwall rock separately from the vein, 
afterward with a pick they dislodge the crumbling vein from the footwaU 
"■^Presumably the ore-body dips into a neighbouring property. 

ii8 BOOK V. 

into a dish placed underneath to prevent any of the metal from falling to 
the ground. They break a hard vein loose from the footwall by blows with 
a hammer upon the first kind of iron tooP^, all of which are designated by 
appropriate names, and with the same tools they hew away the hard hanging- 
wall rock. They hew out the hangingwall rock in advance more frequently, the 
rock of the footwall more rarely ; and indeed, when the rock of the footwall 
resists iron tools, the rock of the hangingwall certainly cannot be broken unless 
it is allowable to shatter it by fire. With regard to the harder veins which are 
tractable to iron tools, and likewise with regard to the harder and hardest 
kind of hangingwall rock, they generally attack them with more powerful 
iron tools, in fact, with the fourth kind of iron tool, which are called by their 
appropriate names ; but if these are not ready to hand, they use two or 
three iron tools of the first kind together. As for the hardest kind of metal- 
bearing vein, which in a measure resists iron tools, if the owners of the 
neighbouring mines give them permission, they break it with fires. But if 
these owners refuse them permission, then first of all they hew out the rock of 
the hangingwall, or of the footwall if it be less hard ; then they place timbers 
set in hitches in the hanging or footwall, a little above the vein, and from 
the front and upper part, where the vein is seen to be seamed with small 
cracks, they drive into one of the little cracks one of the iron tools which 
I have mentioned ; then in each fracture they place four thin iron 
blocks, and in order to hold them more firmly, if necessary, they place 
as many thin iron plates back to back ; next they place thinner iron 
plates between each two iron blocks, and strike and drive them by 
turns with hammers, whereby the vein rings with a shrill sound ; and the 
monient when it begins to be detached from the hangingwall or footwall 
rock, a tearing sound is heard. As soon as this grows distinct the miners 
hastily flee away ; then a great crash is heard as the vein is broken and torn, 
and falls down. By this method they throw down a portion of a vein weigh- 
ing a hundred pounds more or less. But if the miners by any other method 
hew the hardest kind of vein which is rich in metal, there remain certain 
cone-shaped portions which can be cut out afterward only with difficulty. As 
for this knob of hard ore, if it is devoid of metal, or if they are not allowed to 
apply fire to it, they proceed round it by digging to the right or left, because 
it cannot be broken into by iron wedges without great expense. Meantime, 
while the workmen are carrying out the task they have undertaken, the 
depths of the earth often resound with sweet singing, whereby they hghten a 
toil which is of the severest kind and full of the greatest dangers. 

As I have just said, fire shatters the hardest rocks, but the method of its 
appUcation is not simple^*. For if a vein held in the rocks cannot be hewn 

"The various kinds of iron tools are described in great detail in Book VI. 

^*Fire-setting as an aid to breaking rock is of very ancient origin, and moreover it 
persisted in certain German and Norwegian mines down to the end of the igth century — 
270 years after the first application of explosives to mining. The first specific reference to 
fire-setting in mining is by Agatharchides (2nd century B.C.) whose works are not extant, 
but who is quoted by both Diodorus Siculus and Photius, for which statement see note 8, p. 
279. Phny (xxxni, 21) says : " Occasionally a kind of silex is met with, which must be 
" broken with fire and vinegar, or as the tunnels are filled with suffocating fumes and smoke, 

BOOK V. 119 

out because of the hardness or other difficulty, and the drift or tunnel is 
low, a heap of dried logs is placed against the rock and fired ; if the drift or 
tunnel is high, two heaps are necessary, of which one is placed above the 
other, and both burn until the fire has consumed them. This force does not 
generally soften a large portion of the vein, but only some of the surface. 
When the rock in the hanging or footwall can be worked by the iron tools 
and the vein is so hard that it is not tractable to the same tools, then the 
walls are hollowed out ; if this be in the end of the drift or tunnel or above 
or below, the vein is then broken by fire, but not by the same method ; for 
if the hollow is wide, as many logs are piled into it as possible, but if narrow, 
only a few. By the one method the greater fire separates the vein more 
completely from the footwall or sometimes from the hangingwall, and by the 
other, the smaller fire breaks away less of the vein from the rock, because in 
that case the fire is confined and kept in check by portions of the rock which 
surround the wood held in such a narrow excavation. Further, if the 
excavation is low, only one pile of logs is placed in it, if high, there are 
two, one placed above the other, by which plan the lower bundle being 
kindled sets alight the upper one ; and the fire being driven by the draught 
into the vein, separates it from the rock which, however hard it may be, often 
becomes so softened as to be the most easily breakable of all. Applying this 
principle, Hannibal, the Carthaginian General, imitating the Spanish miners, 

" they frequently use bruising machines, carrying 150 librae of iron." This combination 
of fire and vinegar he again refers to (xxin, 27), where he dilates in the same sentence on the 
usefulness of vinegar for breaking rock and for salad dressing. This myth about breaking 
rocks with fire and vinegar is of more than usual interest, and its origin seems to be in the 
legend that Hannibal thus broke through the Alps. Livy (59 B.C., 17 a.d.) seems to be the first 
to produce this myth in writing ; and, in any event, by Pliny's time (23-79 a.d.) it had become 
an established method — in literature. Livy (xxi, 37) says, in connection with Hannibal's 
crossing of the Alps : " They set fire to it (the timber) when a wind had arisen suitable to 
" excite the fire, then when the rock was hot it was crumbled by pouring on vinegar (infuso 
" aceto). In this manner the cliff heated by the fire was broken by iron tools, and the 
" declivities eased by turnings, so that not only the beasts of burden but also the elephants 
" could be led down." Hannibal crossed the Alps in 218 B.C. and Livy's account was 
written 200 years later, by which time Hannibal's memory among the Romans was generally 
surrounded by Herculean fables. Be this as it may, by Pliny's time the vinegar was 
generally accepted, and has been ceaselessly debated ever since. Nor has the myth ceased 
to grow, despite the remarks of Gibbon, Lavalette, and others. A recent historian (Hen- 
nebert, Histoire d' Annibal 11, p. 253) of that famous engineer andwsoldier, soberly sets out to 
prove that inasmuch as literal acceptance of ordinary vinegar is impossible, the Phoenecians 
must have possessed some mysterious high explosive. A still more recent biographer swallows 
this argument in toio. (Morris, " Hannibal," London, 1903, p. 103). A study of the com- 
mentators of this passage, although it would fill a volume with sterile words, would disclose 
one generalization : That the real scholars have passed over the passage with the comment 
that it is either a corruption or an old woman's tale, but that hosts of soldiers who set about 
the biography of famous generals and campaigns, almost to a man take the passage seriously, 
and seriously explain it by way of the rock being limestone, or snow, or by the use of explosives, 
or other foolishness. It has been proposed, although there are grammatical objections, that the 
text is slightly corrupt and read infosso amto, instead of infuso aceto, in which case all becomes 
easy from a mining point of view. If so, however, it must be assumed that the corruption 
occurred during the 20 years between Livy and Pliny. 

By the use of fire-setting in recent times at Konigsberg (Arthur L. Collins, 
" Fire-setting," Federated Inst, of Mining Engineers, Vol. V, p. 82) an advance of from 5 to 
20 feet per month in headings was accomplished, and on the score of economy survived the 
use of gunpowder, but has now been abandoned in favour of dynamite. We may mention 
that the use of gunpowder for blasting was first introduced at Schemnitz by Caspar Weindle, 
in 1627, but apparently was not introduced into English mines for nearly 75 years afterward, 
as the late 17th century English writers continue to describe fire-setting. 

120 BOOK V. 

overcame the hardness of the Alps by the use of vinegar and fire. Even 
if a vein is a very wide one, as tin veins usually are, miners excavate into the 
small streaks, and into those hoUows they put dry wood and place amongst 
them at frequent intervals sticks, all sides of which are shaved down fan- 
shaped, which easily take hght, and when once they have taken fire com- 
municate it to the other bundles of wood, which easily ignite. 

-Kindled logs. 

Sticks shaved down fan-shaped. C — Tunnel. 

While the heated veins and rock are giving forth a foetid vapour and the 
shafts or tunnels are emitting fumes, the miners and other workmen do not 
go down in the mines lest the stench affect their health or actually kill them, 
as I wiU explain in greater detail when I come to speak of the evils which 
affect miners. The Bergmeister, in order to prevent workmen from being 
suffocated, gives no one permission to break veins or rock by fire in shafts or 
tunnels where it is possible for the poisonous vapour and smoke to permeate 
the veins or stringers and pass through into the neighbouring mines, which 
have no hard veins or rock. As for that part of a vein or the surface of the 
rock which the fire has separated from the remaining mass, if it is overhead, 
the miners dislodge it with a crowbar, or if it still has some degree of hardness, 
they thrust a smaller crowbar into the cracks and so break it down, but if 

BOOK V. 121 

it is on the sides they break it with hammers. Thus broken off, the rock 
tumbles down ; or if it still remains, they break it off with picks. Rock 
and earth on the one hand, and metal and ore on the other, are filled into 
buckets separately and drawn up to the open air or to the nearest tunnel. 
If the shaft is not deep, the buckets are drawn up by a machine turned by 
men ; if it is deep, they are drawn by machines turned by horses. 

It often happens that a rush of water or sometimes stagnant air hinders 
the mining ; for this reason miners pay the greatest attention to these 
matters, just as much as to digging, or they should do so. The water of the 
veins and stringers and especially of vacant workings, must be drained out 
through the shafts and tunnels. Air, indeed, becomes stagnant both in 
tunnels and in shafts ; in a deep shaft, if it be by itself, this occurs if it is 
neither reached by a tunnel nor connected by a drift with another shaft ; 
this occurs in a tunnel if it has been driven too far into a mountain and no 
shaft has yet been sunk deep enough to meet it ; in neither case can the 
air move or circulate. For this reason the vapours become heavy and 
resemble mist, and they smell of mouldiness, like a vault or some under- 
ground chamber which has been completely closed for many years. This 
suffices to prevent miners from continuing their work for long in these places, 
even if the mine is full of silver or gold, or if they do continue, they cannot 
breathe freely and they have headaches ; this more often happens if they 
work in these places in great numbers, and bring many lamps, which then 
supply them with a feeble light, because the foul air from both lamps and 
men make the vapours still more heavy. 

A small quantity of water is drawn from the shafts by machines of 
different kinds which men turn or work. If so great a quantity has flowed 
into one shaft as greatly to impede mining, another shaft is sunk some 
fathoms distant from the first, and thus in one of them work and labour are 
carried on without hindrance, and the water is drained into the other, which 
is sunk lower than the level of the water in the first one ; then by these 
machines or by those worked by horses, the water is drawn up into the drain 
and flows out of the shaft-house or the mouth of the nearest tunnel. But 
when into the shaft of one mine, which is sunk more deeply, there flows all 
the water of all the neighbouring mines, not only from that vein in which 
the shaft is sunk, but also from other veins, then it becomes necessary for a 
large sump to be made to collect the water ; from this sump the water is 
drained by machines which draw it through pipes, or by ox-hides, about 
which I will say more in the next book. The water which pours into the 
tunnels from the veins and stringers and seams in the rocks is carried 
away in the drains. 

Air is driven into the extremities of deep shafts and long tunnels by 
powerful blowing machines, as I will explain in the following book, which 
will deal with these machines also. The outer air flows spontaneously into 
the caverns of the earth, and when it can pass through them comes out again. 
This, however, comes about in different ways, for in spring and summer it 
flows into the deeper shafts, traverses the tunnels or drifts, and finds its way 

122 BOOK V. 

out of the shallower shafts ; similarly at the same season it pours into the 
lowest tunnel and, meeting a shaft in its course, turns aside to a higher tunnel 
and passes out therefrom ; but in autumn and winter, on the other hand, it 
enters the upper tunnel or shaft and comes out at the deeper ones. This 
change in the flow of air currents occurs in temperate regions at the beginning 
of spring and the end of autumn, but in cold regions at the end of spring 
and the beginning of autumn. But at each period, before the air regularly 
assumes its own accustomed course, generally for a space of fourteen days 
it undergoes frequent variations, now blowing into an upper shaft or 
tunnel, now into a lower one. But enough of this, let us now proceed to 
what remains. 

There are two kinds of shafts, one of the depth already described, of 
which kind there are usually several in one mine ; especially if the mine is 
entered by a tunnel and is metal-bearing. For when the first tunnel is 
connected with the first shaft, two new shafts are sunk ; or if the inrush of 
water hinders sinking, sometimes three are sunk ; so that one maj;- take 
the place of a sump and the work of sinking which has been begun may be 
continued by means of the remaining two shafts ; the same is done in the 
case of the second tunnel and the third, or even the fourth, if so many are 
driven into a mountain. The second kind of shaft is very deep, sometimes 
as much as sixty, eighty, or one hundred fathoms. These shafts continue 
vertically toward the depths of the earth, and by means of a hauling-rope 
the broken rock and metalliferous ores are drawn out of the mine ; for which 
reason miners call them vertical shafts. Over these shafts are erected 
machines by which water is extracted ; when they are above ground the 
machines are usually worked by horses, but when they are in tunnels, other 
kinds are used which are turned by water-power. Such are the shafts which 
are sunk when a vein is rich in metal. 

Now shafts, of whatever kind they may be, are supported in various 
ways. If the vein is hard, and also the hanging and footwall rock, the shaft 
does not require much timbering, but timbers are placed at intervals, one end 
of each of which is fixed in a hitch cut into the rock of the hangingwall and 
the other fixed into a hitch cut in the footwall. To these timbers are fixed 
small timbers along the footwall, to which are fastened the lagging and 
ladders. The lagging is also fixed to the timbers, both to those which screen 
off the shaft on the ends from the vein, and to those which screen off the 
rest of the shaft from that part in which the ladders are placed. The lagging 
on the sides of the shaft confine the vein, so as to prevent fragments of it 
which have become loosened by water from dropping into the shaft and 
terrifying, or injuring, or knocking off the miners and other workmen who 
are going up or down the ladders from one part of the mine to another. For 
the same reason, the lagging between the ladders and the haulage-way on 
the other hand, confine and shut off from the ladders the fragments of rock 
which fall from the buckets or baskets while they are being drawn up ; 
moreover, they make the arduous and difficult descent and ascent to appear 
less terrible, and in fact to be less dangerous. 



If a vein is soft and the rock of the hanging and footwalls is weak, 
a closer structure is necessary ; for this purpose timbers are joined together, 
in rectangular shapes and placed one aftiT the other without a break. These 

A— Wall plates. B— Dividers. C— Long end posts. D— End plates. 

124 BOOK V. 

are arranged on two different systems ; for either the square ends of the 
timbers, which reach from the hangingwall to the f ootwall, are fixed into corres- 
ponding square holes in the timbers M^hich he along the hanging or footwall, 
or the upper part of the end of one and the lower part of the end of the other 
are cut out and one laid on the other. The great weight of these joined 
timbers is sustained by stout beams placed at intervals, which are deeply set 
into hitches in the footwall and hangingwall, but are incUned. In order that 
these joined timbers may remain stationary, wooden wedges or poles cut 
from trees are driven in between the timbers and the vein and the hanging 
wall and the footwall ; and the space which remains empty is filled with loose 
dirt. If the hanging and footwall rock is sometimes hard and sometimes soft, 
and the vein likewise, solid joined timbers are not used, but timbers are 
placed at intervals ; and where the rock is soft and the vein crumbling, 
carpenters put in lagging between them and the wall rocks, and behind these 
they fill with loose dirt ; by this means they fill up the void. 

When a very deep shaft, whether vertical or inclined, is supported by 
joined timbers, then, since they are sometimes of bad material and a fall is 
threatened, for the sake of greater firmness three or four pairs of strong end 
posts are placed between these, one pair on the hangingwall side, the other 
on the footwall side. To prevent them from falling out of position and to 
make them firm and substantial, they are supported by frequent end plates, 
and in order that these may be more securely fixed they are mortised into 
the posts. Further, in whatever way the shaft may be timbered, dividers 
are placed upon the waU plates, and to these is fixed lagging, and this 
marks off and separates the ladder-way from the remaining part of the shaft. 
If a vertical shaft is a very deep one, planks are laid upon the timbers by the 
side of the ladders and fixed on to the timbers, in order that the men who are 
going up or down may sit or stand upon them and rest when they are tired. 
To prevent danger to the shovellers from rocks which, after being drawn up 
from so deep a shaft fall down again, a little above the bottom of the shaft 
small rough sticks are placed close together on the timbers, in such a way as 
to cover the whole space of the shaft except the ladder-way. A hole, 
however, is left in this structure near the footwall, which is kept open so that 
there may be one opening to the shaft from the bottom, that the buckets 
full of the materials which have been dug out may be drawn from the 
shaft through it by machines, and may be returned to the same place again 
empty ; and so the shovellers and other workmen, as it were hiding beneath 
this structure, remain perfectly safe in the shaft. 

In mines on one vein there are driven one, two, or sometimes three 
or more tunnels, always one above the other. If the vein is solid and 
hard, and likewise the hanging and footwall rock, no part of the tunnel 
needs support, beyond that which is required at the mouth, because at that 
spot there is not yet solid rock ; if the vein is soft, and the hanging and 
footwall rock are likewise soft, the tunnel requires frequent strong timbering, 
which is provided in the following way. First, two dressed posts are erected 
and set into the tunnel floor, which is dug out a httle ; these are of medium 



thickness, and high enough that their ends, which are cut square, almost 
touch the top of the tunnel ; then upon them is placed a smaller dressed cap, 
which is mortised into the heads of the posts ; at the bottom, other small 
timbers, whose ends are similarly squared, are mortised into the posts. At 
each interval of one and a half fathoms, one of these sets is erected ; each one 
of these the miners call a " little doorway," because it opens a certain amount 
of passage way ; and indeed, when necessity requires it, doors are fixed to the 
timbers of each little doorway so that it can be closed. Then lagging of 
planks or of poles is placed upon the caps lengthwise, so as to reach from one 
set of timbers to another, and is laid along the sides, in case some portion of 
the body of the mountain may fall, and by its bulk impede passage or crush 
persons coming in or out. Moreover, to make the timbers remain stationary, 
wooden pegs are driven between them and the sides of the tunnel. Lastly, 
if rock or earth are carried out in wheelbarrows, planks joined together are 
laid upon the sills ; if the rock is hauled out in trucks, then two timbers 
three-quarters of a foot thick and wide are laid on the sills, and, where they 
join, these are usually hollowed out so that in the hollow, as in a road, the iron 
pin of the truck may be pushed along ; indeed, because of this pin in the 
groove, the truck does not leave the worn track to the left or right. Beneath 
the sills are the drains through which the water flows away. 

A — Posts. H — Caps. C — Sills. D — Doors. E — Lagging. F — Drains. 

Miners timber drifts in the same way as tunnels. These do not, however, 
require sill-pieces, or drains ; for the broken rock is not hauled very far, nor does 
the water have far to flow. If the vein above is metal-bearing, as it sometimes is 

126 BOOK V. 

for a distance of several fathoms, then from the upper part of tunnels or even 
drifts that have already been driven, other drifts are driven again 
and again until that part of the vein is reached which does not yield metal. 
The timbering of these openings is done as follows : stuUs are set at 
intervals into hitches in the hanging and footwall, and upon them 
smooth poles are laid continuously ; and that they may be able to 
bear the weight, the stuUs are generally a foot and a half thick. After the 
ore has been taken out and the mining of the vein is being done elsewhere, 
the rock then broken, especially if it cannot be taken away without great 
difficulty, is thrown into these openings among the timber, and the carriers 
of the ore are saved toil, and the owners save half the expense. This then, 
generally speaking, is the method by which everything relating to the 
timbering of shafts, tunnels, and drifts is carried out. 

All that I have hitherto written is in part peculiar to venae profundae, 
and in part common to all kinds of veins ; of what follows, part is specially 
applicable to venae dilatatae, part to venae cumulatae. But first I will 
describe how venae dilatatae should be mined. Where torrents, rivers, or 
streams have by inundations washed away part of the slope of a mountain or 
a hill, and have disclosed a vena dilatata, a tunnel should be driven first straight 
and narrow, and then wider, for nearly all the vein should be hewn away ; and 
when this tunnel has been driven further, a shaft which supplies air should be 
sunk in the mountain or hill, and through it from time to time the ore, earth, 
and rock can be drawn up at less expense than if they be drawn out through the 
very great length of the tunnel ; and even in those places to which the tunnel 
does not yet reach, miners dig shafts in order to open a vena dilatata which 
they conjecture must lie beneath the soil. In this way, when the upper 
layers are removed, they dig through rock sometimes of one kind and colour, 
sometimes of one kind but different colours, sometimes of different kinds but 
of one colour, and, lastly, of different kinds and different colours. The thickness 
of rock, both of each single stratum and of all combined, is uncertain, for 
the whole of the strata are in some places twenty fathoms deep, in others 
more than fifty ; individual strata are in some places half a foot thick ; in others, 
one, two, or more feet ; in others, one, two, three, or more fathoms. For 
example, in those districts which lie at the foot of the Harz mountains, 
there are many different coloured strata, covering a copper vena dilatata. 
When the soil has been stripped, first of all is disclosed a stratum which 
is red, but of a dull shade and of a thickness of twenty, thirty, or live and 
thirty fathoms. Then there is another stratum, also red, but of a light 
shade, which has usually a thickness of about two fathoms. Beneath this is a 
stratum of ash-coloured clay nearly a fathom thick, which, although it is 
not metalliferous, is reckoned a vein. Then follows a third stratum, 
which is ashy, and about three fathoms thick. Beneath this hes a vein 
of ashes to the thickness of five fathoms, and these ashes are mixed with 
rock of the same colour. Joined to the last, and underneath, comes a 
stratum, the fourth in number, dark in colour and a foot thick. Under this 
comes the fifth stratum, of a pale or yellowish colour, two feet thick ; under- 

BOOK V. 127 

noath which is the sixth stratum, hkewisc dark, but rough and three feet 
thick. Afterward occurs the seventh stratum, likewise of dark colour, but 
still darker than the last, and two feet thick. This is followed by an eighth 
stratum, ashy, rough, and a foot thick. This kind, as also the others, 
is sometimes distinguished by stringers of the stone which easily melts in 
lire of the second order. Beneath this is another ashy rock, hght in 
weight, and five feet thick. Next to this comes a hghter ash-coloured 
one, a foot thick ; beneath this lies the eleventh stratum, which is dark and 
very much like the seventh, and two feet thick. Below the last is 
a twelfth stratum of a whitish colour and soft, also two feet thick ; the 
weight of this rests on a thirteenth stratum, ashy and one foot thick, whose 
weight is in turn supported by a fourteenth stratum, which is blackish and 
half a foot thick. There follows this, another stratum of black colour, 
likewise half a foot thick, which is again followed by a sixteenth stratum 
still blacker in colour, whose thickness is also the same. Beneath this, and 
last of all, lies the cupriferous stratum, black coloured and schistose, in which 
there sometimes glitter scales of gold-coloured pyrites in the very thin sheets, 
which, as I said elsewhere, often take the forms of various living things.^^ 

The miners mine out a vena dilatata laterally and longitudinally by 
driving a low tunnel in it, and if the nature of the work and place permit, they 
sink also a shaft in order to discover whether there is a second vein beneath 
the first one ; for sometimes beneath it there are two, three, or more similar 
metal-bearing veins, and these are excavated in the same way lateralty and 
longitudinally. They generally mine vence dilatatce lying down ; and to 

i^The strata here enumerated are given in the Glossary of De Re Metallica as follows : — 

Corium terrae . . . . . . Die erd oder leim. 

Saxum rubrum . . . . . . Rot gebirge. 

Allerum item rubrum . . . . Roterkle. 

Argilla cinerea . . . . . . Thone. 

Tertium saxum . . . . . . Gerhulle. 

Cineris vena .. .. .. .. Asche. 

Quartttm saxum . . . . . . Gniest. 

Quintum saxum . . . . . . Schwehlen. 

Sexlum saxum . . . . . . Oberrauchstein. 

Septimum saxum . . . . . . Zechstein. 

Octavum saxum . . . . . . Underrauchstein. 

Nonum saxum . . . . . . Blitterstein. 

Decimum saxum . . . . . . Oberschuelen. 

Undecimum saxum . . . . . . Mittelstein. 

Duodecimum saxum . . . . . . Underschuelen. 

Decimumferiium saxum . . . . Dach. 

Decimumquarium saxum . . . . Norweg. 

Decimumquintum saxum . . . . Lotwerg. 

Decimumsextum saxum . . . . Kamme. 

Lapi': aerosus fissilis . . . . Schifer 

The description is no doubt that of the Mannsfeld cupriferous slates. It is of some 
additional interest as the first attempt at stratigraphic distinctions, although this must not 
be taken too literally, for we have rendered the different numbered " saxum " in this connection 
as " stratum." The German terms given by Agricola above, can many of them be identified 
in the miners' terms to-day for the various strata at Mannsfeld. Over the kupferschiefer the 
names to-day are kammschale, dach, faule, zechstein, rauchwacke, rauchstein, asche. The 
relative thickness of these beds is much the same as given by Agricola. The stringers in 
the 8th stratum of stone, which fuse in the fire of the second order, were possibly calcite. 
The rauchstein of the modern section is distinguished by stringers of calcite, which give it at 
times a brecciated appearance. 

128 BOOK V. 

avoid wearing away their clothes and injuring their left shoulders they 
usually bind on themselves small wooden cradles. For this reason, this 
particular class of miners, in order to use their iron tools, are obliged to bend 
their necks to the left, not infrequently having them twisted. Now these 
veins also sometimes divide, and where these parts re-unite, ore of a richer and 
a better quality is generally found ; the same thing occurs where the stringers, 
of which they are not altogether devoid, join with them, or cut them cross- 
wise, or divide them obliquely. To prevent a mountain or hill, which has in 
this way been undermined, from subsiding by its weight, either some natural 
pillars and arches are left, on which the pressure rests as on a foundation, or 
timbering is done for support. Moreover, the m.aterials which are dug out 
and which are devoid of metal are removed in bowls, and are thrown back, 
thus once more filling the caverns. 

Next, as to vence cumulatce. These are dug by a somewhat different 
method, for when one of these shows some metal at the top of the ground, 
first of all one shaft is sunk ; then, if it is worth while, around this one many 
shafts are sunk and tunnels are driven into the mountain. If a torrent or 
spring has torn fragments of metal from such a vein, a tunnel is first driven 
into the mountain or hill for the purpose of searching for the ore ; then 
when it is found, a vertical shaft is sunk in it. Since the whole mountain, or 
more especially the whole hill, is undermined, seeing that the whole of it is 
composed of ore, it is necessary to leave the natural pillars and arches, or the 
place is timbered. But sometimes when a vein is very hard it is broken by 
fire, whereby it happens that the soft pillars break up, or the timbers are 
burnt away, and the mountain by its great weight sinks into itself, and then 
the shaft buildings are swallowed up in the great subsidence. Therefore, 
about a vena cumulata it is advisable to sink some shafts which are not sub- 
ject to this kind of ruin, through which the materials that are excavated may 
be carried out, not only while the pillars and underpinnings still remain whole 
and solid, but also after the supports have been destroyed by fire and have 
fallen. Since ore which has thus fallen must necessarily be broken by fire, 
new shafts through which the smoke can escape must be sunk in the abyss, 
At those places where stringers intersect, richer ore is generally obtained 
from the mine ; these stringers, in the case of tin mines, sometimes have in 
them black stones the size of a walnut. If such a vein is found in a plain, 
as not infrequently happens in the case of iron, many shafts are sunk, because 
they cannot be sunk very deep. The work is carried on by this method 
because the miners cannot drive a tunnel into a level plain of this kind. 

There remain the stringers in which gold alone is sometimes found, 
in the vicinity of rivers and streams, or in swamps. If upon the soil being 
removed, many of these are found, composed of earth somewhat baked and 
burnt, as may sometimes be seen in clay pits, there is some hope that gold 
may be obtained from them, especially if several join together. But the 
very point of junction must be pierced, and the length and width searched 
for ore, and in these places very deep shafts cannot be sunk. 

I have completed one part of this book, and now come to the other, in 
which I will deal with the art of surveying. Miners measure the solid 

BOOK V. 129 

mass of the mountains in order that the owners may lay out their plans, and 
that their workmen may not encroach on other people's possessions. The 
surveyor either measures the interval not yet wholly dug through, which 
lies between the mouth of a tunnel and a shaft to be sunk to that depth, or 
between the mouth of a shaft and the tunnel to be driven to that spot which 
lies under the shaft, or between both, if the tunnel is neither so long as to 
reach to the shaft, nor the shaft so deep as to reach to the tunnel ; and thus 
on both sides work is still to be done. Or in some cases, within the tunnels 
and drifts, are to be fixed the boundaries of the meers, just as the Bergmeister 
has determined the boundaries of the same meers above ground.^* 

Each method of surveying depends on the measuring of triangles. A 
small triangle should be laid out, and from it calculations must be made 
regarding a larger one. Most particular care must be taken that we do not 
deviate at all from a correct measuring ; for if, at the beginning, we are drawn 

^^The history of surveying and surveying instruments, and in a subsidiary vi'ay their 
application to mine work, is a subject upon which there exists a most extensive literature. 
However, that portion of such history which relates to the period prior to Agricola represents 
a much less proportion of the whole than do the citations to this chapter in De Re Metallica, 
which is the first comprehensive discussion of the mining application. The history of such 
instruments is too extensive to be entered upon in a footnote, but there are some fundamental 
considerations which, if they had been present in the minds of historical students of this subject, 
would have considerably abridged the literature on it. First, there can be no doubt that 
measuring cords or rods and boundary stones existed almost from the first division of land. There 
is, therefore, no need to try to discover their origins. Second, the history of surveying and 
surveying instruments really begins with the invention of instruments for taking levels, or 
for the determination of angles with a view to geometrical calculation. The meagre facts 
bearing upon this subject do not warrant the endless expansion they have received by 
argument as to what was probable, in order to accomplish assumed methods of construction 
among the Ancients. For instance, the argument that in carrying the Grand Canal over 
watersheds with necessary reservoir supply, the Chinese must have had accurate levelling 
and surveying instruments before the Christian Era, and must have conceived in advance a 
completed work, does not hold water when any investigation will demonstrate that the canal 
grew by slow accretion from the lateral river systems, until it joined almost by accident. 
Much the same may be said about the preconception of engineering results in several 
other ancient works. There can be no certainty as to who first invented instruments of 
the order mentioned above ; for instance, the invention of the dioptra has been ascribed to 
Hero, vide his work on the Dioptra. He has been assumed to have lived in the ist or 2nd 
Century B.C. Recent investigations, however, have shown that he lived about 100 a.d. (Sir 
Thomas Heath, Encyc. Brit, nth Ed., xill, 378). As this instrument is mentioned 
by Vitruvius (50 - B.C.) the myth that Hero was the inventor must also disappear. In- 
cidentally Vitruvius {viii, 5) describes a levelling instrument called a chorobaies, which was a 
frame levelled either by a groove of water or by plumb strings. Be the inventor of the 
dioptra who he may, Hero's work on that subject contains the first suggestion of mine 
surveys in the problems (xiii, xiv, xv, xvi), where geometrical methods are elucidated 
for determining the depths required for the connection of shafts and tunnels. On the com- 
pass we give further notes on p. 56. It was probably an evolution of the 13th Century. As 
to the application of angle- and level-determining instruments to underground surveys, 
so far as we know there is no reference prior to Agricola, except that of Hero. Mr. 
Bennett Brough (Cantor Lecture, London, 1892) points outthat the Niitzliche Bergbiichlin (see 
Appendix) describes a mine compass, but there is not the slightest reference to its use 
for anything but surface direction of veins. 

Although map-making of a primitive sort requires no instruments, except legs, the oldest 
map in the world possesses unusual interest because it happens to be a map of a mining 
region. This well-known Turin papyrus dates from Seti I. (about 1300 B.C.), and it 
represents certain gold mines between the Nile and the Red Sea. The best discussion is 
by Chabas (Inscriptions des Mines d'Or, Chalons-sur-Saone, Paris, 1862, p. 30-36). 
Fragments of another papyrus, in the Turin Museum, are considered by Lieblein [Deux 
Papyras Hiiratiques, Christiania, 1868) also to represent a mine of the time of Rameses I. If 
so, this one dates from about 1400 e.g. As to an actual map of underground workings (disre- 
garding illustrations) we know of none until after Agricola's time. At his time maps were 
not made, as will be gathered from the text. 

I30 BOOK V. 

by carelessness into a slight error, this at the end wUl produce great errors. 
Now these triangles are of many shapes, since shafts differ among themselves 
and are not all sunk by one and the same method into the depths of the 
earth, nor do the slopes of all mountains come down to the valley or plain in 
the same manner. For if a shaft is vertical, there is a triangle with a right 
angle, which the Greeks call ofidoydiviof and this, according to the 
inequaUties of the mountain slope, has either two equal sides or three unequal 
sides. The Greeks call the former Tpiywvov laoaKiXiQ the latter oKaXrivov for 
a right angle triangle cannot have three equal sides. If a shaft is incHned 
and sunk in the same vein in which the tunnel is driven, a triangle is likewise 
made with a right angle, and this again, according to the various inequaUties 
of the mountain slope, has either two equal or three unequal sides. But if 
a shaft is inclined and is sunk in one vein, and a tunnel is driven in 
another vein, then a triangle comes into existence which has either an obtuse 
angle or all acute angles. The former the Greeks call ufijiXvyiliviov, the latter 
otKywviov. That triangle which has an obtuse angle cannot have three 
equal sides, but in accordance with the different mountain slopes has either 
two equal sides or three unequal sides. That triangle which has all acute 
angles in accordance with the different mountain slopes has either three equal 
sides, which the Greeks call Tjui-ywvov laowXtvpov or two equal sides or three 
unequal sides. 

The surveyor, as I said, employs his art when the owners of the mines 
desire to know how many fathoms of the intervening ground require to be 
dug ; when a tunnel is being driven toward a shaft and does not yet reach 
it ; or when the shaft has not yet been sunk to the depth of the bottom of the 
tunnel which is under it ; or when neither the tunnel reaches to that point, 
nor has the shaft been sunk to it. It is of importance that miners should 
know how many fathoms remain from the tunnel to the shaft, or from the 
shaft to the tunnel, in order to calculate the expenditure ; and in order that 
the owners of a metal-bearing mine may hasten the sinking of a shaft and 
the excavation of the metal, before the tunnel reaches that point and the 
tunnel owners excavate part of the metal by any right of their own ; and on 
the other hand, it is important that the owners of a tunnel may similarly 
hasten their driving before a shaft can be sunk to the depth of a tunnel, so 
that they may excavate the metal to which they will have a right. 

The surveyor, first of all, if the beams of the shaft-house do not give him 
the opportunity, sets a pair of forked posts by the sides of the shaft in such 
a manner that a pole may be laid across them. Next, from the pole he lets 
down into the shaft a cord with a weight attached to it. Then he stretches a 
second cord, attached to the upper end of the first cord, right down along the 
slope of the mountain to the bottom of the mouth of the tunnel, and fixes it to 
the ground. Next, from the same pole not far from the first cord, he lets 
down a third cord, similarly weighted, so that it may intersect the second 
cord, which descends obliquely. Then, starting from that point where the 
third cord cuts the second cord which descends obliquely to the mouth of the 
tunnel, he measures the second cord upward to where it reaches the end of 



A — Upright forked posts. B — Pole over the posts. C — Shaft. P — First cord. 
E — Weight of first cord. F — Second cord. G — Same fixed ground. H — Head 
of first cord. I — Mouth of tunnel. K — Third cord. L — Weight of third cord. 
M — First side minor triangle. N — Second side minor triangle. O — Third side 
minor triangle. P — The minor triangle. 

132 BOOK V. 

the first cord, and makes a note of this first side of the minor triangle^'. 
Afterward, starting again from that point where the third cord intersects the 
second cord, he measures the straight space which has between tliat point 
and the opposite point on the first cord, and in that way forms the minor 
triangle, and he notes this second side of the minor triangle in the same way as 
before. Then, if it is necessary, from the angle formed by the first cord and 
the second side of the minor triangle, he measures upward to the end of the 
first cord and also makes a note of this third side of the minor triangle. The 
third side of the minor triangle, if the shaft is vertical or incUned and is sunk 
on the same vein in which the tunnel is driven, will necessarily be the same 
length as the third cord above the point where it intersects the second cord ; 
and so, as often as the first side of the minor triangle is contained in the 
length of the whole cord which descends obliquely, so many times the length 
of the second side of the minor triangle indicates the distance between the 
mouth of the tunnel and the point to which the shaft must be sunk ; and 
similarly, so many times the length of the third side of the minor triangle 
gives the distance between the mouth of the shaft and the bottom of the 

When there is a level bench on the mountain slope, the surveyor first 
measures across this with a measuring-rod ; then at the edges of this bench 
he sets up forked posts, and applies the principle of the triangle to the two 
sloping parts of the mountain ; and to the fathoms which are the length of 
that part of the tunnel determined by the triangles, he adds the number 
of fathoms which are the width of the bench. But if sometimes the 
mountain side stands up, so that a cord cannot run down from the shaft to 
the mouth of the tunnel, or, on the other hand, cannot run up from the 
mouth of the tunnel to the shaft, and, therefore, one cannot connect them in 
a straight line, the surveyor, in order to fix an accurate triangle, measures the 
mountain ; and going downward he substitutes for the first part of the cord 
a pole one fathom long, and for the second part a pole half a fathom 
long. Going upward, on the contrary, for the first part of the cord he sub- 
stitutes a pole half a fathom long, and for the next part, one a whole fathom 
long ; then where he requires to fix his triangle he adds a straight line to 
these angles. 

To make this system of measuring clear and more expHcit, I will proceed 

by describing each separate kind of triangle. When a shaft is vertical or 

inclined, and is sunk in the same vein on which the tunnel is driven, there 

is created, as I said, a triangle containing a right angle. Now if the minor 

triangle has the two sides equal, which, in accordance with the numbering 

used by surveyors, are the second and third sides, then the second and third 

sides of the major triangle will be equal ; and so also the intervening 

distances will be equal which lie between the mouth of the tunnel and the 

bottom of the shaft, and which lie between the mouth of the shaft and the 

bottom of the tunnel. For example, if the first side of the minor triangle is 

seven feet long and the second and likewise the third sides are five feet, and 

*'For greater clarity we have in a few places interpolated the terms " major " and 
" minor " triangles. 

BOOK V. 133 

the length shown by the cord for the side of the major triangle is loi times 
seven feet, that is 117 fathoms and live feet, then the intervening space, of 
course, whether the whole of it has been already driven through or has yet 
to be driven, will be one hundred times five feet, which makes eighty-three 
fathoms and two feet. Anyone with this example of proportions will be 
able to construct the major and minor triangles in the same way as I have 
done, if there be the necessary upright posts and cross-beams. When a shaft is 
vertical the triangle is absolutely upright ; when it is inclined and is sunk on 
the same vein in which the tunnel is driven, it is inchned toward one side. 



Therefore, if a tunnel has been driven into the mountain for sixty fathoms, 
there remains a space of ground to be penetrated twenty-three fathoms and 
two feet long ; for five feet of the second side of the major triangle, which 
lies above the mouth of the shaft and corresponds with the first side of the 
minor triangle, must not be added. Therefore, if the shaft has been sunk 
in the middle of the head meer, a tunnel sixty fathoms long will reach 
to the boundary of the meer only when the tunnel has been extended a 
further two fathoms and two feet ; but if the shaft is located in the middle of 
an ordinary meer, then the boundary will be reached when the tunnel has been 
driven a further length of nine fathoms and two feet. Since a tunnel, for 
every one hundred fathoms of length, rises in grade one fathom, or at all 
events, ought to rise as it proceeds toward the shaft, one more fathom must 
always be taken from the depth allowed to the shaft, and one added to the 
length allowed to the tunnel. Proportionately, because a tunnel fifty 
fathoms long is raised half a fathom, this amount must be taken from the 
depth of the shaft and added to the length of the tunnel. In the same way 
if a tunnel is one hundred or fifty fathoms shorter or longer, the same propor- 
tion also must be taken from the depth of the one and added to the length 
of the other. For this reason, in the case mentioned above, half a fathom 
and a Uttle more must be added to the distance to be driven through, so 
that there remain twenty-three fathoms, five feet, two palms, one and a half 
digits and a fifth of a digit ; that is, if even the minutest proportions are 
carried out ; and surveyors do not neglect these without good cause. 
Similarly, if the shaft is seventy fathoms deep, in order that it may reach to 
the bottom of the tunnel, it still must be sunk a further depth of thirteen 
fathoms and two feet, or rather twelve fathoms and a half, one foot, two 
digits, and four-fifths of half a digit. And in this instance five feet must be 
deducted from the reckoning, because these five feet complete the third side 
of the minor triangle, which is above the mouth of the shaft, and from its 

134 BOOK V. 

depth there must be deducted half a fathom, two palms, one and a half digits 
and the fifth part of half a digit. But if the tunnel has been driven to a 
point where it is under the shaft, then to reach the roof of the tunnel the 
shaft must still be sunk a depth of eleven fathoms, two and a half feet, one 
palm, two digits, and four-fifths of half a digit. 

If a minor triangle is produced of the kind having three unequal sides, 
then the sides of the greater triangle cannot be equal ; that is, if the first 
side of the minor triangle is eight feet long, the second six feet long, and the 
third five feet long, and the cord along the side of the greater triangle, not 
to go too far from the example just given, is one hundred and one times 
eight feet, that is, one hundred and thirty-four fathoms and four feet, the 
distance which lies between the mouth of the tunnel and the bottom of the 
shaft will occupy one hundred times six feet in length, that is, one hundred 
fathoms. The distance between the mouth of the shaft and the bottom of the 
tunnel is one hundred times five feet, that is, eighty-three fathoms and two feet. 
And so, if the tunnel is eighty-five fathoms long, the remainder to be driven 
into the mountain is fifteen fathoms long, and here, too, a correction in 
measurement must be taken from the depth of the shaft and added to the 
length of the tunnel ; what this is precisely, I will pursue no further, since 
everyone having a small knowledge of arithmetic can work it out. If the 
shaft is sixty-seven fathoms deep, in order that it may reach the bottom of 
the tunnel, the further distance required to be sunk amounts to sixteen 
fathoms and two feet. 


The surveyor employs this same method in measuring the mountain, 
whether the shaft and tunnel are on one and the same vein, whether the vein 
is vertical or inclined, or whether the shaft is on the principal vein and the tunnel 
on a transverse vein descending vertically to the depths of the earth ; in the 
latter case the excavation is to be made where the transverse vein cuts the 
vertical vein. If the principal vein descends on an incline and the cross-vein 
descends vertically, then a minor triangle is created having one obtuse angle or 
all three angles acute. If the minor triangle has one angle obtuse and the two 
sides which are the second and third are equal, then the second and third 
sides of the major triangle will be equal, so that if the first side of the minor 
triangle is nine feet, the second, and likewise the third, will be five feet. Then 
the first side of the major triangle will be one hundred and one times nine 
feet, or one hundred and fifty-one and one-half fathoms, and each of the 
other sides of the major triangle will be one hundred times five feet, that is, 
eighty-three fathoms and two feet. But when the first shaft is inclined. 

BOOK V. 135 

generally speaking, it is not deep ; but there are usually several, all 
inclined, and one always following the other. Therefore, if a tunnel is seventy- 
seven fathoms long, it will reach to the middle of the bottom of a shaft when 
six fathoms and two feet further have been sunk. But if all such inclined 
shafts are seventy-six fathoms deep, in order that the last one may reach 
the bottom of the tunnel, a depth of seven fathoms and two feet remains to 
be sunk. 



If a minor triangle is made which has an obtuse angle and three unequal 
sides, then again the sides of the large triangle cannot be equal. For 
example, if the first side of the minor triangle is six feet long, the second 
three feet, and the third four feet, and the cord along the side of the greater 
triangle one hundred and one times six feet, that is, one hundred and one 
fathoms, the distance between the mouth of the tunnel and the bottom of 
the last shaft vidll be a length one hundred times three feet, or fifty fathoms ; 
but the depth that lies between the mouth of the first shaft and the bottom of 
the tunnel is one hundred times four feet, or sixty-six fathoms and four feet. 
Therefore, if a tunnel is forty-four fathoms long, the remaining distance to 
be driven is six fathoms. If the shafts are fifty-eight fathoms deep, the 
newest will touch the bottom of the tunnel when eight fathoms and four 
feet have been sunk. 

Triangle having an obtuse angle and three unequal sides. 

If a minor triangle is produced which has all its angles acute and its 
three sides equal, then necessarily the second and third sides of the minor 
triangle will be equal, and Ukewise the sides of the major triangle frequently 
referred to will be equal. Thus if each side of the minor triangle is six feet 
long, and the cord measurement for the side of the major triangle is one 
hundred and one times six feet, that is, one hundred and one fathoms, then 
both the distances to be dug vrill be one hundred fathoms. And thus if the 
tunnel is ninety fathoms long, it vdll reach the middle of the bottom of the 
last shaft when ten fathoms further have been driven. If the shafts are 

136 BOOK V. 

ninety-five fathoms deep, the last will reach the bottom of the tunnel when 
it is sunk a further depth of five fathoms. 


If a triangle is made which has all its angles acute, but only two sides 
equal, namely, the first and third, then the second and third sides are not 
equal ; therefore the distances to be dug cannot be equal. For example, if 
the first side of the minor triangle is six feet long, and the second is four feet, 
and the third is six feet, and the cord measurement for the side of the major 
triangle is one hundred and one times six feet, that is, one hundred and one 
fathoms, then the distance between the mouth of the tunnel and the bottom of 
the last shaft will be sixty-six fathoms and four feet. But the distance from the 
mouth of the first shaft to the bottom of the tunnel is one hundred fathoms. 
So if the tunnel is sixty fathoms long, the remaining distance to be driven 
into the mountain is six fathoms and four feet. If the shaft is ninety-seven 
fathoms deep, the last one will reach the bottom of the tunnel when a further 
depth of three fathoms has been sunk. 

Triangle having all its angles acute and two sides equal, A, B, unequal side C. 

If a minor triangle is produced which has all its angles acute, but its 
three sides unequal, then again the distances to be dug cannot be equal. 
For example, if the first side of the minor triangle is seven feet long, the 
second side is four feet, and the third side is six feet, and the cord measure- 
ment for the side of the major triangle is one hundred and one times seven 
feet or one hundred and seventeen fathoms and four feet, the distance 
between the mouth of the tunnel and the bottom of the last shaft will be 
four hundred feet or sixty-six fathoms, and the depth between the mouth of 
the first shaft and the bottom of the tunnel will be one hundred fathoms. 
Therefore, if a tunnel is fifty fathoms long, it will reach the middle of the 
bottom of the newest shaft when it has been driven sixteen fathoms and four 
feet further. But if the shafts are then ninety-two fathoms deep, the last 



shaft will roach the bottom of thr tunnel whm it has hern sunk a further 
light fathoms. 


This is the method of the surveyor in measuring the mountain, if the 
principal vein descends inclined into the depths of the earth or the transverse 
vein is vertical. But if they are both inclined, the surveyor uses the same 
method, or he measures the slope of the mountain separately from the slope 
of the shaft. Next, if a transverse vein in which a tunnel is driven does not 
cut the principal vein in that spot where the shaft is sunk, then it is necessary 
for the starting point of the survey to be in the other shaft in which the 
transverse vein cuts the principal vein. But if there be no shaft on that spot 
where the outcrop of the transverse vein cuts the outcrop of the principal 
vein, then the surface of the ground which lies between the shafts must 
be measured, or that between the shaft and the place where the outcrop of 
the one vein intersects the outcrop of the other. 

Some surveyors, although they use three cords, nevertheless ascertain 
only the length of a tunnel by that method of measuring, and determine 
the depth of a shaft by another method ; that is, by the method by 
which cords are re-stretched on a level part of the mountain or in 
a valley, or in flat fields, and are measured again. Some, however, do 
not employ this method in surveying the depth of a shaft and the 
length of a tunnel, but use only two cords, a graduated hemicycle^^ and a 
rod half a fathom long. They suspend in the shaft one cord, fastened 
from the upper pole and weighted, just as the others do. Fastened to the 
upper end of this cord, they stretch another right down the slope of the mountain 
to the bottom of the mouth of the tunnel and fix it to the ground. Then to 
the upper part of this second cord they apply on its lower side the broad part 
of a hemicycle. This consists of half a circle, the outer margin of which is 
covered with wax, and within this are six semi-circular lines. From the 

^^The names of the instruments here described in the original text, their German 
equivalents in the Glossary, and the terms adopted in translation are given below : — 

Latin Text. 


Terms Adopted. 


. Cord 


. Stab 

. Rod 


Trip us 

Instrumentutn cui index 


. Donlege bretlein 

. Stul 

. Compass 

. Scheube 

. Hemicycle 
. Tripod 
. Compass 
. Orbis 

Libra stativa 
Libra pensilis 
Instrumentutn cui index / 

Ipinum . 

. Auffsatz 

. Der schiner compass . 

. Standing plummet level 
. Suspended plummet level 
. Swiss compass 



waxed margin through the first semi-circular line, and reaching to the second, 
there proceed straight lines converging toward the centre of the hemicycle ; 
these mark the middles of intervening spaces lying between other straight lines 
which extend to the fourth semi-circular hne. But all lines whatsoever, from 
the waxed margin up to the fourth line, whether they go beyond it or not, 
correspond with the graduated lines which mark the minor spaces of a rod. 
Those which go beyond the fourth line correspond with the hues marking 

A — Waxed semicircle of the hemicycle. B — Semicircular lines. C — Str.wght 
LINES. D — Line measuring the half. E — Line measuring the whole. F^Tongue. 

BOOK V. 139 

the major spaces on the rod, and those which proceed further, mark the 
middle of the intervening space which lies between the others. The 
straight lines, which run from the fifth to the sixth semi-circular line, show 
nothing further. Nor does the line which measures the half, show anything 
when it has already passed from the sixth straight hne to the base of the 
hemicycle. When the hcmicycle is applied to the cord, if its tongue indicates 
the sixth straight line which lies between the second and third semi-circular 
lines, the surveyor counts on the rod six lines which separate the minor 
spaces, and if the length of this portion of the rod be taken from the second 
cord, as many times as the cord itself is half-fathoms long, the remaining 
length of cord shows the distance the tunnel must be driven to reach under 
the shaft. But if he sees that the tongue has gone so far that it marks the 
sixth line between the fourth and fifth semi-circular lines, he counts six lines 
which separate the major spaces on the rod ; and this entire space is deducted 
from the length of the second cord, as many times as the number of whole 
fathoms which the cord contains ; and then, in like manner, the remaining 
length of cord shows us the distance the tunnel must be driven to reach 
under the shaft. i' 

Stretched cords : A — First cord. B — Second cord. C — Third cord. 
D — Triangle. 

I'lt is interesting to note that the ratio of any length so obtained, to the whole length 
of the staff, is practically equal to the cosine of the angle represented by the corresponding 
gradation on the hemicycle ; the gradations on the rod forming a fairly accurate table of 



Both these surveyors, as well as the others, in the first place make use 
of the haulage rope. These they measure by means of others made of linden 
bark, because the latter do not stretch at all, while the former become very 
slack. These cords they stretch on the surveyor's field, the first one to 
represent the parts of mountain slopes which descend obliquely. Then the 
second cord, which represents the length of the tunnel to be driven to reach 
the shaft, they place straight, in such a direction that one end of it can touch 
the lower end of the first cord ; then they similarly lay the third cord straight, 
and in such a direction that its upper end may touch the upper end of 
the first cord, and its lower end the other extremity of the second cord, and 
thus a triangle is formed. This third cord is measured by the instrument 
with the index, to determine its relation to the perpendicular ; and the length 
of this cord shows the depth of the shaft. 

Some surveyors, to make their system of measuring the depth of a shaft 
more certain, use five stretched cords : the first one descending obliquely ; 
two, that is to say the second and third, for ascertaining the length of the 
tunnel ; two for the depth of the shaft ; in which way they form a quadrangle 
divided into two equal triangles, and this tends to greater accuracy. 

Stretched cords : A — First. 

B — Second. B — Third. 


C — Fourth. C — Fifth. 

These systems of measuring the depth of a shaft and the length of a 
tunnel, are accurate when the vein and also the shaft or shafts go down to the 

BOOK V. 141 

tunnel vertically or inclined, in an uninterrupted cf se. The same is true 
when a tunnel runs straight on to a shaft. But when each of them bends 
now in this, now in that direction, if they have not been completely driven 
and sunk, no living man is clever enough to judge how far they are deflected 
from a straight course. But if the whole of either one of the two has been ex- 
cavated its full distance, then wc can estimate more easily the length of one, 
or the depth of the other ; and so the location of the tunnel, which is below 
a newly-started shaft, is determined by a method of surveying which I will 
describe. First of all a tripod is fixed at the mouth of the tunnel, and likewise at 
the mouth of the shaft which has been started, or at the place where the shaft will 
be started. The tripod is made of three stakes fixed to the ground, a small 
rectangular board being placed upon the stakes and fixed to them, and on 
this is set a compass. Then from the lower tripod a weighted cord is let 
down perpendicularly to the earth, close to which cord a stake is fixed in the 
ground. To this stake another cord is tied and drawn straight into the tunnel 
to a point as far as it can go without being bent by the hangingwall or the 
footwall of the vein. Next, from the cord which hangs from the lower tripod, 
a third cord likewise fixed is brought straight up the sloping side of the 
mountain to the stake of the upper tripod, and fastened to it. In order that 
the measuring of the depth of the shaft may be more certain, the third cord 
should touch one and the same side of the cord hanging from the lower tripod 
which is touched by the second cord — the one which is drawn into the tunnel. 
All this having been correctly carried out, the surveyor, when at length 
the cord which has been drawm straight into the tunnel is about to be bent 
by the hangingwall or footwall, places a plank in the bottom of the tunnel 
and on it sets the orbis, an instrument which has an indicator peculiar 
to itself. This instrument, although it also has waxed circles, differs from the 
other, which I have described in the third book. But by both these 
instruments, as well as by a rule and a square, he determines whether the 
stretched cords reach straight to the extreme end of the tunnel, or whether 
they sometimes reach straight, and are sometimes bent by the footwall or 
hangingwall. Each instrument is divided into parts, but the compass into 
twenty-four parts, the orbis into sixteen parts ; for first of all it is divided 
into four principal parts, and then each of these is again divided into four. 
Both have waxed circles, but the compass has seven circles, and the orbis 
only five circles. These waxed circles the surveyor marks, whichever instru- 
ment he uses, and by the succession of these same marks he notes any 
change in the direction in which the cord extends. The orbis has an open- 
ing running from its outer edge as far as the centre, into which opening he 
puts an iron screw, to which he binds the second cord, and by screwing it into 
the plank, fixes it so that the orbis may be im^movable. He takes care 
to prevent the second cord, and afterward the others which are put up, 
from being pulled off the screw, by employing a heavy iron, into an opening 
of which he fixes the head of the screw. In the case of the compass, since 
it has no opening, he merely places it by the side of the screw. That the 
instrument does not incline forward or backward, and in that way the 

142 BOOK V. 

measurement become a greater length than it should be, he sets upon the 
instrument a standing plummet level, the tongue of which, if the instrument 
is level, indicates no numbers, but the point from which the numbers start. 

Compass. A, B, C, D, E, F, G are the seven waxed circles. 

When the surveyor has carefully observed each separate angle of the 
tunnel and has measured such parts as he ought to measure, then he lays 
them out in the same way on the surveyor's field^" in the open air, and again 
no less carefully observes each separate angle and measures them. First of 
all, to each angle, according as the calculation of his triangle and his art 
require it, he lays out a straight cord as a line. Then he stretches a cord at 
""It must be understood that instead of " plotting " a survey on a reduced scale on 
paper, as modern surveyors do, the whole survey was reproduced in full scale on the 
" surveyor's field." 

;,>,.,- l.l-^^^^^^^^^^^??t^V^^^'^^^^''"'^^'^^^^^^^^^^'y^^^^^^''^''^^'Y y ^ ^J:L» 

A B, C, D, E — Five waxed circles of the orbis. 
F— Opening of same. G— Screw. H— Perforated iron. 





such an angle as represents the slope of the mountain, so that its lower end 
may reach the end of the straitrht cord ; then he stretches a third cord 

A — Standing plummet level. B — Tongue. C — Level and tongue. 

144 BOOK V. 

similarly straight and at such an angle, that with its upper end it may reach 
the upper end of the second cord, and with its lower end the last end of the 
first cord. The length of the third cord shows the depth of the shaft, as I 
said before, and at the same time that point on the tunnel to which the shaft 
will reach when it has been sunk. 

If one or more shafts reach the tunnel through intermediate drifts and 
shafts, the surveyor, starting from the nearest which is open to the air, 
measures in a shorter time the depth of the shaft which requires to be sunk, 
than if he starts from the mouth of the tunnel. First of all he measures 
that space on the surface which lies between the shaft which has been sunk 
and the one which requires to be sunk. Then he measures the incHne of all 
the shafts which it is necessary to measure, and the length of all the drifts 
with which they are in any way connected to the tunnel. Lastly, he 
measures part of the tunnel ; and when all this is properly done, he demon- 
strates the depth of the shaft and the point in the tunnel to which the shaft 
will reach. But sometimes a very deep straight shaft requires to be sunk 
at the same place where there is a previous inclined shaft, and to the same 
depth, in order that loads may be raised and drawn straight up by machines. 
Those machines on the surface are turned by horses ; those inside the earth, 
by the same means, and also by water-power. And so, if it becomes 
necessary to sink such a shaft, the surveyor first of all fixes an iron screw 
in the upper part of the old shaft, and from the screw he lets down a cord 
as far as the first angle, where again he fixes a screw, and again lets down the 
cord as far as the second angle ; this he repeats again and again until the 
cord reaches to the bottom of the shaft. Then to each angle of the cord he 
applies a hemicycle, and marks the waxed semi-circle according to the lines 
which the tongue indicates, and designates it by a number, in case it should be 
moved ; then he measures the separate parts of the cord with another cord 
made of linden bark. Afterward, when he has come back out of the shaft, 
he goes away and transfers the markings from the waxed semi-circle of the 
hemicycle to an orbis similarly waxed. Lastly, the cords are stretched on the 
surveyor's field, and he measures the angles, as the S3'stem of measuring by 
triangles requires, and ascertains which part of the footwall and which 
part of the hangingwall rock must be cut away in order that the shaft may 
descend straight. But if the surveyor is required to show the owners of the 
mine, the spot in a drift or a tunnel in which a shaft needs to be raised 
from the bottom upward, that it should cut through more quickly, he 
begins measuring from the bottom of the drift or tunnel, at a point 
beyond the spot at which the bottom of the shaft will arrive, when it has been 
sunk. When he has measured the part of the drift or tunnel up to the first 
shaft which connects with an upper drift, he measures the incline of this 
shaft by applying a hemicycle or orbis to the cord. Then in a like manner 
he measures the upper drift and the incline shaft which is sunk therein 
toward which a raise is being dug, then again all the cords are stretched in 
the surveyor's field, the last cord in such a way that it reaches the first, and 
then he measures them. From this measurement is known in what part 

BOOK V. 145 

of the drift or tunnel the raise should be made, and how many fathoms of 
vein remain to be broken through in order that the shaft ma}' be connected. 

I have described the first reason for surveying ; I will now describe 
another. When one vein comes near another, and their owners are different 
persons who have late come into possession, whether they drive a tunnel 
or a drift, or sink a shaft, they may encroach, or seem to encroach, without 
any lawful right, upon the boundaries of the older owners, for which reason 
the latter very often seek redress, or take legal proceedings. The surveyor 
either himself settles the dispute between the owners, or by his art gives 
evidence to the judges for making their decision, that one shall not encroach 
on the mine of the other. Thus, first of all he measures the mines of each 
party with a basket rope and cords of linden bark ; and having applied to the 
cords an orbis or a compass, he notes the directions in which they extend. 
Then he stretches the cords on the surveyor's field ; and starting from that 
point whose owners are in possession of the old meer toward the other, 
whether it is in the hanging or footwall of the vein, he stretches a cross- 
cord in a straight line, according to the si.xth division of the compass, 
that is, at a right angle to the vein, for a distance of three and a 
half fathoms, and assigns to the older owners that which belongs to 
them. But if both ends of one vein are being dug out in two tunnels, or 
drifts from opposite directions, the surveyor first of all considers the lower 
tunnel or drift and afterward the upper one, and judges how much each of 
them has risen little by little. On each side strong men take in their hands 
a stretched cord and hold it so that there is no point where it is not strained 
tight ; on each side the surveyor supports the cord with a rod half a fathom 
long, and stays the rod at the end with a short stick as often as he thinks 
it necessary. But some fasten cords to the rods to make them steadier. 
The surveyor attaches a suspended plummet level to the middle of the cord to 
enable him to calculate more accurately on both sides, and from this he ascer- 
tains whether one tunnel has risen more than another, or in like manner one 
drift more than another. Afterward he measures the incline of the shafts 
on both sides, so that he can estimate their position on each side. Then he 
easily sees how many fathoms remain in the space which must be broken 
through. But the grade of each tunnel, as I said, should rise one fathom in 
the distance of one hundred fathoms. 

The Swiss surveyors, when they wish to measure tunnels driven into 
the highest mountains, also use a rod half a fathom long, but composed of 
three parts, which screw together, so that they may be shortened. They 
use a cord made of linden bark to which are fastened slips of paper showing 
the number of fathoms. They also employ an instrument peculiar to them, 
which has a needle ; but in place of the waxed circles they carry in their 
hands a chart on which they inscribe the readings of the instrument. The 
instrument is placed on the back part of the rod so that the tongue, and the 
extended cord which runs through the three holes in the tongue, demonstrates 
the direction, and they note the number of fathoms. The tongue shows 
whether the cord inchnes forward or backward. The tongue does not hang. 

146 BOOK V. 

as in the case of the suspended plummet level, but is fixed to the instrument in 
a half-lying position. They measure the tunnels for the purpose of knowing 
how many fathoms they have been increased in elevation ; how many fathoms 
the lower is distant from the upper one ; how many fathoms of interval is 

Indicator of a suspended plummet level. 



not yet pierced between the miners who on opposite sides are digging on 
the same vein, or cross-stringers, or two veins which are approaching one 

But 1 return to uur mines. If the surveyor desires to fix the boundaries 
of the mecr within the tunnels or drifts, and mark to them with a sign cut in the 
rock, in the same way that tiie Bergmcisler has marked these boundaries 
above ground, he first of all ascertains, by measuring in the manner 
which I have explained above, which part of the tunnel or drift lies 
beneath the surface boundary mark, stretching the cords along the drifts to 
a point beyond that spot in the rock where he judges the mark should be 
cut. Then, after the same cords have been laid out on the surveyor's field, 
he starts from that upper cord at a point which shows the boundary mark, 
and stretches another cross-cord straight downward according to the sixth 

A — Needle of the instrument. B — Its tongue. C, D, E — Holes in the tongue. 

148 BOOK V. 

division of the compass — that is at a right angle. Then that part 
of the lowest cord which lies beyond the part to which the cross-cord 
runs being removed, it shows at what point the boundary mark should 
be cut into the rock of the tunnel or drift. The cutting is made in the 
presence of the two Jurors and the manager and the foreman of each 
mine. For as the Bergmeister in the presence of these same persons sets 
the boundary stones on the surface, so the surveyor cuts in the rock a sign 
which for this reason is called the boundary rock. If he fixes the boundary 
mark of a meer in which a shaft has recently begun to be sunk on a vein, 
first of all he measures and notes the incline of that shaft by the com- 
pass or by another way with the applied cords ; then he measures all 
the drifts up to that one in whose rock the boundary mark has to 
be cut. Of these drifts he measures each angle ; then the cords, being 
laid out on the surveyor's field, in a similar way he stretches a cross- 
cord, as I said, and cuts the sign on the rock. But if the underground 
boundary rock has to be cut in a drift which lies beneath the first drift, the 
surveyor starts from the mark in the first drift, notes the different angles, 
one by one, takes his measurements, and in the lower drift stretches a cord 
beyond that place where he judges the mark ought to be cut ; and then, 
as I said before, lays out the cords on the surveyor's field. Even if a vein 
runs differently in the lower drift from the upper one, in which the first 
boundary mark has been cut in the rock, still, in the lower drift the mark 
must be cut in the rock vertically beneath. For if he cuts the lower mark 
obliquely from the upper one some part of the possession of one mine is 
taken away to its detriment, and given to the other. Moreover, if it 
happens that the underground boundary mark requires to be cut in an 
angle, the surveyor, starting from that angle, measures one fathom toward 
the front of the mine and another fathom toward the back, and from these 
measurements forms a triangle, and dividing its middle by a cross-cord, 
makes his cutting for the boundary mark. 

Lastly, the surveyor sometimes, in order to make more certain, finds the 
boundary of the meers in those places where many old boundary marks 
are cut in the rock. Then, starting from a stake fixed on the surface, 
he first of all measures to the nearest mine ; then he measures one shaft 
after another ; then he fixes a stake on the surveyors' field, and making 
a beginning from it stretches the same cords in the same way and measures 
them, and again fixes in the ground a stake which for him will signify the end 
of his measuring. Afterward he again measures underground from that 
spot at which he left off, as many shafts and drifts as he can remember. Then 
he returns to the surveyor's field, and starting again from the second stake, 
makes his measurements ; and he does this as far as the drift in which the 
boundary mark must be cut in the rock. Finally, commencing from the 
stake first fixed in the ground, he stretches a cross-cord in a straight line to 
the last stake, and this shows the length of the lowest drift. The point 
where they touch, he judges to be the place where the underground boundary 
mark should be cut. 



K 'i(JIN(i of veins I have vvritti.n of, and the timbering 
nf shafts, tuinicls, drifts, and otlirr excavations, 
and tile art uf surveying. I will now speak first of 
all, of the iron tools with which veins and rocks are 

broken, tlu'U of tin 
nf earlh, rock, iiieta 

buckets into which the lumps 
, and other excavated materials 

are thrown, in order that they may be drawn, con- 
veyed, or carried out. Also, I will speak of the 
wat(!r vessels and drains, then of the machines of 
different kinds,' and lastly of the maladies of miners. And while all these 
matters are being described accurately, many methods of work will be 

There are certain iron tools which the miners designate by names of their 
own, and besides these, there are wedges, iron blocks, iron plates, hammers, 
crowbars, pikes, picks, hoes, and shovels. Of those which are especially 
referred to as " iron tools " there are four varieties, which are different 
from one another in length or thickness, but not in shape, for the 
upper end of all of them is broad and square, so that it can be struck by the 

ijliis Book is devoted in the main to winding, ventilating, and pumping machinery. 
Their mechanical principles are very old. The block and pulley, the windlass, the use of 
water-wheels, the transmission of power through shafts and gear-wheels, chain-pumps, 
piston-pumps with valves, were all known to the Greeks and Romans, and possibly earlier. 
Machines involving these principles were described by Ctesibius, an Alexandrian of 250 B.C., 
by Archimedes (287-212 B.C.), andby Vitruvius (ist Cciitury B.C.) As to how far these machines 
were applied to mining by the Ancients we have but little evidence, and this largely in con- 
nection with handling water. Diodorus Siculus (ist Century B.C.) referring to the Spanish 
mines, saj's (Book V.) : " Sometimes at great depths they meet great rivers underground, 
" but by art give check to the violence of the streams, tor by cutting trenches they divert the 
" current, and being sure to gain what they aim at when they have begun, they never leave 
"off till they have finished it. And they a'hnirably pump out the water with those instru- 
" ments called Egyptian pumps, invented by Archimedes, the Syracusan, when he was in 
" Egypt. By these, with constant pumping by turns they throw up the water to the mouth of 
" the pit and thus drain the mine ; for this engine is so ingeniously contrived that a vast 
" quantity of water is strangely and with little labour cast out." 

Strabo (63 B.C. — 24 a.d., in., 2, 9), also referring to Spanish mines, quoting from 
Posidonius (about 100 B.C.), says : " He compares with these (the Athenians) the activity 
" and diligence of the Turdetani, who are in the habit of cutting tortuous and deep tunnels, 
" and draining the streams which they frequently encounter by means of Egyptian screws." 
(Hamilton's Tran., Vol. I., p. 221). The " Egyptian screw " was Archimedes' screw, and 
was thus called because much used by the Egyptians for irrigation. Pliny (xxxiii., 31) also 
says, in speaking of the Spanish silver-lead mines : " The mountain has been excavated for a 
distance of 1,500 paces, and along this distance there are water-carriers standing by torch- 
light night and day steadily baling the water (thus) making quite a river." The re-opening 
of the mines at Rio Tinto in the middle of the i8th Century disclosed old Roman stopes, in 
which were found several water-wheels. These were about 15 feet in diameter, lifting the 
water by the reverse arrangement to an overshot water-wheel. A wooden Archimedian 
screw was also found in the neighbourhood. (Nash, The Rio Tinto Mine, its History and 
Romance, London, 1904). 

Until early in the i8th Century, water formed the limiting factor in the depth of mines. 
To the great devotion to this water problem we owe the invention of the steam engine. 
In 1705 Newcomen — no doubt inspired by Savery's unsuccessful attempt — invented his 
engine, and installed the first one on a colliery at Wolverhampton, in Staffordshire. With its 
success, a new era was opened to the miner, to be yet further extended by Watts's improve- 
ments sixty years later. It should be a matter of satisfaction to mining engineers that 
not only was the steam engine the handiwork of their profession, but that another mining 
engineer, Stephenson, in his effort to further the advance of his calling, invented the 



hammer. The lower end is pointed so as to spht the hard rocks and veins 
with its point. All of these have eyes except the fourth. The first, 
which is in daily use among miners, is three-quarters of a foot long, a digit 
and a half wide, and a digit thick. The second is of the same width as the 
first, and the same thickness, but one and one half feet long, and is used to 
shatter the hardest veins in such a way that they crack open. The third 
is the same length as the second, but is a little wider and thicker ; with 
this one they dig the bottoms of those shafts which slowly accumulate water. 
The fourth is nearly three palms and one digit long, two digits thick, and in 
the upper end it is three digits wide, in the middle it is one palm wide, and 
at the lower end it is pointed like the others ; with this they cut out the 
harder veins. The eye in the first tool is one palm distant from the upper 
end, in the second and third it is seven digits distant ; each swells out 
around the eye on both sides, and into it they fit a wooden handle, which 
they hold with one hand, while they strike the iron tool with a hammer, after 
placing it against the rock. These tools are made larger or smaller as 
necessary. The smiths, as far as possible, sharpen again all that become dull. 

A — First " iron tool." B — Second. C — Third. D — Fourth.* E — Wedge. F — Iron 
BLOCK. G— Iron plate. H — Wooden handle. I — Handle inserted in first tool. 

A wedge is usually three palms and two digits long and six digits wide ; 
at the upper end, for a distance of a palm, it is three digits thick, and 
beyond that point it becomes thinner by degrees, until finally it is quite 

^While these particular tools serve the same purpose as the "gad" and the "moil," 
the latter are not fitted with handles, and we have, therefore, not felt justified in adopting 
these terms, but have given a literal rendering of the Latin. 



The iron block is six digits in length and width ; at the upper end it is 
two digits thick, and at the bottom a digit and a half. The iron plate is 
the same length and width as the iron block, but it is very thin. All of these, 
as I explained in the last book, are used when the hardest kind of veins are 
hewn (Hit. Wedges, locks, and plates, are likewise made larger or smaller. 

A — Smallest of the smaller hammers. B — Intermediate. C — Largest. D — Small 


Hammers are of two kinds, the smaller ones the miners hold in 
one hand, and the larger ones they hold with both hands. The former, 
because of their size and use, are of three sorts. With the smallest, 
that is to say, the lightest, they strike the second " iron tool ; " with the 
intermediate one the first " iron tool ; " and with the largest the third " iron 
tool " ; this one is two digits wide and thick. Of the larger sort of hammers 
there are two kinds ; with the smaller they strike the fourth " iron tool ; " 
with the larger they drive the wedges into the cracks ; the former are three, 
and the latter five digits wide and thick, and a foot long. All swell out in 
their middle, in which there is an eye for a handle, but in most cases the 
handles are somewhat light, in order that the workmen may be able to strike 
more powerful blows by the hammer's full weight being thus concentrated. 
^(Continued) — The Latin and old German terms for these tools were : — 

First Iron 




























Iron block 





Iron plate 





The German words obviously had local value and do not bear translation literally. 



The iron crowbars are likewise of two kinds, and each kind is pointed at 
one end. One is rounded, and with this they pierce to a shaft full of water 
when a tunnel reaches to it ; the other is flat, and with this they knock out 
of the stopes on to the floor, the rocks which have been softened by the fire, 
and which cannot be dislodged by the pike. A miner's pike, like a sailor's, 
is a long rod having an iron head. 


A — Pick. B — Hoe. C — Shovel. 

BOOK VI. 153 

The miner's pick differs from a peasant's pick in that the latter is wide 
at the bottom and sharp, but the former is pointed. It is used to dig out 
ore which is not hard, such as earth. Likewise a hoe and shovel are in no 
wa>' different from the common articles, with the one they scrape up earth 
and sand, with the other they throw it into vessels. 

Now earth, rock, mineral substances and other things dug out with 
the pick or hewn out with the " iron tools " are hauled out of the shaft 
in buckets, or baskets, or hide buckets ; they are drawn out of tunnels in 
wheelbarrows or open trucks, and from both they are sometimes carried in 

Buckets are of two kinds, which differ in size, but not in material or 
shape. The smaller for the most part hold only about one metreta ; the 
larger are generally capable of carrying one-sixth of a congius ; neither is 
of unchangeable capacity, but they often vary.^ Each is made of staves circled 
with hoops, one of which binds the top and the other the bottom. 
The hoops are sometimes made of hazel and oak, but these are easily 
broken by dashing against the shaft, while those made of iron are more 
durable. In the larger buckets the staves are thicker and wider, as also are 
both hoops, and in order that the buckets may be more firm and strong, 
they have eight iron straps, somewhat broad, four of which run from the 
upper hoop downwards, and four from the lower hoop upwards, as if to meet 
each other. The bottom of each bucket, both inside and outside, is furnished 
with two or three straps of iron, which run from one side of the lower hoop 
to the other, but the straps which are on the outside are fixed crosswise. 
Each bucket has two iron hafts which project above the edge, and it has an 
iron semi-circular bail whose lower ends are fixed directly into the hafts, 
that the bucket may be handled more easily. Each kind of bucket is much 
deeper than it is wide, and each is wider at the top, in order that the material 
which is dug out may be the more easily poured in and poured out again. 
Into the smaller buckets strong boys, and into larger ones men, fill earth 
from the bottom of the shaft with hoes ; or the other material dug up is 
shovelled into them or filled in with their hands, for which reason these men 
are called " shovellers.* " Afterward they fix the hook of the drawing-rope 
into the bale ; then the buckets are drawn up by machines — the smaller ones, 
because of their lighter weight, by machines turned by men, and the larger 
ones, being heavier, by the machines turned by horses. Some, in place 
of these buckets, substitute baskets which hold just as much, or even more, 
since they are lighter than the buckets ; some use sacks made of ox-hide 
instead of buckets, and the drawing-rope hook is fastened to their iron bale, 
usually three of these filled with excavated material are drawn up at the 
same time as three are being lowered and three are being filled by boys. The 
latter are generally used at Schneeberg and the former at Freiberg. 

^One metreta, a Greek measure, equalled about nine English gallons, and a congius 
contained about six pints. 

*Ingesiores. This is a case of Agricola coining a name for workmen from the work, 
the term being derived from ingero, to pour or to throw in, used in the previous clause — hence 
the " reason." See p. xxxi. 



A — Small bucket. B — Large bucket. C — Staves. D — Iron hoops. 
STRAPS. F — Iron straps on the bottom. G — Hafts. H — Iron bale. I- 
drawing-rope. K — Basket. L — Hide bucket or sack. 

E — Iron 
Hook of 

That which we call a cisium^ is a vehicle with one wheel, not with 

two, such as horses draw. When filled with excavated material it is pushed 

^Cisium. A two-wheeled cart. In the preface Agricola gives this as an example of 
his intended adaptations. See p. xxxi. 



by a workman out of tunnels or sheds. It is made as follows : two planks 
are chosen about live feet long, one foot wide, and two digits thick ; of 
each of these the lower side is cut away at the front for a length of one 
foot, and at the back for a length of two feet, while the middle is left whole. 
Then in the front parts are bored circular holes, in order that the ends of an 
axle may revolve in them. The intermediate parts of the planks are 
perforated twice near the bottom, so as to receive the heads of two little 
cleats on which the planks are fixed ; and they are also perforated in the 
middle, so as to receive the heads of two end-boards, while keys fixed in 
these projecting heads strengthen the whole structure. The handles are 
made out of the extreme ends of the long planks, and they turn downward 
at the ends that they may be grasped more firmly in the hands. The small 
wheel, of which there is only one, neither has a nave nor does it revolve 
around the axle, but turns around with it. From the felloe, which the 
Greeks called a-^lSu:. two transverse spokes fixed into it pass through the 
middle of the axle toward the opposite felloe ; the axle is square, with 
the exception of the ends, each of which is rounded so as to turn in the 
opening. A workman draws out this barrow full of earth and rock and draws 
it back empt3^ Miners also have another wheelbarrow, larger than this 
one, which they use when they wash earth mixed with tin-stone on to which 
a stream has been turned. The front end-board of this one is deeper, in 
order that the earth which has been thrown into it may not fall out. 

A — Small wheelbarrow. B — Long planks thereof. C — End-boards. D — Small 
WHEEL. E — Larger barrow. F — Front end-board thereof. 



^\i^^.,i,TV\^\^ ""||'|'"''""(|l^ 

A — Rectangular iron bands on truck. B — Its iron straps. 
D — Wooden rollers. E — Small iron keys. F — Large 
G — Same truck upside down. 

C — Iron axle, 
slunt iron pin. 

The open truck has a capacity half as large again as a wheelbarrow ; it is 
about four feet long and about two and a half feet wide and deep ; and since 
its shape is rectangular, it is bound together with three rectangular iron 
bands, and besides these there are iron straps on all sides. Two small iron 
axles are fixed to the bottom, around the ends of which wooden rollers revolve 
on either side ; in order that the rollers shall not fall off the immovable 
axles, there are small iron keys. A large blunt pin fixed to the bottom of the 
truck runs in a groove of a plank in such a way that the truck does not 
leave the beaten track. Holding the back part with his hands, the carrier 
pushes out the truck laden with excavated material, and pushes it back 
again empty. Some people call it a " dog "®, because when it moves it 
makes a noise which seems to them not unlike the bark of a dog. This truck 
is used when they draw loads out of the longest tunnels, both because it is 
moved more easily and because a heavier load can be placed in it. 

Bateas' are hollowed out of a single block of wood ; the smaller kind 
are generally two feet long and one foot wide. When they have been 
filled with ore, especially when but little is dug from the shafts and tunnels, 
men either carry them out on their shoulders, or bear them away hung from 

^Canis. The Germans in Agricola's time called a truck a hundt — a hound. 
''Alveiis, — "Tray." The Spanish term 6(j/fc(i has been so generally adopted into the 
mining vocabulary for a wooden bowl for these purposes, that we introduce it here. 



A — Small batea. B — Rope. C— Large batea. 

their necks. Pliny^ is our authority that among the ancients everything 

which was mined was carried out on men's shoulders, but in truth this 

method of carrying forth burdens is onerous, since it causes great fatigue 

to a great number of men, and involves a large expenditure for labour ; for 

this reason it has been rejected and abandoned in our day. The length of 

the larger batea is as much as three feet, the width up to a foot and a palm. 

In these bateas the metallic earth is washed for the purpose of testing it. 

Water-vessels differ both in the use to which they are put and in the 

material of which they are made ; some draw the water from the shafts and 

pour it into other things, as dippers ; while some of the vessels fiUed with 

water are drawn out by machines, as buckets and bags ; some are made of 

wood, as the dippers and buckets, and others of hides, as the bags. The 

water-buckets, just like the buckets which are filled with dry material, are of 

two kinds, the smaller and the larger , but these are unlike the other buckets at 

the top, as in this case they are narrower, in order that the water may not be 

spilled by being bumped against the timbers when they are being drawn out 

of the shafts, especially those considerably inclined. The water is poured 

into these buckets by dippers, which are small wooden buckets, but unlike the 

water-buckets, they are neither narrow at the top nor bound with iron hoops, 

but with hazel, — because there is no necessity for either. The smaller buckets 

are drawn up by machines turned by men, the larger ones by those turned by 


'Pliny (xxxm., 21). " The fragments are carried on workmen's shoulders ; night 
" and day each passes the material to his neighbour, only the last of them seeing the daylight." 



A — Shallkr watf.k-bucket. E— Larger water-bucket. C — Dipper 

A — Water-bag which takes in water by itself. B — Water-bag into which water 
POURS when it is pushed with a shovel. 



Our people give the name of water-bags to those very large skins for 
carrying water which are made of two, or two and a half, ox-hides. When 
these water-bags have undergone much wear and use, first the hair comes 
off them and they become bald and shining ; after this they become 
torn. If the tear is but a small one, a piece of smooth notched stick is put 
into the broken part, and the broken bag is bound into its notches on cither 
side and sewn together ; but if it is a large one, they mend it with a piece of 
ox-hide. The water-bags are fixed to the hook of a drawing-chain and let 
down and dipped into the water, and as soon as they are filled they are drawn 
up by the largest machine. They are of two kinds ; the one kind take in the 
water by themselves ; the water pours into the other kind when it is pushed 
in a certain way by a wooden shovel. 

When the water has been drawn out from the shafts, it is run off in 
troughs, or into a hopper, through which it runs into the trough. Likewise 
the water which flows along the sides of the tunnels is carried off in drains. 
These are composed of two hollowed beams joined firmly together, so as to 
hold the water which flows through them, and they are covered by planks 
all along their course, from the mouth of the tunnel right up to the extreme 
end of it, to prevent earth or rock falling into them and obstructing the flow 
of the water. If much mud gradually settles in them the planks are raised 
and the drains are cleaned out, for they would otherwise become stopped up 
and obstructed by this accident. With regard to the trough lying above 

A — Trough. B — Hopper. 

i6o BOOK VI. 

ground, which miners place under the hoppers which are close by the shaft 
houses, these are usually hollowed out of single trees. Hoppers are generally 
made of four planks, so cut on the lower side and joined together that the 
top part of the hopper is broader and the bottom part narrower. 

I have sufficiently indicated the nature of the miners' iron tools and 
their vessels. I will now explain their machines, which are of three kinds, 
that is, hauling machines, ventilating machines, and ladders. By means of 
the hauling machines loads are drawn out of the shafts ; the ventilating 
machines receive the air through their mouths and blow it into shafts or 
tunnels, for if this is not done, diggers cannot carry on their labour without 
great difhculty in breathing ; by the steps of the ladders the miners go 
down into the shafts and come up again. 

Hauling machines are of varied and diverse forms, some of them being 
made with great skill, and if I am not mistaken, they were unknown to the 
Ancients. They have been invented in order that water may be drawn from 
the depths of the earth to which no tunnels reach, and also the excavated 
material from shafts which are likewise not connected with a tunnel, or if 
so, only with very long ones. Since shafts are not all of the same depth, there 
is a great variety among these hauling machines. Of those by which dry loads 
are drawn out of the shafts, five sorts are in the most common use, of which 
I will now describe the first. Two timbers a little longer than the shaft are 
placed beside it, the one in the front of the shaft, the other at the back. 
Their extreme ends have holes through which stakes, pointed at the bottom 
like wedges, are driven deeply into the ground, so that the timbers may remain 
stationary. Into these timbers are mortised the ends of two cross-timbers, 
one laid on the right end of the shaft, while the other is far enough 
from the left end that between it and that end there remains suitable 
space for placing the ladders. In the middle of the cross-timbers, posts are 
fixed and secured with iron keys. In hollows at the top of these posts 
thick iron sockets hold the ends of the barrel, of which each end projects 
beyond the hollow of the post, and is mortised into the end of another 
piece of wood a foot and a half long, a palm wide and three digits thick ; 
the other end of these pieces of wood is seven digits wide, and into each 
of them is fixed a round handle, likewise a foot and a half long. A 
winding-rope is wound around the barrel and fastened to it at the 
middle part. The loop at each end of the rope has an iron hook which 
is engaged in the bale of a bucket, and so when the windlass revolves by 
being turned by the cranks, a loaded bucket is always being drawn out of the 
shaft and an empty one is being sent down into it. Two robust men turn 
the windlass, each having a wheelbarrow near him, into which he unloads 
the bucket which is drawn up nearest to him ; two buckets generally fill a 
wheelbarrow ; therefore when four buckets have been drawn up, each man 
runs his own wheelbarrow out of the shed and empties it. Thus it happens 
that if shafts are dug deep, a hillock rises around the shed of the windlass. 
If a vein is not metal-bearing, they pour out the earth and rock without 
discriminating ; whereas if it is metal-bearing, they preserve these materials. 



which they unload separately and crush and wash. When they draw up 
buckets of water they empty the water through the hopper into a trough, 
through which it flows away. 

A — Timber placed in front of the shaft. B — Timber placed at the back of the 
SHAFT. C — Pointed stakes. D — Cross-timbers. E — Posts or thick planks. 
F — Iron sockets. G — Barrel. H — Ends of barrel. I — Pieces of wood. 
K — Handle. L — Drawing-rope. M — Its hook. N — Bucket. O — Bale of the 


The next kind of machine, which miners employ when the shaft is 
deeper, differs from the first in that it possesses a wheel as well as cranks. 
This windlass, if the load is not being drawn up from a great depth, is turned 
by one windlass man, the wheel taking the place of the other man. But if the 
depth is greater, then the windlass is turned by three men, the wheel being 
substituted for a fourth, because the barrel having been once set in motion, 
the rapid revolutions of the wheel help, and it can be turned more easily. 
Sometimes masses of lead are hung on to this wheel, or are fastened to the 
spokes, in order that when it is turned they depress the spokes by their weight 
and increase the motion ; some persons for the same reason fasten into the 
barrel two, three, or four iron rods, and weight their ends with lumps of lead. 
The windlass wheel differs from the wheel of a carriage and from the one 


-Straight levers. C — Usual crank. 
E — Rim of the same wheel. 

D — Spokes of wheel. 

which is turned by water power, for it lacks the buckets of a water-wheel 
and it lacks the nave of a carriage wheel. In the place of the nave it has a thick 
barrel, in which are mortised the lower ends of the spokes, just as their upper 
ends are mortised into the rim. When three windlass men turn this machine, 
four straight levers are fixed to the one end of the barrel, and to the 
other the crank which is usual in mines, and which is composed of two limbs, 
of which the rounded horizontal one is grasped by the hands ; the rect- 
angular limb, which is at right angles to the horizontal one, has mortised in its 
lower end the round handle, and in the upper end the end of the barrel. This 
crank is worked by one man, the levers by two men, of whom one pulls while 
the other pushes ; all windlass workers, whatsoever kind of a machine they 
may turn, are necessarily robust that they can sustain such great toil. 

The third kind of machine is less fatiguing for the workman, while it 
raises larger loads ; even though it is slower, like all other machines which 
have drums, yet it reaches greater depths, even to a depth of i8o feet. It 
consists of an upright axle with iron journals at its extremities, which 
turn in two iron sockets, the lower of which is fixed in a block set in the 
ground and the upper one in the roof beam. This axle has at its lower end a 



A— Upright axle. B— Block. C — Roof beam. D— Wheel. E — Toothed-drum. 
F — Horizontal axle. G— Drum composed of rundles. H — Drawing rope. 
I — Pole. K — Upright posts. L — Cleats on the wheel. 

wheel made of thick planks joined firmly together, and at its upper end a 
toothed drum ; this toothed drum turns another drum made of rundles, which 
is on a horizontal axle. A winding-rope is wound around this latter axle, 
which turns in iron bearings set in the beams. So that they may not fall, the 
two workmen grasp with their hands a pole fixed to two upright posts, and 
then pushing the cleats of the lower wheel backward with their feet, they 
revolve the machine ; as often as they have drawn up and emptied one 
bucket full of excavated material, they turn the machine in the opposite 
direction and draw out another. 

The fourth machine raises burdens once and a half as large again as the 
two machines first explained. When it is made, sixteen beams are erected 
each forty feet long, one foot thick and one foot wide, joined at the top with 
clamps and widely separated at the bottom. The lower ends of all of 
them are mortised into separate sills laid flat upon the ground ; these sills 
are five feet long, a foot and a half wide, and a foot thick. Each beam is also 
connected with its sill by a post, whose upper end is mortised into the beam 

i64 BOOK VI. 

and its lower end mortised into the sill ; these posts are four feet long, one 
foot thick, and one foot wide. Thus a circular area is made, the diameter of 
which is fifty feet ; in the middle of this area a hole is sunk to a depth of ten 
feet, and rammed down tight, and in order to give it sufficient firmness, it is 
strengthened with contiguous small timbers, through which pins are driven, 
for by them the earth around the hole is held so that it cannot fall in. In 
the bottom of the hole is planted a sill, three or four feet long and a foot and a 
half thick and wide ; in order that it may remain fixed, it is set into the small 
timbers ; in the middle of it is a steel socket in which the pivot of the axle turns. 
In like manner a timber is mortised into two of the large beams, at the top 
beneath the clamps ; this has an iron bearing in which the other iron j ournal of 
the axle revolves. Every axle used in mining, to speak of them once for all, 
has two iron journals, rounded off on aU sides, one fixed with keys in the centre 
of each end. That part of this journal which is fixed to the end 
of the axle is as broad as the end itself and a digit thick ; that which 
projects beyond the axle is round and a palm thick, or thicker if necessity 
requires ; the ends of each miner's axle are encircled and bound by an 
iron band to hold the journal more securely. The axle of this machine, 
except at the ends, is square, and is forty feet long, a foot and a half thick 
and wide. Mortised and clamped into the axle above the lower end are the 
ends of four inclined beams ; their outer ends support two double cross- 
beam.s similarly mortised into them ; the inclined beams are eighteen feet 
long, three palms thick, and five wide. The two cross-beams are fixed to 
the axle and held together by wooden keys so that they will not separate, 
and they are twenty-four feet long. Next, there is a drum which is made of 
three wheels, of which the middle one is seven feet distant from the upper 
one and from the lower one ; the wheels have four spokes which are 
supported by the same number of inclined braces, the lower ends of which 
are joined together round the axle by a clamp ; one end of each spoke is 
mortised into the axle and the other into the rim. There are rundles aU 
round the wheels, reaching from the rim of the lowest one to the rim of the 
middle one, and likewise from the rim of the middle wheel to the rim of the top 
one ; around these rundles are wound the drawing-ropes, one between the lowest 
wheel and the middle one, the other between the middle and top wheels. 
The whole of this construction is shaped like a cone, and is covered with a 
shingle roof, with the exception of that square part which faces the shaft. 
Then cross-beams, mortised at both ends, connect a double row of upright 
posts ; all of these are eighteen feet long, but the posts are one foot thick 
and one foot wide, and the cross-beams are three palms thick and wide. 
There are sixteen posts and eight cross-beams, and upon these cross-beams 
are laid two timbers a foot wide and three palms thick, hollowed out to a 
width of half a foot and to a depth of five digits ; the one is laid upon the 
upper cross-beams and the other upon the lower ; each is long enough to 
reach nearly from the drum of the whim to the shaft. Near the same drum 
each timber has a small round wooden roller six digits thick, whose ends are 

B(~)OK VI 

A- Upright beams. B— Sills laid flat upon the ground. C— Posts. D— Area. 
E— Sill set at the bottom of the hole. F — Axle. G — Double cross-beams. 
H — Drum. I— Win ding- ropes. K — Bucket. L — Small pieces of wood hanging 
FROM double cross-beams. M— Short wooden block. N— Chain. O— Pole bar. 
P— Grappling hook. (Some members mentioned in the text are not shown). 

i66 BOOK VI. 

covered with iron bands and revolve in iron rings. Each timber also has a 
wooden pulley, which together with its iron axle revolves in holes in the 
timber. These pulleys are hollowed out all round, in order that the drawing- 
rope may not slip out of them, and thus each rope is drawn tight and turns 
over its own roller and its own pulley. The iron hook of each rope is engaged 
with the bale of the bucket. Further, with regard to the double cross- 
beams which are mortised to the lower part of the main axle, to each end 
of them there is mortised a small piece of wood four feet long. These appear 
to hang from the double cross-beams, and a short wooden block is fixed to the 
lower part of them, on which a driver sits. Each of these blocks has an iron 
clavis which holds a chain, and that in turn a pole-bar. In this way it is 
possible for two horses to draw this whim, now this way and now that ; turn 
by turn one bucket is drawn out of the shaft full and another is let down 
into it empty ; if, indeed, the shaft is very deep four horses turn the whim. 
When a bucket has been drawn up, whether filled with dry or wet materials, 
it must be emptied, and a workman inserts a grappling hook and overturns 
it ; this hook hangs on a chain made of three or four links, fixed to a timber. 
The fifth machine is partly like the whim, and partly like the third rag 
and chain pump, which draws water by balls when turned by horse power, 
as I will explain a little later. Like this pump, it is turned by horse 
power and has two axles, namely, an upright one — about whose lower end, 
which decends into an underground chamber, there is a toothed drum — and a 
horizontal one, around which there is a drum made of rundles. It has indeed 
two drums around its horizontal axle, similar to those of the big machine, but 
smaller, because it draws buckets from a shaft almost two hundred and forty 
feet deep. One drum is made of hubs to which cleats are fixed, and 
the other is made of rundles ; and near the latter is a wheel two 
feet deep, measured on all sides around the axle, and one foot wide ; and 
against this impinges a brake,i° which holds the whim when occasion demands 
that it be stopped. This is necessary when the hide buckets are emptied 
after being drawn up full of rock fragments or earth, or as often as water 
is poured out of buckets similarly drawn up ; for this machine not only 
raises dry loads, but also wet ones, just like the other four machines which 
I have already described. By this also, timbers fastened on to its winding- 
chain are let down into a shaft. The brake is made of a piece of wood one 
foot thick and half a foot long, projecting from a timber that is suspended 
by a chain from one end of a beam which oscillates on an iron pin, this in 
turn being supported in the claws of an upright post ; and from the other end 
of this oscillating beam a long timber is suspended by a chain, and from this 
long timber again a short beam is suspended. A workman sits on the short 
beam when the machine needs to be stopped, and lowers it ; he then inserts 
a plank or small stick so that the two timbers are held down and cannot be 
raised. In this way the brake is raised, and seizing the drum, presses it 
so tightly that sparks often fly from it ; the suspended timber to which 
the short beam is attached, has several holes in which the chain is 
''■"Harpago, — A " grapple " or " hook." 



A — Toothed drum which is on the upright axle. B — Horizontal axle. C — Drum 


F — Brake. G — Oscillating beam. H — Short beam. I — Hook. 


fixed, so that it may be raised as much as is convenient. Above this wheel 
there are boards to prevent the water from dripping down and wetting it, for 
if it becomes wet the brake will not grip the machine so well. Near the 
other drum is a pin from which hangs a chain, in the last link of which there 
is an iron hook three feet long ,- a ring is fixed to the bottom of the bucket, 
and this hook, being inserted into it, holds the bucket back so that the water 
may be poured out or the fragments of rock emptied. 

The miners either carry, draw, or roll down the mountains the ore which 
is hauled out of the shafts by these five machines or taken out of the 
tunnels. In the winter time our people place a box on a sledge and draw 
it down the low mountains with a horse ; and in this season they 
also fill sacks made of hide and load them on dogs, or place two or 
three of them on a small sledge which is higher in the fore part and lower at 
the back. Sitting on these sacks, not without risk of his Ufe, the bold 
driver guides the sledge as it rushes down the mountain into the valleys with 
a stick, which he carries in his hand ; when it is rushing down too 
quickly he arrests it with the stick, or with the same stick brings it back to 
the track when it is turning aside from its proper course. Some of the 

-Sledge with box placed on it. B- 
U— Dogs with pack-saddles. 

-Sledge with sacks placed on it. C — Stick. 
E — Pig-skin s.a.cks tied to a rope. 

BOOK VI. 169 

Noricians" collect ore during the winter into sacks made of bristly pigskins, 
and drag tium down In mi the highest mountains, which neither horses, 
mules nor asses can chmb. Strong dogs, that arc trained to bear pack 
saddles, carry these sacks when empty into the mountains. When they 
are filled with ore, bound with thongs, and fastened to a rope, a man, 
winding the rope round his arm or breast, drags them down through the 
snow to a place where horses, mules, or asses bearing pack-saddles can 
climb. There the ore is removed from the pigskin sacks and put into other 
sacks made of double or triple twilled linen thread, and these placed on the 
pack-saddles of the beasts are borne down to the works where the ores 
are washed or smelted. If, indeed, the horses, mules, or asses are able 
to climb the mountains, linen sacks filled with ore are placed on their saddles, 
and they carry these down the narrow mountain paths, which are passable 
neither b\- wagons nor sledges, into the valleys lying below the steeper 
portions of the mountains. But on the declivity of cliffs which beasts cannot 
climb, are placed long open boxes made of planks, with transverse cleats to 
hold them together ; into these boxes is thrown the ore which has been 
brought in wheelbarrows, and when it has run down to the level it is gathered 
into sacks, and the beasts either carry it away on their backs or drag it away 
after it has been thrown into sledges or wagons. When the drivers bring 
ore down steep mountain slopes they use two-wheeled carts, and they drag 
behind them on the ground the trunks of two trees, for these by their weight 
hold back the heavily-laden carts, which contain ore in their boxes, and check 
their descent, and but for these the driver would often be obliged to 
bind chains to the wheels. When these men bring down ore from mountains 
which do not have such declivities, they use wagons whose beds are twice 
as long as those of the carts. The planks of these are so put together that, 
when the ore is unloaded by the drivers, they can be raised and taken apart, 
for they are only held together by bars. The drivers employed by the owners 
of the ore bring down thirty or sixty wagon-loads, and the master of the 
works marks on a stick the number of loads for each driver. But some 
ore, especially tin, after being taken from the mines, is divided into eight 
parts, or into nine, if the owners of the mine give " ninth parts " to the 
owners of the tunnel. This is occasionally done by measuring with a bucket, 
but more frequently planks are put together on a spot where, with the 
addition of the level ground as a base, it forms a hollow box. Each owner 
provides for removing, washing, and smelting that portion which has fallen 
to him. (Illustration p. 170). 

Into the buckets, drawn by these five machines, the boys or men throw 
the earth and broken rock with shovels, or they fill them with their hands ; 
hence they get their name of shovellers. As I have said, the same 
machines raise not only dry loads, but also wet ones, or water ; but before 
I explain the varied and diverse kinds of machines by which miners are wont 

^^Ancient Noricum covered the region of modern Tyrol, with parts of Bavaria, 
Salzburg, etc. 


A — Horses with pack-saddles. B — Long box placed on the slope of the cliff. 
C — Cleats thereof. D — Wheelbarrow. E — Two-wheeled cart. F — Trunks of 
trees. G — Wagon. H — Ore being unloaded from the wagon. I — Bars. 
K — Master of the works marking the number of carts on a stick. L — Boxes 




to draw water alone, I will explain how heavy bodies, such as axles, iron 
chains, pipes, and heavy timbers, should be lowered into deep vertical shafts.- 
A windlass is erected whose barrel has on each end four straight levers ; it 
is fixed into upright beams and around it is wound a rope, one end of which 
is fastened to the barrel and the other to those heavy bodies which are slowly 
lowered down by workmen ; and if these halt at any part of the shaft they 
are drawn up a little way. When these bodies are very heavy, then behind 
this windlass another is erected just like it, that their combined strength 
may be equal to the load, and that it may be lowered slowly. Sometimes for 
the same reason, a pulley is fastened with cords to the roof-beam, and the rope 
descends and ascends over it. 

-Straight levers. C — Upright beams. 
F — Timbers to be lowered. 

E— Pulley. 

Water is either hoisted or pumped out of shafts. It is hoisted up after 
being poured into buckets or water-bags ; the water-bags are generally 
brought up by a machine whose water-wheels have double paddles, while the 
buckets are brought up by the five machines already described, although in 
certain localities the fourth machine also hauls up water-bags of moderate 
size. Water is drawn up also by chains of dippers, or by suction pumps, or 

172 BOOK VI. 

by "rag and chain" pumps. ^^ When there is but a small quantity, it is 
either brought up in buckets or drawn up by chains of dippers or suction 
pumps, and when there is much water it is either drawn up in hide bags or 
by rag and chain pumps. 

First of aU, I will describe the machines which draw water by chains 
of dippers, of which there are three kinds. For the first, a frame is 
made entirely of iron bars ; it is two and a half feet high, likewise two and 
a half feet long, and in addition one-sixth and one-quarter of a digit 
long, one-fourth and one-twenty-fourth of a foot wide. In it there are three 
little horizontal iron axles, which revolve in bearings or wide pillows of steel, 
and also four iron wheels, of which two are made with rundles and the same 
number are toothed. Outside the frame, around the lowest axle, is a 
wooden fly-wheel, so that it can be more readily turned, and inside the frame 
is a smaller drum which is made of eight rundles, one-sixth and one twenty- 
fourth of a foot long. Around the second axle, which does not project 
beyond the frame, and is therefore only two and a half feet and one-twelfth 
and one-third part of a digit long, there is on the one side, a smaller toothed 
wheel, which has forty-eight teeth, and on the other side a larger drum, 
which is surrounded by twelve rundles one-quarter of a foot long. Around the 
third axle, which is one inch and one-third thick, is a larger toothed wheel 
projecting one foot from the axle in all directions, which has seventy-two 
teeth. The teeth of each wheel are fixed in with screws, whose threads are 
screwed into threads in the wheel, so that those teeth which are broken can be 
replaced by others ; both the teeth and rundles are steel. The upper axle 
projects beyond the frame, and is so skilfully mortised into the body of 
another axle that it has the appearance of being one ; this axle proceeds 
through a frame made of beams which stands around the shaft, into an iron 
fork set in a stout oak timber, and turns on a roller made of pure steel. 
Around this axle is a drum of the kind possessed by those machines which 
draw water by rag and chain ; this drum has triple curved iron clamps, 
to which the links of an iron chain hook themselves, so that a great weight 
cannot tear them away. These links are not whole like the links of other 
chains, but each one being curved in the upper part on each side catches the 
one which comes next, whereby it presents the appearance of a double chain. 
At the point where one catches the other, dippers made of iron or brass plates 
and holding half a congius^^ are bound to them with thongs ; thus, if there are 
one hundred links there will be the same number of dippers pouring out water. 
When the shafts are inclined, the mouths of the dippers project and are covered 
on the top that they may not spill out the water, but when the shafts are 
vertical the dippers do not require a cover. By fitting the end of the lowest 
small axle into the crank, the man who works the crank turns the axle, and at 
the same time the drum whose rundles turn the toothed wheel of the second 
axle ; by this wheel is driven the one that is made of rundles, which 

^^Machina quae pilis aquas haurii. " Machine which draws water with balls." This 
apparatus is identical with the Cornish " rag and chain pump " of the same period, and we 
have therefore adopted that term. 

^'A congius contained about six pints. 



A— Iron frame. B— Lowest axle. C— Fly-wheel. D— Smaller drum made of 
KUNDLES. E — Second axle. F — Smaller toothed wheel G— Larger drum made 
OF rundles. H— Upper axle. I— Larger toothed wheel. K— Bearings. 
I.— Pillow. M— Framework, N— Oak timber O— Support of iron bearing 
P— Roller. O— Upper drum. R— Clamps. S— Ch.\in. T— Links. V— Dippers 
X— Crank. Y — Lower drum or balance weight. 



again turns the toothed wheel of the upper small axle and thus the drum to 
which the clamps are fixed. In this way the chain, together with the empty 
dippers, is slowly let down, close to the footwall side of the vein, into the sump 
to the bottom of the balance drum, which turns on a little iron axle, both ends 
of which are set in a thick iron bearing. The chain is rolled round the drum 
and the dippers fill with water ; the chain being drawn up close to the hanging- 
wall side, carries the dippers filled with water above the drum of the upper 
axle. Thus there are always three of the dippers inverted and pouring 
water into a hp, from which it flows away into the drain of the tunnel. This 
machine is less useful, because it cannot be constructed without great expense, 
and it carries off but Uttle water and is somewhat slow, as also are other 
machines which possess a great number of drums. 

A — Wheel which is turned by treading. B — Axle. C — Double ch.iin. D— Link 


The next machine of this kind, described in a few words by Vitruvius,^* 
more rapidly brings up dippers, holding a congius ; for this reason, it is 

'^Vitruvius (x., 9). " But if the water is to be supplied to still higher places, a double 
" chain of iron is made to revolve on the axis of the wheel, long enough to reach to the lower 
" level. This is furnished with brazen buckets, each holding about a congius. Then by turning 
" the wheel, the chain also turns upon the axis and brings the buckets to the top thereof, on 
" passing which they are inverted and pour into the conduits the water they have raised." 



more useful than the first one for drawing water out of shafts, into which 
much water is continually flowing. This machine has no iron frame nor 
drums, but has around its axle a wooden wheel which is turned by treading ; 
the axle, since it has no drum, docs not last very long. In other respects 
this pump resembles the first kind, except that it differs from it by having 
a double chain. Clamps should be fixed to the axle of this machine, just as 
to the drum of the other one ; some of these are made simple and others 
with triple curves, but each kind has four barbs. 

The third machine, which far excels the two just described, is made 
when a running stream can be diverted to a mine ; the impetus of the 
stream striking the paddles revolves a water-wheel in place of the wheel 
turned by treading. With regard to the axle, it is like the second machine. 

A — Wheel whose paddles are turned by the force of the stream. 
C — Drum of axle, to which clamps are fixed. D — Chain. E — Link. F- 
G — Balance drum. 


but the drum which is round the axle, the chain, and the balance drum, are 
like the first machine. It has much more capacious dippers than even the 
second machine, but since the dippers are frequently broken, miners rarely 
use these machines ; for they prefer to lift out small quantities of water by 
the first five machines or to draw it up by suction pumps, or, if there is 

176 BOOK VI. 

much water, to drain it by the rag and chain pump or to bring it up in 

Enough, then, of the first sort of pumps. I wiU now explain the other, 
that is the pump which draws, by means of pistons, water which has been 
raised by suction. Of these there are seven varieties, which though they 
differ from one another in structure, nevertheless confer the same benefits 
upon miners, though some to a greater degree than others. The first pump 
is made as follows. Over the sump is placed a flooring, through which a 
pipe — or two lengths of pipe, one of which is joined into the other — are let 
down to the bottom 01 the sump ; they are fastened with pointed iron clamps 
driven in straight on both sides, so that the pipes may remain fixed. The 
lower end of the lower pipe is enclosed in a trunk two feet deep ; this trunk, 
hollow like the pipe, stands at the bottom of the sump, but the lower opening 
of it is blocked with, a round piece of wood ; the trunk has perforations 
round about, through which water flows into it. If there is one length of 
pipe, then in the upper part of the trunk which has been hollowed out there is 
enclosed a box of iron, copper, or brass, one palm deep, but without a bottom, 
and a rounded valve so tightly closes it that the water, which has been drawn 
up by suction, cannot run back ; but if there are two lengths of pipe, the 
box is enclosed in the lower pipe at the point of junction. An opening or a 
spout in the upper pipe reaches to the drain of the tunnel. Thus the work- 
man, eager at his labour, standing on the flooring boards, pushes the piston 
down into the pipe and draws it out again. At the top of the piston-rod is a 
hand-bar and the bottom is fixed in a shoe ; this is the name given to the 
leather covering, which is almost cone-shaped, for it is so stitched that it is 
tight at the lower end, where it is fixed to the piston-rod which it surrounds, 
but in the upper end where it draws the water it is wide open. Or else an 
iron disc one digit thick is used, or one of wood six digits thick, each of which 
is far superior to the shoe. The disc is fixed by an iron key which pene- 
trates through the bottom of the piston-rod, or it is screwed on to the 
rod ; it is round, with its upper part protected by a cover, and has five or 
six openings, either round or oval, which taken together present a star-like 
appearance ; the disc has the same diameter as the inside of the pipe, 
so that it can be just drawn up and down in it. When the workman draws 
the piston up, the water which has passed in at the openings of the disc, 
whose cover is then closed, is raised to the hole or little spout, through which 
it flows away ; then the velve of the box opens, and the water which has 
passed into the trunk is drawn up by the suction and rises into the pipe ; 
but when the workman pushes down the piston, the valve closes and allows 
the disc again to draw in the water. 

The piston of the second pump is more easily moved up and down. When 
this pump is made, two beams are placed over the sump, one near the right side 
of it, and the other near the left. To one beam a pipe is fixed with iron clamps ; 
to the other is fixed either the forked branch of a tree or a timber cut out at 
the top in the shape of a fork, and through the prongs of the fork a round 
hole is bored. Through a wide round hole in the middle of a sweep passes 



A— Sump. B— Pipes. C— Flooring. D— Trunk. E — Perforations of trunk. 
F— V.^LVE. G — Spout. H— Piston-rod. I— Hand-bar of piston. K — Shoe. L — Disc 



A — Erect timber. B — Axle. C — Sweep which turns about the axle. D — Piston 
ROD. E — Cross-bar. F — Ring with which two pipes are generally joined. 

an iron axle, so fastened in the holes in the fork that it remains fixed, and 
the sweep turns on this axle. In one end of the sweep the upper end of a 
piston-rod is fastened with an iron key ; at the other end a cross-bar is also 
fixed, to the extreme ends of which are handles to enable it to be held more 
firmly in the hands. And so when the workman pulls the cross-bar upward, 
he forces the piston into the pipe ; when he pushes it down again he draws 
the piston out of the pipe ; and thus the piston carries up the water which 
has been drawn in at the openings of the disc, and the water flows away through 
the spout into the drains. This pump, like the next one, is identical with 
the first in all that relates to the piston, disc, trunk, box, and valve. 

The third pump is not unlike the one just described, but in place of 
one upright, posts are erected with holes at the top, and in these holes the 
ends of an axle revolve. To the middle of this axle are fixed two wooden 
bars, to the end of one of which is fixed the piston, and to the end of the 
other a heavy piece of wood, but short, so that it can pass between the two 
posts and may move backward and forward. When the workman pushes 
this piece of wood, the piston is drawn out of the pipe ; when it returns by its 



A — Posts. B — Axle. C — Wooden bars. D — Piston rod. E — Short piece of 

F — Drain. G — This MA^^ is diverting the water which is flowing out of the 

to prevent it from flowing into the trenches which are being dug. 



ovi^n weight, the piston is pushed in. In this way, the water which the pipe 
contains is drawn through the openings in the disc and emptied by the piston 
through the spout into the drain. There are some who place a hand-bar 
underneath in place of the short piece of wood. This pump, as also the last 
before described, is less generally used among miners than the others. 

The fourth kind is not a simple pump but a duplex one. It is made as 
follows. A rectangular block of beechwood, five feet long, two and a half 
feet wide, and one and a half feet thick, is cut in two and hollowed out wide 
and deep enough so that an iron axle with cranks can revolve in it. The axle 
is placed between the two halves of this box, and the first part of the axle, 
which is in contact with the wood, is round and the straight end forms a 
journal. Then the axle is bent down the depth of a foot and again bent so 
as to continue straight, and at this point a round piston-rod hangs from it ; 
next it is bent up as far as it was bent down ; then it continues a httle way 
straight again, and then it is bent up a foot and again continues straight, 
at which point a second round piston-rod is hung from it ; afterward it 



^^^^^^JJ^J^gi^?g J |J|J'^:i| ^ ^ 

A— Box 




E BOX. F— Column pipe fixed above the box. G— Iron axle. H— Piston- 

■Rods whose ends are weighted with lumps of lead. N — Crank. 
{This plaU is unlettered in the first edition hut corrected in those later.) 

BOOK VI. i8i 

is !)ent down the same distance as it was bent up the last time ; the other 
end of it, which also acts as a journal, is straight. This part which protrudes 
through the wood is protected by two iron washers in the shape of discs, to 
which arc fastened two leather washers of the same shape and size, in order 
lo prevent the water which is drawn into the box from gushing out. These 
discs are around the axle ; one of them is inside the box and the other 
outside. Beyond this, the end of the axle is square and has two eyes, in 
which are fixed two iron rods, and to their ends arc weighted lumps of lead, 
so that the axle may have a greater propensity to revolve ; this axle can 
easily be turned when its end has been mortised in a crank. The upper part 
of the box is the shallower one, and the lower part the deeper ; the upper 
part is bored out once straight down through the middle, the diameter of the 
opening being the same as the outside diameter of the column pipe ; the 
lower box has, side by side, two apertures also bored straight down ; 
these are for two pipes, the space of whose openings therefore is twice as 
great as that of the upper part ; this lower part of the box is placed 
upon the two pipes, which are fitted into it at their upper ends, and the 
lower ends of these pipes penetrate into trunks which stand in the 
sump. These trunks have perforations through which the water flows into 
them. The iron axle is placed in the inside of the box, then the two iron 
piston-rods which hang from it are let down through the two pipes to the depth 
of a foot. Each piston has a screw at its lower end which holds a thick iron 
plate, shaped like a disc and full of openings, covered with a leather, and 
similarly to the other pump it has a round valve in a little box. Then the 
upper part of the box is placed upon the lower one and properly fitted to it on 
every side, and where they join they are bound by wide thick iron plates, and 
held with small wide iron wedges, which are driven in and are fastened with 
clamps. The first length of column pipe is fixed into the upper part of the 
box, and another length of pipe extends it, and a third again extends this one, 
and so on, another extending on another, until the uppermost one reaches the 
drain of the tunnel. When the crank worker turns the axle, the pistons in 
turn draw the water through their discs ; since this is done quickly, and 
since the area of openings of the two pipes over which the box is set, is twice 
as large as the opening of the column pipe which rises from the box, and since 
the pistons do not hft the water far up, the impetus of the water from the 
lower pipes forces it to rise and flow out of the column pipe into the drain of 
the tunnel. Since a wooden box frequently cracks open, it is better to 
make it of lead or copper or brass. 

The fifth kind of pump is still less simple, for it is composed of two or 
three pumps whose pistons are raised by a machine turned by men, for each 
piston-rod has a tappet which is raised, each in succession, by two cams on 
a barrel ; two or four strong men turn it. When the pistons descend into 
the pipes their discs draw the water ; when they are raised these force the 
water out through the pipes. The upper part of each of these piston-rods, 
which is half a foot square, is held in a slot in a cross-beam ; the lower part, 
which drops down into the pipes, is made of another piece of wood and is 
round. Each of these three pumps is composed of two lengths of pipe fixed 



A — Tappets of piston-rods. B — Cams of the barrel. C — Square upper parts 
OF piston-rods. D — Lower rounded parts of piston-rods. E— Cross-beams. 
F — Pipes. G — Apertures of pipes. H — Trough. (Fifth kind of pump — see p. i8i). 



A — Water-wheel. B — Axle. C — Trunk on which the lowest pipe stands. 
D — Basket surrounding trunk. (Sixth kind of pump — see p. 184.) 

r84 BOOK VI. 

to the shaft timbers. This machine draws the water higher, as much as 
twenty-four feet. If the diameter of the pipes is large, onlj" two pumps are 
made ; if smaller, three, so that by either method the volume of water is the 
same. This also must be understood regarding the other machines and 
their pipes. Since these pumps are composed of two lengths of pipe, the 
little iron box having the iron valve which I described before, is not enclosed 
in a trunk, but is in the lower length of pipe, at that point where it joins 
the upper one ; thus the rounded part of the piston-rod is only as long as 
the upper length of pipe ; but I will presently explain this more clearly. 

The sixth kind of pump would be just the same as the fifth were it not 
that it has an axle instead of a barrel, turned not by men but by a water- 
wheel, which is revolved by the force of water striking its buckets. 
Since water-power far exceeds human strength, this machine draws water 
through its pipes by discs out of a shaft more than one hundred feet deep. 
The bottom of the lowest pipe, set in the sump, not only of this pump but 
also of the others, is generally enclosed in a basket made of wicker-work, to 
prevent wood shavings and other things being sucked in. (See p. 183.) 

The seventh kind of pump, invented ten years ago, which is the most 
ingenious, durable, and useful of all, can be made without much expense. It 
is composed of several pumps, which do not, like those last described, go down 
into the shaft together, but of which one is below the other, for if there are 
three, as is generally the case, the lower one lifts the water of the sump and 
pours it out into the first tank ; the second pump lifts again from that tank 
into a second tank, and the third pump lifts it into the drain of the tunnel. 
A wheel fifteen feet high raises the piston-rods of all these pumps at the same 
time and causes them to drop together. The wheel is made to revolve by 
paddles, turned by the force of a stream which has been diverted to the 
mountain. The spokes of the water-wheel are mortised in an axle six feet 
long and one foot thick, each end of which is surrounded by an iron band, 
but in one end there is fixed an iron journal ; to the other end is attached an 
iron like this journal in its posterior part, which is a digit thick and as wide 
as the end of the axle itself. Then the iron extends horizontally, being 
rounded and about three digits in diameter, for the length of a foot, and 
serves as a journal ; thence, it bends to a height of a foot in a curve, 
like the horn of the moon, after which it again extends straight out for 
one foot ; thus it comes about that this last straight portion, as it 
revolves in an orbit becomes alternately a foot higher and a foot lower than 
the first straight part. From this round iron crank there hangs the first flat 
pump-rod, for the crank is fixed in a perforation in the upper end of this flat 
pump-rod just as the iron key of the first set of " claws " is fixed into the 
lower end. In order to prevent the pump-rod from slipping off it, as it 
could easily do, and that it may be taken off when necessary, its opening 
is wider than the corresponding part of the crank, and it is fastened on 
both sides by iron keys. To prevent friction, the ends of the pump-rods are 
protected by iron plates or intervening leathers. This first pump-rod is 
about twelve feet long, the other two are twenty-six feet, and each is a palm 



A— Shaft. B — Bottom pump. C — First tank. D — Second pump. E — Second tank. 

F — Third pump. G — Trough. H — The iron set in the axle. I — First pump rod. 

K^Second pump rod. L — Third pump rod. M — First piston rod. N — Second 

piston rod. O — Third piston rod. P — Little axles. — "Claws." 

i86 BOOK VI. 

wide and three digits thick. The sides of each pump-rod are covered and 
protected by iron plates, which are held on by iron screws, so that a part 
which has received damage can be repaired. In the " claws " is set a 
small round axle, a foot and a half long and two palms thick. The ends are 
encircled by iron bands to prevent the iron journals which revolve in the 
iron bearings of the wood from slipping out of it.^^ From this little axle 
the wooden " claws " extend two feet, with a width and thickness of six 
digits ; they are three palms distant from each other, and both the inner and 
outer sides are covered with iron plates. Two rounded iron keys two digits 
thick are immovably fixed into the claws. The one of these keys per- 
forates the lower end of the first pump-rod, and the upper end of the second 
pump-rod which is held fast. The other key, which is likewise immovable, 
perforates the iron end of the first piston-rod, which is bent in a curve and 
is immovable. Each such piston-rod is thirteen feet long and three digits 
thick, and descends into the first pipe of each pump to such depth that its 
disc nearly reaches the valve-box. When it descends into the pipe, the 
water, penetrating through the openings of the disc, raises the leather, and 
when the piston-rod is raised the water presses down the leather, and this 
supports its weight ; then the valve closes the box as a door closes an 
entrance. The pipes are joined by two iron bands, one palm wide, one 
outside the other, but the inner one is sharp all round that it may 
fit into each pipe and hold them together. Although at the present time 
pipes lack the inner band, still they have nipples by which they are joined 
together, for the lower end of the upper one holds the upper end of the lower 
one, each being hewn away for a length of seven digits, the former inside, the 
latter outside, so that the one can fit into the other. When the piston-rod 
descends into the first pipe, that valve which I have described is closed ; 
when the piston-rod is raised, the valve is opened so that the water can run 
in through the perforations. Each one of such pumps is composed of two 
lengths of pipe, each of which is twelve feet long, and the inside diameter is 
seven digits. The lower one is placed in the sump of the shaft, or in a tank, 
and its lower end is blocked by a round piece of wood, above which there are 
six perforations around the pipe through which the water flows into it. The 
upper part of the upper pipe has a notch one foot deep and a palm wide, 
through which the water flows away into a tank or trough. Each tank is 
two feet long and one foot wide and deep. There is the same number of 
axles, " claws," and rods of each kind as there are pumps ; if there are three 
pumps, there are only two tanks, because the sump of the shaft and the drain 
of the tunnel take the place of two. The following is the way this machine 
draws water from a shaft. The wheel being turned raises the first pump- 
rod, and the pump-rod raises the first " claw," and thus also the second 
pump-rod, and the first piston-rod ; then the second pump-rod raises the 
second " claw," and thus the third pump-rod and the second piston-rod ; 
then the third pump-rod raises the third " claw " and the third piston-rod, 

^'This description certainly does not correspond in every particular with the 



for there hangs no pump-rod from the iron key of these claws, for it can be of 
no use in the last pump. In turn, when the first pump-rod descends, each 
set of " claws " is lowered, each pump-rod and each piston-rod. And by this 
system, at the same time the water is lifted into the tanks and drained out of 
them ; from the sump at the bottom of the shaft it is drained out, and it 
is poured into the trough of the tunnel. Further, around the main axle there 
may be placed two water wheels, if the river supplies enough water to turn 
them, and from the back part of each round iron crank, one or two pump-rods 
can be hung, each of which can move the piston-rods of three pumps. 
Lastly, it is necessary that the shafts from which the water is pumped out in 
pipes should be vertical, for as in the case of the hauling machines, all pumps 
which have pipes do not draw the water so high if the pipes are inclined in 
inclined shafts, as if they are placed vertically in vertical shafts. 

If the river does not supply enough water-power to turn the last- 
described pump, which happens because of the nature of the locality 
or occurs during the summer season when there are daily droughts, a 
machine is built with a wheel so low and light that the water of ever so little a 

A — Water wheel of upper machine. B — Its pump. C — Its trough. D- Wheel of 


i88 BOOK VI. 

stream can turn it. This water, falling into a race, runs therefrom on to a 
second high and heavy wheel of a lower machine, whose pump lifts the water 
out of a deep shaft. Since, however, the water of so small a stream cannot 
alone revolve the lower water-wheel, the axle of the latter is turned at the start 
with a crank worked by two men, but as soon as it has poured out into a pool 
the water which has been drawii up by the pumps, the upper wheel draws 
up this water by its own pump, and pours it into the race, from which it 
flows on to the lower water-wheel and strikes its buckets. So both this 
water from the mine, as well as the water of the stream, being turned down 
the races on to that subterranean wheel of the lower machine, turns it, and 
water is pumped out of the deeper part of the shaft by means of two or 
three pumps. ^^ 

If the stream supplies enough water straightway to turn a higher and 
heavier water-wheel, then a toothed drum is fixed to the other end of the 
axle, and this turns the drum made of rundles on another axle set below it. 
To each end of this lower axle there is fitted a crank of round iron curved 
like the horns of the moon, of the kind employed in machines of this 
description. This machine, since it has rows of pumps on each side, 
draws great quantities of water. 

Of the rag and chain pumps there are six kinds known to us, of which 
the first is made as follows : A cave is dug under the surface of earth or in a 
tunnel, and timbered on all sides by stout posts and planks, to prevent either 
the men from being crushed or the machine from being broken by its collapse. 
In this cave, thus timbered, is placed a water-wheel fitted to an angular axle. 
The iron j ournals of the axle revolve in iron pillows, which are held in timbers 
of sufficient strength. The wheel is generally twenty-four feet high, 
occasionally thirt}'', and in no way different from those which are made for 
grinding corn, except that it is a little narrower. The axle has on one side 
a drum with a groove in the middle of its circumference, to which are fixed 
many four-curved iron clamps. In these clamps catch the links of the chain, 
which is drawn through the pipes out of the sump, and which again falls, 
through a timbered opening, right down to the bottom into the sump to a 
balancing drum. There is an iron band around the small axle of the 
balancing drum, each journal of which revolves in an iron bearing fixed to a 
timber. The chain turning about this drum brings up the water by the 
balls through the pipes. Each length of pipe is encircled and protected by 
five iron bands, a palm wide and a digit thick, placed at equal distances from 
each other ; the first band on the pipe is shared in common with the 
preceding length of pipe into which it is fitted, the last band with the succeed- 
ing length of pipe which is fitted into it. Each length of pipe, except the 
first, is bevelled on the outer circumference of the upper end to a distance 
of seven digits and for a depth of three digits, in order that it may be inserted 
into the length of pipe which goes before it ; each, except the last, is reamed 
out on the inside of the lower end to a like distance, but to the depth 

"There is a certain deficiency m the hydraulics of this machine. 


A — Upper axle. B — Wheel whose buckets the force of the stream strikes. 
C — Toothed DRUM. D — Second axle. E — Drum composed of rundles. F — Curved 
ROUND irons. G — Rows of pumps. 

igo BOOK VI. 

of a palm, that it may be able to take the end of the pipe which 
follows. And each length of pipe is fixed with iron clamps to the timbers of 
the shaft, that it may remain stationary. Through this continuous series 
of pipes, the water is drawn by the balls of the chain up out of the sump as 
far as the tunnel, where it flows out into the drains through an aperture in 
the highest pipe. The balls which hft the water are connected by the iron 
links of the chain, and are six feet distant from one another ; they are made 
of the hair of a horse's tail sewn into a covering to prevent it from being 
pulled out by the iron clamps on the drum ; the balls are of such size that 
one can be held in each hand. If this machine is set up on the surface of 
the earth, the stream which turns the water-wheel is led away through open- 
air ditches ; if in a tunnel, the water is led away through the subterranean 
drains. The buckets of the water-wheel, when struck by the impact of the 
stream, move forward and turn the wheel, together with the drum, whereby 
the chain is wound up and the balls expel the water through the pipes. If 
the wheel of this machine is twenty-four feet in diameter, it draws water from a 
shaft two hundred and ten feet deep ; if thirty feet in diameter, it will draw 
water from a shaft two hundred and forty feet deep. But such work requires 
a stream with greater water-power. 

The next pump has two drums, two rows of pipes and two drawing- 
chains whose balls hft out the water ; otherwise they are hke the last pump. 
This pump is usually built when an excessive amount of water flows into the 
sump. These two pumps are turned by water-power ;. indeed, water draws 

The following is the way of indicating the increase or decrease of the 
water in an underground sump, whether it is pumped by this rag and chain 
pump or by the first pump, or the third, or some other. From a beam which 
is as high above the shaft as the sump is deep, is hung a cord, to one 
end of which there is fastened a stone, the other end being attached to a 
plank. The plank is lowered down by an iron wire fastened to the 
other end ; when the stone is at the mouth of the shaft the plank 
is right down the shaft in the sump, in which water it floats. This 
plank is so heavy that it can drag down the wire and its iron clasp and 
hook, together with the cord, and thus puU the stone upwards. Thus, as 
the water decreases, the plank decends and the stone is raised ; on the 
contrary, when the water increases the plank rises and the stone is lowered. 
When the stone nearly touches the beam, since this indicates that the water 
has been exhausted from the sump by the pump, the overseer in charge of the 
machine closes the water-race and stops the water-wheel : when the stone 
nearly touches the ground at the side of the shaft, this indicates that the 
sump is full of water which has again collected in it, because the water raises 
the plank and thus the stone drags back both the rope and the iron wire; 
then the overseer opens the water-race, whereupon the water of the stream 
again strikes the buckets of the water-wheel and turns the pump. As 
workmen generally cease from their labours on the yearly hohdays, and 


A— Wheel. B— Axle. C— Journals. D— Pillows. E— Drum. F— Clamps. 
G— Drawing-chain. H— Timbers. I— Balls. K— Pipe. L— Race of stream. 

192 BOOK VI. 

sometimes on working days, and are thus not always near the pump, and as 
the pump, if necessary, must continue to draw water all the time, a bell rings 
aloud continuously, indicating that this pump, or any other kind, is uninjured 
and nothing is preventing its turning. The bell is hung by a cord from 
a small wooden axle held in the timbers which stand over the shaft, and 
a second long cord whose upper end is fastened to the small axle is lowered 
into the shaft ; to the lower end of this cord is fastened a piece of wood ; 
and as often as a cam on the main axle strikes it, so often does the bell ring 
and give forth a sound. 

The third pump of this kind is employed by miners when no river capable 
of turning a water-wheel can be diverted, and it is made as follows. They 
first dig a chamber and erect strong timbers and planks to prevent the sides 
from falling in, which would overwhelm the pump and kill the men. The 
roof of the chamber is protected with contiguous timbers, so arranged that 
the horses which pull the machine can travel over it. Next they again set up 
sixteen beams forty feet long and one foot wide and thick, joined by clamps 
at the top and spreading apart at the bottom, and they fit the lower end 
of each beam into a separate sill laid flat on the ground, and join these by a 
post ; thus there is created a circular area of which the diameter is fifty 
feet. Through an opening in the centre of this area there descends an 
upright square axle, forty-five feet long and a foot and a half wide and thick ; 
its lower pivot revolves in a socket in a block laid flat on the ground in the 
chamber, and the upper pivot revolves in a bearing in a beam which is mor- 
tised into two beams at the summit beneath the clamps ; the lower pivot is 
seventeen feet distant from either side of the chamber, i.e., from its front and 
rear. At the height of a foot above its lower end, the axle has a toothed wheel, 
the diameter of which is twenty- two feet. This wheel is composed of four 
spokes and eight rim pieces ; the spokes are fifteen feet long and three- 
quarters of a foot wide and thick^' ; one end of them is mortised in the axle, 
the other in the two rims where they are joined together. These rims are three- 
quarters of a foot thick and one foot wide, and from them there rise and 
project upright teeth three-quarters of a foot high, half a foot wide, and six 
digits thick. These teeth turn a second horizontal axle by means of a drum 
composed of twelve rundles, each three feet long and six digits wide and 
thick. This drum, being turned, causes the axle to revolve, and around this 
axle there is a drum having iron clamps with four-fold curves in which catch 
the links of a chain, which draws water through pipes by means of balls. 
The iron journals of this horizontal axle revolve on pillows which are set in 
the centre of timbers. Above the roof of the chamber there are mortised 
into the upright axle the ends of two beams which rise obliquely ; the upper 
ends of these beams support double cross-beams, hkewise mortised to the 
axle. In the outer end of each cross-beam there is mortised a small wooden 
piece which appears to hang down ; in this wooden piece there is similarly 

"The dimensions given in this description for the various members do not tally. 



A — Upright axle. B — Toothed wheel. C — Teeth. D — Horizontal axle. 

E — Drum which is made of rundles. F — Second drum. G — Drawing-chain. 

H — The balls. 



mortised at the lower end a short board ; this has an iron key which engages 
a chain, and this chain again a pole-bar. This machine, which draws water 
from a shaft two hundred and forty feet deep, is worked by thirty-two horses ; 
eight of them work for four hours, and then these rest for twelve hours, and 
the same number take their place. This kind of machine is employed at the 
foot of the Harz^^ mountains and in the neighbourhood. Further, if 
necessity arises, several pumps of this kind are often built for the purpose of 
mining one vein, but arranged differently in different locahties varying 
according to the depth. At Schemnitz, in the Carpathian mountains, there 
are three pumps, of which the lowest lifts water from the lowest sump to 
the first drains, through which it flows into the second sump ; the intermediate 
one hfts from the second sump to the second drain, from which it flows into 
the third sump ; and the upper one hfts it to the drains of the tunnel, through 
which it flows away. This system of three machines of this kind is turned 
by ninety-six horses ; these horses go down to the machines by an inchned 

A — Axle. B — Drum. C — Drawing-chain. D —Balls. E — Clamps. 
^^Melihocian, — the Harz. 



shaft, which slopes and twists Hke a screw and gradually descends. The 
lowest of these machines is set in a deep place, which is distant from the 
surface of the ground 660 feet. 

The fourth species of pump belongs to the same genera, and is made 
as follows. Two timbers are erected, and in openings in them, the ends of a 
barrel revolve. Two or four strong men turn the barrel, that is to say, one 
or two pull the cranks, and one or two push them, and in this way help the 
others ; alternately another two or four men take their place. The barrel 
of this machine, just like the horizontal axle of the other machines, has a 
drum whose iron clamps catch the hnks of a drawing-chain. Thus water 
is drawn through the pipes by the balls from a depth of forty-eight feet. 
Human strength cannot draw water higher than this, because such very 
heavy labour exhausts not only men, but even horses ; only water-power 
can drive continuously a drum of this kind. Several pumps of this kind, as 
of the last, are often built for the purpose of mining on a single vein, 
but they are arranged differently for different positions and depths. 

A — Axles. 

B — Levers. C — Toothed drum. D — Drum made of rundles, 
E — Drum in which iron clamps are fixed. 

igb BOOK VI. 

The fifth pump of this kmd is partly Hke the third and partly like the 
fourth, because it is turned by strong men like the last, and like the third 
it has two axles and three drums, though each axle is horizontal. The 
journals of each axle are so fitted in the pillows of the beams that they cannot 
fly out ; the lower axle has a crank at one end and a toothed drum at the 
other end ; the upper axle has at one end a drum made of rundles, and at 
the other end, a drum to which are fixed iron clamps, in which the links of a 
chain catch in the same way as before, and from the same depth, draw water 
through pipes by means of balls. This revolving machine is turned by two 
pairs of men alternately, for one pair stands working while the other sits 
taking a rest ; while they are engaged upon the task of turning, one puUs 
the crank and the other pushes, and the drums help to make the pump turn 
more easily. 

The sixth pump of this kind likewise has two axles. At one end of the 
lower axle is a wheel which is turned by two men treading, this is twenty- 
three feet high and four feet wide, so that one man may stand alongside 
the other. At the other end of this axle is a toothed wheel. The upper^^ 
axle has two drums and one wheel ; the first drum is made of rundles, and to 
the other there are fixed the iron clamps. The wheel is like the one on the 
second machine which is chiefly used for drawing earth and broken rock 
out of shafts. The treaders, to prevent themselves from falling, grasp in 
their hands poles which are flxed to the inner sides of the wheel. When 
they turn this wheel, the toothed drum being made to revolve, sets in motion 
the other drum which is made of rundles, by which means again the links 
of the chain catch to the cleats of the third drum and draw water through 
pipes by means of balls, — from a depth of sixty-six feet. 

But the largest machine of aU those which draw water is the one which 
foUows. First of aU a reservoir is made in a timbered chamber ; this reser- 
voir is eighteen feet long and twelve feet wide and high. Into this reservoir 
a stream is diverted through a water-race or through the tunnel ; it has two 
entrances and the same number of gates. Levers are fixed to the upper part 
of these gates, by which they can be raised and let down again, so that by one 
way the gates are opened and in the other way closed. Beneath the openings 
are two plank troughs which carry the water flowing from the reservoir, and 
pour it on to the buckets of the water-wheel, the impact of which turns the 
wheel. The shorter trough carries the water, which strikes the buckets 
that turn the wheel toward the reservoir, and the longer trough carries 
the water which strikes those buckets that turn the wheel in the opposite 
direction. The casing or covering of the wheel is made of joined boards to 
which strips are affixed on the inner side. The wheel itself is thirty-six feet 
in diameter, and is mortised to an axle, and it has, as I have already said, 
two rows of buckets, of which one is set the opposite way to the other, so 
that the wheel may be turned toward the reservoir or in the opposite 

'*In the original text this is given as " lower," and appears to be an erroi. 

r.ooK \'i 


A — AXLES. B — Wheel which is turned by treading. C — Toothed wheel. 
D — Drum made of rundles. E — Drum to which are fixed iron clamps. 
F — Second wheel. G — Balls. 


direction. The axle is square and is thirty-five feet long and two feet thick 
and wide. Beyond the wheel, at a distance of six feet, the axle has four hubs, 
one foot wide and thick, each one of which is four feet distant from the next ; 
to these hubs are fixed by iron nails as many pieces of wood as are necessary 
to cover the hubs, and, in order that the wood pieces may fit tight, they are 
broader on the outside and narrower on the inside ; in this way a drum is 
made, around which is wound a chain to whose ends are hooked leather bags. 
The reason why a drum of this kind is made, is that the axle may be kept in 
good condition, because this drum when it becomes worn away by use can 
be repaired easily. Further along the axle, not far from the end, is another 
drum one foot broad, projecting two feet on all sides around the axle. And 
to this, when occasion demands, a brake is applied forcibly and holds back 
the machine ; this kind of brake I have explained before. Near the axle, 
in place of a hopper, there is a floor with a considerable slope, having in 
front of the shaft a width of fifteen feet and the same at the back ; at each 
side of it there is a stout post carrying an iron chain which has a large hook. 
Five men operate this machine ; one lets down the doors which close the 
reservoir gates, or by drawing down the levers, opens the water-races ; this 
man, who is the director of this machine, stands in a hanging cage beside the 
reservoir. When one bag has been drawn out nearly as far as the sloping 
floor, he closes the water gate in order that the wheel may be stopped ; when 
the bag has been emptied he opens the other water gate, in order that the 
other set of buckets may receive the water and drive the wheel in the opposite 
direction. If he cannot close the water-gate quickly enough, and the water 
continues to flow, he calls out to his comrade and bids him raise the brake 
upon the drum and stop the wheel. Two men alternately empty the bags, 
one standing on that part of the floor which is in front of the shaft, 
and the other on that part which is at the back. When the bag has been 
nearly drawn up — of which fact a certain link of the chain gives warning — the 
man who stands on the one part of the floor, catches a large iron hook in one 
link of the chain, and pulls out all the subsequent part of the chain toward 
the floor, where the bag is emptied by the other man. The object of this 
hook is to prevent the chain, by its own weight, from pulling down the 
other empty bag, and thus pulling the whole chain from its axle and 
dropping it down the shaft. His comrade in the work, seeing that the bag 
filled with water has been nearly drawn out, calls to the director of the 
machine and bids him close the water of the tower so tbat there will be time 
to empty the bag ; this being emptied, the director of the machine first of 
all sUghtly opens the other water-gate of the tower to allow the end of the 
chain, together with the empty bag, to be started into the shaft again, and 
then opens entirely the water-gates. When that part of the chain which 
has been pulled on to the floor has been wound up again, and has been let 
down over the shaft from the drum, he takes out the large hook which was 
fastened into a link of the chain. The fifth man stands in a sort of cross-cut 
beside the sump, that he may not be hurt, if it should happen that a link 



A— Reservoir. B— Race. C, D— Levers. E, F— Troughs under the water gates. 

G, H— Double rows of buckets. I— Axle. K— Larger drum. L— Drawing-chain. 

M— Bag. N — Hanging cage. O— Man who directs the machine. P, O— Men 

emptying bags. 

200 BOOK VI. 

is broken and part of the chain or anything else should fall down ; he guides 
the bag with a wooden shovel, and fills it with water if it fails to take 
in the water spontaneously. In these days, they sew an iron band into the 
top of each bag that it may constantly remain open, and when lowered into 
the sump may fill itself with water, and there is no need for a man to act as 
governor of the bags. Further, in these days, of those men who stand on 
the floor the one empties the bags, and the other closes the gates of the 
reservoir and opens them again, and the same man usually fixes the large 
hook in the link of the chain. In this way, three men only are employed in 
working this machine ; or even — since sometimes the one who empties the 
bag presses the brake which is raised against the other drum and thus stops 
the wheel — two men take upon themselves the whole labour. 

But enough of haulage machines ; I will now speak of ventilating 
machines. If a shaft is very deep and no tunnel reaches to it, or no drift 
from another shaft connects with it, or when a tunnel is of great length and 
no shaft reaches to it, then the air does not replenish itself. In such a case it 
weighs heavily on the miners, causing them to breathe with difficulty, and 
sometimes they are even suffocated, and burning lamps are also extinguished. 
There is, therefore, a necessity for machines which the Greeks call 
TTvtvfxaTiKai and the Latins spiritales — though they do not give forth any 
sound — ^which enable the miners to breathe easily and carry on their work. 

These devices are of three genera. The first receives and diverts into 
the shaft the blowing of the wind, and this genus is divided into three species, 
of which the first is as follows. Over the shaft — to which no tunnel connects — 
are placed three sills a little longer than the shaft, the first over the front, 
the second over the middle, and the third over the back of the shaft. Their 
ends have openings, through which pegs, sharpened at the bottom, are driven 
deeply into the ground so as to hold them immovable, in the same way that 
the sills of the windlass are fixed. Each of these sills is mortised into each 
of three cross-beams, of which one is at the right side of the shaft, the second 
at the left, and the third in the middle. To the second sill and the second 
cross-beam — each of which is placed over the middle of the shaft — planks 
are fixed which are joined in such a manner that the one which precedes 
alwaj^s fits into the groove of the one which follows. In this way four angles 
and the same number of intervening hollows are created, which collect the 
winds that blow from aU directions. The planks are roofed above with a 
cover made in a circular shape, and are open below, in order that the wind may 
not be diverted upward and escape, but may be carried downward ; and there- 
by the winds of necessity blow into the shafts through these four openings. 
However, there is no need to roof this kind of machine in those localities in 
which it can be so placed that the wind can blow down through its topmost 


A— Sills. B— Pointed stakes. C — Cross-beams. D — Upright Planks. 

E — Hollows. F — Winds. G — Covering disc. H — Shafts. I — Machine 

without a covering. 

The second machine of this genus turns the blowing wind into a shaft 
through a long box-shaped conduit, which is made of as many lengths of 
planks, joined together, as the depth of the shaft requires ; the joints are 
smeared with fat, glutinous clay moistened with water. The mouth of this con- 
duit either projects out of the shaft to a height of three or four feet, or it does 
not project ; if it projects, it is shaped Uke a rectangular funnel, broader and 
wider at the top than the conduit itself, that it may the more easily gather 
the wind ; if it does not project, it is not broader than the conduit, but 
planks are fixed to it away from the direction in which the wind is blowing, 
which catch the wind and force it into the conduit. 

The third of this genus of machine is made of a pipe or pipes and 
a barrel. Above the uppermost pipe there is erected a wooden barrel, four 


A — Projecting mouth of conduit. B— Planks fixed to the mouth or the conduit 

WHICH does not project. 

feet high and three feet in diameter, bound with wooden hoops ; it has a 
square blow-hole always open, which catches the breezes and guides them 
down either by a pipe into a conduit or by many pipes into the shaft. To 
the top of the upper pipe is attached a circular table as thick as 
the bottom of the barrel, but of a little less diameter, so that the barrel may be 
turned around on it ; the pipe projects out of the table and is fixed in a 
round opening in the centre of the bottom of the barrel. To the end of the 
pipe a perpendicular axle is fixed which runs through the centre of the barrel 
into a hole in the cover, in which it is fastened, in the same way as at the 
bottom. Around this fixed axle and the table on the pipe, the movable 
barrel is easily turned by a zephyr, or much more by a wind, which govern 
the wing on it. This wing is made of thin boards and fixed to the upper 
part of the barrel on the side furthest away from the blow-hole ; this, as I 
have said, is square and always open. The wind, from whatever quarter of 



the world it blows, drives the wing straight toward the opposite direction, in 
which way the barrel turns the blow-hole towards the wind itself ; the 
blow-hole receives the wind, and it is guided down into the shaft by means 
of the conduit or pipes. 

A— Wooden 
E — Table. 


F — Axle. 

-Hoops. C — Blow-holes. D — Pipe. 

-Opening in the bottom of the barrel. 
H— Wing. 

The second genus of blowing machine is made with fans, and is likewise 
varied and of many forms, for the fans are either fitted to a windlass barrel 
or to an axle. If to an axle, they are either contained in a hollow drum, 
which is made of two wheels and a number of boards joining them together, 
or else in a box-shaped casing. The drum is stationary and closed on the 
sides, except for round holes of such size that the axle may turn in them ; 
it has two square blow-holes, of which the upper one receives the air, while 
the lower one empties into the conduit through which the air is led down the 
shaft. The ends of the axle, which project on each side of the drum, are 
supported by forked posts or hollowed beams plated with thick iron ; one 
end of the axle has a crank, while in the other end are fixed four rods with 
thick heavy ends, so that they weight the axle, and when turned, make it 

A— Drum. B— Box-shaped casing. C— Blow-hole. D— Second hole. 

li -Conduit. F — Axle. G — Lever of axle. H — Rods. 



prone to motion as it revolves. And so, when the workman turns the axle 
by the crank, the fans, the description of which I will give a little later, draw 
in the air by the blow-hole, and force it through the other blow-hole which 
leads to the conduit, and through this conduit the air penetrates into the 

The one with ihe box-shaped casing is furnished with just the same 
things as the drum, but the drum is far superior to the box ; for the fans so 
fill the drum that they almost touch it on every side, and drive into the 
conduit all the air that has been accumulated ; but they cannot thus fiU 
the box-shaped casing, on account of its angles, into which the air partly 
retr«;als ; therefore it cannot be as useful as the drum. The kind with a 
box-shaped casing is not only placed on the ground, but is also set up on timbers 
like a windmill, and its axle, in place of a crank, has four sails outside, 
like the sails of a windmill. When these are struck by the wind they turn 
the axle, and in this way its fans — which are placed within the casing — drive 

A— Box-shaped casing placed on the ground. B— Its blow-hole. C— Its axle 

WITH FANS. D— Crank OF the AXLE. E— Rods of same. F— Casing set on timbers. 

G- Sails which the axle has outside the casing. 



the air through the blow-hole and the conduit into the shaft. Although 
this machine has no need of men whom it is necessary to pay to work the 
crank, still when the sky is devoid of wind, as it often is, the machine does 
not turn, and it is therefore less suitable than the others for ventilating a shaft. 

In the kind where the fans are fixed to an axle, there is generally a 
hollow stationary drum at one end of the axle, and on the other end is fixed 
a drum made of rundles. This rundle drum is turned by the toothed wheel 
of a lower axle, which is itself turned by a wheel whose buckets receive the 
impetus of water. If the locality supplies an abundance of water this 
machine is most useful, because to turn the crank does not need men 
who require pay, and because it forces air without cessation through the 
conduit into the shaft. 

A — Hollow drum. B — Its blow-hole. C — Axle with fans. D— Drum 


G — Water wheel. 

Of the fans which are fixed on to an axle contained in a drum or box, 
there are three sorts. The first sort is made of thin boards of such length 
and width as the height and width of the drum or box require ; the second 

BOOK VI. 207 

sort is made of boards of the same width, but shorter, to which are bound 
long thin blades of poplar or some other flexible wood ; the third sort has 
boards like the last, to which are bound double and triple rows of goose 
feathers. This last is less used than the second, which in turn is less used 
than the first. The boards of the fan are mortised into the quadrangular 
parts of the barrel axle. 

A — First kind of fan. B — Second kind of fan. C — Third kind of 

FAN. D — Quadrangular part of axle. E — Round part of same. 

F — Crank. 

Blowing machines of the third genus, which are no less varied and of no 
fewer forms than those of the second genus, are made with bellows, for by its 
blasts the shafts and tunnels are not only furnished with air through conduits 
or pipes, but they can also be cleared by suction of their heavy and pestilential 
vapours. In the latter case, when the bellows is opened it draws the 
vapours from the conduits through its blow-hole and sucks these vapours 
into itself ; in the former case, when it is compressed, it drives the air through 
its nozzle into the conduits or pipes. They are compressed either by a man. 



or by a horse or by water-power ; if by a man, the lower board of a large bellows is 
fixed to the timbers above the conduit which projects out of the shaft, and so 
placed that when the blast is blown through the conduit, its nozzle is 
set in the conduit. When it is desired to suck out heavy or pestilential 
vapours, the blow-hole of the bellows is fitted all round the mouth of the 
conduit. Fixed to the upper bellows board is a lever which couples 
with another running downward from a little axle, into which it is 
mortised so that it may remain immovable ; the iron journals of this little 
axle revolve in openings of upright posts ; and so when the workman pulls 
down the lever the upper board of the bellows is raised, and at the same time 
the flap of the blow-hole is dragged open by the force of the wind. If the 
nozzle of the bellows is enclosed in the conduit it draws pure air into itself, 
but if its blow-hole is fitted all round the mouth of the conduit it exhausts 
the heavy and pestilential vapours out of the conduit and thus from the 
shaft, even if it is one hundred and twenty feet deep. A stone placed on the 
upper board of the bellows depresses it and then the flap of the blow-hole is 

A — Smaller part of shaft. 

B — Square conduit. C- 
OF shaft. 

-Bellows. D — Larger part 



closed. The bellows, by the first method, blows fresh air into the conduit 
through its nozzle, and by the second method blows out through the nozzle 
the hcav}' and pestilential vapours which have been collected. In this 
latter case fresh air enters through the larger part of the shaft, and the miners 
getting the benefit of it can sustain their toil. A certain smaller part of the 
shaft which forms a kind of estuarj', requires to be partitioned off from the 
other larger part by uninterrupted lagging, which reaches from the top of the 
shaft to the bottom ; through this part the long but narrow conduit reaches 
down nearly to the bottom of the shaft. 

When no shaft has been sunk to such depth as to meet a tunnel driven 
far into a mountain, these machines should be built in such a manner that 
the workman can move them about. Close by the drains of the tunnel 
through which the water flows away, wooden pipes should be placed and 
joined tightly together in such a manner that they can hold the air ; these 
should reach from the mouth of the tunnel to its furthest end. At the mouth 
of the tunnel the bellows should be so placed that through its nozzle it can 
blow its accumulated blasts into the pipes or the conduit ; since one blast 

A — Tunnel. B — Pipe. C — Nozzle of double bellows. 


always drives forward another, they penetrate into the tunnel and change 
the air, whereby the miners are enabled to continue their work. 

If heavy vapours need to be drawn off from the tunnels, generally three 
double or triple bellows, without nozzles and closed in the forepart, are placed 
upon benches. A workman compresses them by treading with his feet, just 
as persons compress those bellows of the organs which give out varied and 
sweet sounds in churches. These heavy vapours are thus drawn along the 
air-pipes and through the blow-hole of the lower bellows board, and are 
expelled through the blow-hole of the upper bellows board into the open 
air, or into some shaft or drift. This blow-hole has a flap-valve, which the 
noxious blast opens, as often as it passes out. Since one volume of air con- 
stantly rushes in to take the place of another which has been drawn out by 
the bellows, not only is the heavy air drawn out of a tunnel as great as 1,200 
feet long, or even longer, but also the wholesome air is naturally drawn in 
through that part of the tunnel which is open outside the conduits. In this way 
the air is changed, and the miners are enabled to carry on the work they have 
begun. If machines of this kind had not been invented, it would be necessary 
for miners to drive two tunnels into a mountain, and continually, at every 
two hundred feet at most, to sink a shaft from the upper tunnel to the 
lower one, that the air passing into the one, and descending by the shafts 
into the other, would be kept fresh for the miners ; this could not be done 
without great expense. 

There are two different machines for operating, by means of horses, the 
above described bellows. The first of these machines has on its axle a 
wooden wheel, the rim of which is covered all the way round by steps ; a 
horse is kept continually within bars, like those within which horses are held 
to be shod with iron, and by treading these steps with its feet it turns the wheel, 
together with the axle ; the cams on the axle press down the sweeps which 
compress the bellows. The way the instrument is made which raises the 
bellows again, and also the benches on which the bellows rest, I will explain 
more clearly in Book IX. Each bellows, if it draws heavy vapours 
out of a tunnel, blows them out of the hole in the upper board ; if they are 
drawn out of a shaft, it blows them out through its nozzle. The wheel has 
a round hole, which is transfixed with a pole when the machine needs to be 

The second machine has two axles ; the upright one is turned by a horse, 
and its toothed drum turns a drum made of rundles on a horizontal axle ; 
in other respects this machine is like the last. Here, also, the nozzles of 
the bellows placed in the conduits blow a blast into the shaft or tunnel. 

In the same way that this last machine can refresh the heavy air of a 
shaft or tunnel, so also could the old system of ventilating by the constant 
shaking of Unen cloths, which Phny ^° has explained ; the air not only grows 

-"Pliny (xxxi, 28). " In deep wells, the occurrence of stdphurata or ahiminosa 
" vapor is fatal to the diggers. The presence of this peril is shown if a lighted lamp let down 
"into the well is extinguished. If so. other wells are sunk to the right and left, which carry 
" off these noxious gases. Apart from these evils, the air itself becomes noxious with depth, 
" which can be remedied by constantly shaking linen cloths, thus setting the air in motion." 


A — Machine first described. B — This workman, treading with his feet, is com- 
pressing THE bellows. C — Bellows without nozzles. D — Hole by which heavy 
vapours or blasts are blown out. E — Conduits. F — Tunnel. G — Second 


same WHEEL. M — Pole. N — Third machine described. O — Upright axle. 
P — Its toothed drum. Q — Horizontal axle. R — Its drum which is made of rundles. 


A — Tunnel. B — Linen cloth. 

heavier with the depth of a shaft, of which fact he has made mention, but 
also with the length of a tunnel. 

The climbing machines of miners are ladders, fixed to one side of the shaft, 
and these reach either to the tunnel or to the bottom of the shaft. I need not 
describe how they are made, because they are used everywhere, and need 
not so much skill in their construction as care in fixing them. However, 
miners go down into mines not only by the steps of ladders, but they are 
also lowered into them while sitting on a stick or a wicker basket, fastened to 
the rope of one of the three drawing machines which I described at first. 
Further, when the shafts are much inclined, miners and other workmen 
sit in the dirt which surrounds their loins and slide down in the same way 
that boys do in winter-time when the water on some hillside has congealed 
with the cold, and to prevent themselves from falling, one arm is wound about 
a rope, the upper end of which is fastened to a beam at the mouth of the shaft, 
and the lower end to a stake fixed in the bottom of the shaft. In these three 
ways miners descend into the shafts. A fourth way may be mentioned 
which is employed when men and horses go down to the underground 


A — Descending into the shaft by ladders. B — By sitting on a stick. C — By 


214 BOOK VI. 

machines and come up again, that is by inclined shafts which are twisted hke 
a screw and have steps cut in the rock, as I have already described. 

It remains for me to speak of the ailments and accidents of miners, and of 
the methods by which they can guard against these, for we should always 
devote more care to maintaining our health, that we may freely perform our 
bodily functions, than to making profits. Of the illnesses, some affect the 
joints, others attack the lungs, some the eyes, and finally some are fatal to 

Where water in shafts is abundant and very cold, it frequently injures 
the limbs, for cold is harmful to the sinews. To meet this, miners should 
make themselves sufficiently high boots of rawhide, which protect their 
legs from the cold water ; the man who does not follow this advice will 
suffer much ill-health, especially when he reaches old age. On the other 
hand, some mines are so dry that they are entirely devoid of water, and this 
dryness causes the workmen even greater harm, for the dust which is stirred 
and beaten up by digging penetrates into the windpipe and lungs, and 
produces difficulty in breathing, and the disease which the Greeks call 
c(7.9^iu. If the dust has corrosive quahties, it eats away the lungs, and 
implants consumption in the body ; hence in the mines of the Carpathian 
Mountains women are found who have married seven husbands, all of whom 
this terrible consumption has carried off to a premature death. At Altenberg 
in Meissen there is found in the mines black pompholyx, which eats wounds 
and ulcers to the bone ; this also corrodes iron, for which reason the keys 
of their sheds are made of wood. Further, there is a certain kind of cadmia ^^ 
which eats away the feet of the workmen when they have become wet, and 
similarly their hands, and injures their lungs and eyes. Therefore, for their 

^^This is given in the German translation as kohelt. The kohelt (or cohaltum of Agricola) 
was probably arsenical-cobalt, a mineral common in the .Saxon mines. The origin of the 
application of the word cobalt to a mineral appears to lie in the German word for the gnomes 
and goblins (kobelts) so universal to Saxon miners' imaginations, — this word in turn probably 
being derived from the Greek cohali (mimes). The suffering described above seems to have 
been associated with the malevolence of demons, and later the word for these demons was 
attached to this disagreeable ore. A quaint series of mining " sermons," by Johann Mathesius, 
entitled Sarepia oder Bergpostill, Niirnberg, 1562, contains the following passage (p. 154) 
which bears out this view. We retain the original and varied spelling of cobalt and also add 
another view of Mathesius, involving an experience of Solomon and Hiram of Tyre with some 
mines containing cobalt. 

" Sometimes, however, from dry hard veins a certain black, greenish, grey or ash- 
" coloured earth is dug out, often containing good ore. and this mineral being burnt gives strong 
" fumes and is extracted like ' tutty.' It is called cadmia fossilis. You miners call it cohelt. 
" Germans call the Black Devil and the old Devil's furies, old and black oobel, who injure people 
" and their cattle with their witchcrafts. Now the Devil is a wicked, malicious spirit, who 
" shoots his poisoned darts into the hearts of men, as sorcerers and witches shoot at the limbs 
" of cattle and men, and work much evil and mischief with cobalt or hipomane or horses' 
" poison. After quicksilver and rotguliigen ore, are cobalt and wismuih fumes ; these are the 
" most poisonous of the metals, and with them one can kill flies, mice, cattle, birds, and men. 
" So, fresh cobalt and kisswasser (vitriol ?) devour the hands and feet of miners, and the dust 
" and fumes of cobalt kill many mining people and workpeople who do much work among the 
" fumes of the smelters. Whether or not the Devil and his hellish crew gave their name to 
" cobelt, or kobelt, nevertheless, cobelt is a poisonous and injurious metal even if it contains 
" silver. I find in I. Kings g, the word Cabul. When Solomon presented twenty towns in 
" Galilee to the King of Tyre, Hiram visited them first, and would not have them, and said the 
" land was well named Cabul as Joshua had christened it. It is certain from Joshua that these 

BOOK VI. 215 

digging they should make for themselves not only boots of rawhide, but gloves 
long enough to reach to the elbow, and they should fasten loose veils over their 
faces ; the dust will then neither be drawn through these into their wind- 
pipes and lungs, nor will it fly into their eyes. Not dissimilarly, among the 
Romans^^ the makers of vermilion took precautions against breathing its fatal 

Stagnant air, both that which remains in a shaft and that which remains 
in a tunnel, produces a difficulty in breathing ; the remedies for this evil 
are the ventilating machines which I have explained above. There is another 
illness even more destructive, which soon brings death to men who work 
in those shafts or levels or tunnels in which the hard rock is broken bj' fire. 
Here the air is infected with poison, since large and small veins and seams 
in the rocks exhale some subtle poison from the minerals, which is driven 
out by the fire, and this poison itself is raised with the smoke not unlike 
pompholyx,^^ which clings to the upper part of the walls in the works in which 
ore is smelted. If this poison cannot escape from the ground, but falls down 
into the pools and floats on their surface, it often causes danger, for if at any 
time the water is disturbed through a stone or anything else, these fumes rise 
again from the pools and thus overcome the men, by being drawn in with their 
breath ; this is even much worse if the fumes of the fire have not yet all 
escaped. The bodies of living creatures who are infected with this poison 
generally swell immediately and lose all movement and feeling, and they die 
without pain ; men even in the act of climbing from the shafts by the 
steps of ladders fall back into the shafts when the poison overtakes them, 
because their hands do not perform their office, and seem to them to be round 
and spherical, and likewise their feet. If by good fortune the injured 
ones escape these evils, for a little while they are pale and look like 
dead men. At such times, no one should descend into the mine or into the 
neighbouring mines, or if he is in them he should come out quickly. Prudent 
and skilled miners burn the piles of wood on Friday, towards evening, and 

" twenty towns lay in the Kingdom of Aser, not far from our Sarepta, and tiiat there had been 
" iron and copper mines there, as Moses says in another place. Inasmuch, then, as these twenty 
" places were mining towns, and cohelt is a metal, it appears quite likely that the mineral took 
" its name from the land of Cabul. History and circumstances bear out the theory that Hiram 
" was an excellent and experienced miner, who obtained much gold from Ophir, with which he 
" honoured Solomon. Therefore, the Great King wished to show his gratitude to his good 
" neighbour by honouring a miner with mining towns. But because the King of Tyre was 
" skilled in mines, he first inspected the new mines, and saw that they only produced poor 
" metal and much wild cobelt ore, therefore he preferred to find his gold by digging the gold 
" and silver in India rather than by getting it by the cobelt veins and ore. For truly, cobelt 
" ores are injurious, and are usually so embedded in other ore that they rob them in the 
" fire and consume (madtet und frist) much lead before the silver is extracted, and when this 
" happens it is especially speysig. Therefore Hiram made a good reckoning as to the mines 
" and would not undertake all the expense of working and smelting, and so returned Solomon 
" the twenty towns." 

^^Pliny (xxxiii, 40). " Those employed in the works preparing vermilion, cover 
" their faces with a bladder-skin, that they may not inhale the pernicious powder, yet they 
" can see through the skin." 

^^Pompholyx was a furnace deposit, usually mostly zinc oxide, but often containing 
arsenical oxide, and to this latter quality this reference probably applies. The symptoms men- 
tioned later in the text amply indicate arsenical poisoning, of which a sort of spherical effect 
on the hands is characteristic. See also note on p. 112 for discussion of " corrosive " cadmia ; 
further information on pompholyx is given in Note 26, p. 394. 

2i6 BOOK VI. 

they do not descend into the shafts nor enter the tunnels again before Monday, 
and in the meantime the poisonous fumes pass away. 

There are also times when a reckoning has to be made with Orcus, ^* 
for some metalliferous localities, though such are rare, spontaneously 
produce poison and exhale pestilential vapour, as is also the case with some 
openings in the ore, though these more often contain the noxious fumes. 
In the towns of the plains of Bohemia there are some caverns which, 
at certain seasons of the year, emit pungent vapours which put out lights 
and kill the miners if they linger too long in them. PHny, too, has left 
a record that when wells are sunk, the sulphurous or aluminous vapours 
which arise kill the well-diggers, and it is a test of this danger if a burning 
lamp which has been let down is extinguished. In such cases a second well 
is dug to the right or left, as an air-shaft, which draws off these noxious 
vapours. On the plains they construct bellows which draw up these noxious 
vapours and remedy this evil ; these I have described before. 

Further, sometimes workmen slipping from the ladders into the shafts 
break their arms, legs, or necks, or fall into the sumps and are drowned ; 
often, indeed, the negligence of the foreman is to blame, for it is his special 
work both to fix the ladders so firmly to the timbers that they cannot break 
away, and to cover so securely with planks the sumps at the bottom of the 
shafts, that the planks cannot be moved nor the men fall into the water ; 
wherefore the foreman must carefully execute his own work. Moreover, 
he must not set the entrance of the shaft-house toward the north wind, 
lest in winter the ladders freeze with cold, for when this happens the men's 
hands become stiff and slippery with cold, and cannot perform their office 
of holding. The men, too, must be careful that, even if none of these things 
happen, they do not fall through their own carelessness. 

Mountains, too, slide down and men are crushed in their fall and perish. 
In fact, when in olden days Rammelsberg, in Goslar, sank down, so many 
men were crushed in the ruins that in one day, the records teU us, about 
400 women were robbed of their husbands. And eleven years ago, part 
of the mountain of Altenberg, which had been excavated, became loose and 
sank, and suddenly crushed six miners ; it also swallowed up a hut and one 
mother and her little boy. But this generally occurs in those mountains 
which contain venae cumulatae. Therefore, miners should leave numerous 
arches under the mountains which need support, or provide underpinning. 
Falling pieces of rock also injure their limbs, and to prevent this from hap- 
pening, miners should protect the shafts, tunnels, and drifts. 

The venomous ant which exists in Sardinia is not found in our mines. 
This animal is, as Solinus ^^ writes, very small and like a spider in shape ; it 
is called soUfuga, because it shuns [fugit) the light [solem) . It is very common 

^^Orcus, the god of the infernal regions, — otherwise Pluto. 

^^Caius Julius Solinus was an unreliable Roman Grammarian of the 3rd Century. There 
is much difference of opinion as to the precise animal meant by solifuga. The word is variously 
spelled soHpugus, solpugtis, solipuga, solipunga, etc., and is mentioned by Pliny (viii., 43), 
and other ancient authors all apparently meaning a venomous insect, either an ant or a 
spider. The term in later times indicated a scorpion. 

BOOK VI. 217 

in silver mines ; it creeps unobserved and brings destruction upon those 
who imprudently sit on it. But, as the same writer tells us, springs of warm 
and salubrious waters gush out in certain places, which neutralise the venom 
inserted by the ants. 

In some of our mines, however, though in very few, there are other 
pernicious pests. These are demons of ferocious aspect, about which I have 
spoken in my book De Animantibus Subterraneis. Demons of this kind 
are expelled and put to flight by prayer and fasting. ^^ 

Some of these evils, as well as certain other things, are the reason why 
pits are occasionally abandoned. But the first and principal caase is that 
they do not yield metal, or if, for some fathoms, they do bear metal they 
become barren in depth. The second cause is the quantity of water which 
flows in ; sometimes the miners can neither divert this water into the 
tunnels, since tunnels cannot be driven so far into the mountains, or they 
cannot draw it out with machines because the shafts are too deep ; or if they 
could draw it out with machines, they do not use them, the reason 
undoubtedly being that the expenditure is greater than the profits of a 
moderately poor vein. The third cause is the noxious air, which the owners 
sometimes cannot overcome either by skill or expenditure, for which reason 
the digging is sometimes abandoned , not only of shafts, but also of tunnels. The 
fourth cause is the poison produced in particular places, if it is not in our 
power either completely to remove it or to moderate its effects. This is the 
reason why the caverns in the Plain known as Laurentius 2' used not to be 

"'The presence of demons or gnomes in the mines was so general a behef that Agricola 
fully accepted it. This is more remarkable, in view of our author's very general scepticism 
regarding the supernatural. He, however, does not classify them all as bad — some being 
distinctly helpful. The description of gnomes of kindly intent, which is contained in the 
last paragraph in De Animantibus is of interest : — 

" Then there are the gentle kind which the Germans as well as the Greeks call cobalos, 
" because they mimic men. They appear to laugh with glee and pretend to do much, but 
" really do nothing. They are called little miners, because of their dwarfish stature, which 
" is about two feet. They are venerable looking and are clothed like miners in a filleted 
" garment with a leather apron about their loins. This kind does not often trouble the miners, 
" but they idle about in the shafts and tunnels and really do nothing, although they pretend to 
" be busy in all kinds of labour, sometimes digging ore, and sometimes putting into buckets 
" that which has been dug. Sometimes they throw pebbles at the workmen, but they rarely 
" injure them unless the workmen first ridicule or curse them. They are not very dissimilar 
" to Goblins, which occasionally appear to men when they go to or from their day's work, or 
" when they attend their cattle. Because they generally appear benign to men, the Germans 
" call them guteli. Those called irulli, which take the form of women as well as men, actually 
" enter the service of some people, especially the Stiions. The mining gnomes are especially 
"active in the workings where metal has already been found, or where there are hopes of 
" discovering it, because of which they do not discourage the miners, but on the contrary 
" stimulate them and cause them to labour more vigorously." 

The German miners were not alone in such beliefs, for miners generally accepted 
them — even to-day the faith in " knockers " has not entirely disappeared from Cornwall. 
Neither the sea nor the forest so lends itself to the substantiation of the supernatural as does 
the mine. The dead darkness, in which the miners' lamps serve only to distort every shape, 
the uncanny noises of restless rocks whose support has been undermined, the approach of 
danger and death without warning, the sudden vanishing or discovery of good fortune, all 
yield a thousand corroborations to minds long steeped in ignorance and prepared for the 
miraculous through religious teaching. 

'''The Plains of Laurentius extend from the mouth of the Tiber southward — say 
twenty miles south of Rome. What Agricola's authority was for silver mines in this region we 
cannot discover. This may, however, refer to the lead-silver district of the Attic Peninsula, 
Laurion being sometimes Latinized as Laurium or Laurius. 

2i8 BOOK VI. 

worked, though they were not deficient in silver. The fifth cause are the 
fierce and murderous demons, for if they cannot be expelled, no one escapes 
from them. The sixth cause is that the underpinnings become loosened 
and collapse, and a fall of the mountain usually follows ; the underpinnings 
are then only restored when the vein is very rich in metal. The seventh 
cause is military operations. Shafts and tunnels should not be re-opened 
unless we are quite certain of the reasons why the miners have deserted them, 
because we ought not to beUeve that our ancestors were so indolent and 
spiritless as to desert mines which could have been carried on with profit. 
Indeed, in our own days, not a few miners, persuaded by old women's tales, 
have re-opened deserted shafts and lost their time and trouble. Therefore, 
to prevent future generations from being led to act in such a way, it is 
advisable to set down in writing the reason why the digging of each shaft or 
tunnel has been abandoned, just as it is agreed was once done at Freiberg, 
when the shafts were deserted on account of the great inrush of water. 



INCE the Sixth Book has described the iron tools, 
the vessels and the machines used in mines, this 
Book will describe the methods of assaying' ores ; 
because it is desirable to first test them in order 
that the material mined may be advantageously 
smelted, or that the dross may be purged away and 
the metal made pure. Although writers have men- 
tioned such tests, 3'et none of them have set down the 
directions for performing them, wherefore it is no 
wonder that those who come later have written nothing on the subject. 
By tests of this kind miners can determine with certainty whether 
ores contain any metal in them or not ; or if it has already been 
indicated that the ore contains one or more metals, the tests show whether 
it is much or little ; the miners also ascertain by such tests the method by 
which the metal can be separated from that part of the ore devoid of it ; 
and further, by these tests, they determine that part in which there is much 
metal from that part in which there is little. Unless these tests have been 
carefully applied before the metals are melted out, the ore cannot be smelted 
without great loss to the owners, for the parts which do not easily melt in the 
fire carry the metals off with them or consume them. In the last case, they pass 
off with the fumes ; in the other case they are mixed with the slag and furnace 
accretions, and in such event the owners lose the labour which they have spent 
in preparing the furnaces and the crucibles, and further, it is necessary for them 
to incur fresh expenditure for fluxes and other things. Metals, when they have 
been melted out, are usually assayed in order that we may ascertain what pro- 
portion of silver is in a centumpondium of copper or lead, or what quantity of 
gold is in one libra of silver ; and, on the other hand, what proportion of copper 
or lead is contained in a centumpondium of silver, or what quantity of silver is 
contained in one libra of gold. And from this we can calculate whether it 
will be worth while to separate the precious metals from the base metals, or 
not. Further, a test of this kind shows whether coins are good or are 
debased ; and readily detects silver, if the coiners have mixed more than is 
lawful with the gold ; or copper, if the coiners have alloyed with the gold or 
silver more of it than is allowable. I will explain all these methods with the 
utmost care that I can. 

^We have but little record of anything which could be called " assaying " among the 
Greeks and Romans. The fact, however, that they made constant use of the touchstone 
(see note 37, p. 252) is sufficient proof that they were able to test the purity of gold and silver. 
The description of the touchstone by Theophrastus contains several references to " trial " 
by fire (see note 37, p. 252). They were adepts at metal working, and were therefore familiar 
with melting metals on a small scale, with the smelting of silver, lead, copper, and tin 
ores (see note i, p. 353) and with the parting of silver and lead by cupellation. Consequently, 
it would not require m.uch of an imaginative flight to conclude that there existed some system 
of tests of ore and metal values by fire. Apart from the statement of Theophrastus referred 
to, the first references made to anything which might fill the role of assaying are from the 
Alchemists, particularly Geber (prior to 1300), for they describe methods of solution, 
precipitation, distillation, fusing in crucibles, cupellation, and of the parting of gold and silver 
by acid and by sulphur, antimony, or cementation. However, they were not bent on 


The method of assaying ore used by mining people, differs from 
smelting only by the small amount of material used. Inasmuch as, by 
smelting a small quantity, they learn whether the smelting of a large 

determining quantitative values, which is the fundamental object of the assayer's art, and 
all their discussion is shrouded in an obscure cloak of gibberish and attempted mysticism. 
Nevertheless, therein lies the foundation of many cardinal assay methods, and even of 
chemistry itself. 

The first explicit records of assaying are the anonymous booklets published in German early 
in the i6th Century under the title Probierbiichlein. Therein the art is disclosed well advanced 
toward maturity, so far as concerns gold and silver, with some notes on lead and copper. We 
refer the reader to Appendix B for fuller discussion of these books, but we may repeat here 
that they are a collection of disconnected recipes lacking in arrangement, the items often 
repeated, and all apparently the inheritance of wisdom passed from father to son over many 
generations. It is obviously intended as a sort of reminder to those already skilled in the 
art, and would be hopeless to a novice. Apart from some notes in Biringuccio (Book in. 
Chaps. I and 2) on assaying gold and silver, there is nothing else prior to De Re 
MetalUca. Agricola was familiar with these works and includes their material in this chapter. 
The very great advance which his account represents can only be appreciated by comparison, 
but the exhaustive publication of other works is foreign to the purpose of these notes. 
Agricola introduces system into the arrangement of his materials, describes implements, and 
gives a hundred details which are wholly omitted from the previous works, all in a manner 
which would enable a beginner to learn the art. Furthermore, the assaying of lead, copper, 
tin, quicksilver, iron, and bismuth, is almost wholly new, together with the whole of the 
argument and explanations. We would call the attention of students of the history of 
chemistry to the general oversight of these early i6th Century attempts at analytical 
chemistry, for in them lie the foundations of that science. The statement sometimes made 
that Agricola was the first assayer, is false if for no other reason than that science does not 
develop with such strides at any one human hand. He can, however, fairly be accounted as the 
author of the first proper text-book upon assaying. Those familiar with the art will be astonished 
at the small progress made since his time, for in his pages appear most of the reagents and most 
of the critical operations in the dry analyses of gold, silver, lead, copper, tin, bismuth, quick- 
silver, and iron of to-day. Further, there will be recognised many of the " kinks " of the art 
used even yet, such as the method of granulation, duplicate assays, the " assay ton " method of 
weights, the use of test lead, the introduction of charges in leaf lead, and even the use of beer 
instead of water to damp bone-ash. 

The following table is given of the substances mentioned requiring some comment, 
and the terms adopted in this book, with notes for convenience in reference. The German 
terms are either from Agricola's Glossary of De Re MetaUica, his Interpreiaiio, or the 
German Translation. We have retained the original German spelling. The fifth column 
refers to the page where more ample notes are given : — 

Terms adopted. 








Either potassium or 
ammonia alum 

P- 564 




A distillation jar 




Practically always 
antimony sulphide 

p. 428 

Aqua valens or aqua 

Aqua valens 


Mostly nitric acid 

P- 439 


Feces vini siccae 

Die weinheffcn 

Crude tartar 

P- 234 

Ash of lead 

Nigrum plumbum 

Artificial lead sul- 

P- 237 

Ash of musk ivy 

Sal ex anthyllidis 


Mostly potash 

p. 560 

(Salt made from) 

cinere f actus 

Ashes which wool- 

Cineres quo infec- 

Mostly potash 

P- 559 

dyers use 

tores lanarum 


Venas experiri 


Assay furnace 


Probir ofen 

" Little " furnace 




Partly copper car- 
bonate (azurite) 
partly silicate 

p. no 

BOOK VII. 221 

quantity will compensate them for their expenditure ; hence, if they are not 
particular to employ assays, they may, as I have already said, sometimes smelt 
the metal from the ore with a loss or sometimes without any profit ; for they 

Terms adopted. 






Pltimium Cinereum 



P- 433 




p. 581 

Blast furnace 

Prima fornax 



Chrysocolla ex nitro 
coiifecta ; chryso- 
colla quam boracem 

Borras ; Tincar 

p. 560 

Burned alum 

Ahimen coctum 

Gesottcner alaun 

Probably de hydrated 

P- 565 


(i) Furnace accre- 

p. 112 

(see note 8, p. 112] 


(2) Calamine 

(3) Zinc blende 

(4) Cobalt arsenical 



Camphor a 


p. 238 

Chrysocolla called 

borax (see borax) 



Berggrun und 

Partly chrysocolla, 

p. no 



partly malachite 

Copper filings 

Aeris scobs elimala 


Apparently finely 
divided copper 

P- 233 

Copper flowers 

Aeris flos 


Cupric oxide 

P- 538 

Copper scales 

Aeris squamae 

Kupfer hammer- 
schlag Oder kessel 

Probably cupric oxide 

Copper minerals 

(see note 8, p. 109) 

Crucible (trian- 

Catillus triangularis 


See illustration 

p. 229 



Caiillus cinereus 


Cupellation furnace 

Secnnda fornax 



A dditamentum 


p. 232 

Furnace accretions 

Cadmia fornacum 

Miilere und obere 


Lapis plumbarius 


Lead sulphide 

p. no 


Recrementum viiri 


Skimmings from 
glass melting 

P- 235 

Grey antimony or 

Stibi or stibium 


Antimony sulphide, 

p. 428 






The saturated fur- 
nace bottoms from 

p. 476 

Hoop (iron) 

Circulus ferreus 


A forge for crucibles 

p. 226 

Iron filings 

Ferri scobs elimata 

Eisen feilich 

Metallic iron 

Iron scales 

Squamae ferri 

Eisen hammer- 

Partly iron oxide 

Iron slag 

Recrementum ferri 


Lead ash 

Cinis plumbi nigri 


Artificial lead sul- 

P- 237 

Lead granules 

Globuli plumbei 

Gekornt plei 

Granulated lead 

Lead ochre 

Ochra plitmbaria 


Modern massicot 

p. 232 

Lees of aqua which 

Feces aquarum quae 



P- 234 

separates gold 

aurum ab argento 


from silver 


Dried lees of vinegar 

Siccae feces aceti 

Heffe des essigs 


P- 234 

Dried lees of wine 

Feces vini siccae 

Wein heffen 


P- 234 


can assay the ore at a very small expense, and smelt it only at a great 
expense. Both processes, however, are carried out in the same way, for just 
as we assay ore in a little furnace, so do we smelt it in the large furnace. Also 
in both cases charcoal and not wood is burned. Moreover, in the crucible 
when metals are tested, be they gold, silver, copper, or lead, they are mixed in 
precisely the same way as they are mixed in the blast furnace when they 
are smelted. Further, those who assay ores with fire, either pour out the 
metal in a liquid state, or, when it has cooled, break the crucible and clean 

Terms adopted. 






Saxum calcis 



Spuma argenti 




Lauge durch 
asschen gemachi 

Mostly potash 

P- 233 




Latin, literally 
"Roof-tile " 



Helm Oder alein- 

Helmet or cover for 
a distillation jar 




Yellow sulphide of 
arsenic (AS2S3) 

p. Ill 




Rather a genus of 
sulphides, than iron 
pyrite in particular 

p. 112 

Pyrites (Cakes 

Panes ex pyrite 


Iron or copper matte 

P- 350 






Red sulphide of 
arsenic (AsS) 

p. Ill 

Red lead 




p. 232 

Roasted copper 

Aes ustum 

Gebrandt kupffer 

Artificial copper 
sulphide (?) 

P- 233 





P- 233 

Salt (Rock) 

Sal fossilis 

Berg saltz 


P- 233 

Sal artifidosus 

Sal artifidosus 

A stock flux ? 

p. 236 

Sal ammoniac 

Sal ammoniacus 



p. 560 





p. 561 

Salt (refined) 

Sal facticius purgatus 


Sal lostiis 

Sal toslus 

Gerost saltz 

Apparently simply 
heated or melted 
common salt 

P- 233 

Sal iorref actus 

Sal torrefactus 

Gerost saltz 

P- 233 

Salt (melted) 

Sal liquefactus 

Geflossen saltz 

Melted salt or salt 

P- 233 


Caiillus fictilis 



Saxum fissile 


Silver minerals (see 

note 8, p. io8) 






Mostly soda from 
Egypt, Na2Co3 

P- 558 

Stones which easily 

Lapides qui facile igni 


Quartz and fluorspar 

p. 380 






P- 579 





P- 233 




Venetian glass 

V enetianum vitrum 


A erugo 

Grilnspan oder 

Copper sub-acetate 

p. 440 




Mostly FeS04 

P- 572 

White schist 

Saxum fissile album 

Weisscr schifer 

P- 234 

Weights (see Appen- 




the metal from slag ; and in the same way the smelter, as soon as the metal 
flows from the furnace into the forehearth, pours in cold water and takes the 
slag from the metal with a hooked bar. Finally, in the same way that gold 
and silver are separated from lead in a cupel, so also are they separated in 
the cupellation furnace. 

It is necessary that the assayer who is testing ore or metals should be 
prepared and instructed in all things necessary in assaying, and that he 
should close the doors of the room in which the assay furnace stands, lest 

Rectangular assay furnace. 



anyone coming at an inopportune moment might disturb his thoughts when 
they are intent on the work. It is also necessary for him to place his balances 
in a case, so that when he weighs the little buttons of metal the scales may 
not be agitated by a draught of air, for that is a hindrance to his work. 

Now I will describe the different things which are necessary in assaying, 
beginning with the assay furnace, of which one differs from another in 
shape, material, and the place in which it is set. In shape, they may be 
round or rectangular, the latter shape being more suited to assaying ores. 
The materials of the assay furnaces differ, in that one is made of bricks, 
another of iron, and certain ones of clay. The one of bricks is built on a 
chimney-hearth which is three and a half feet high ; the iron one is placed 
in the same position, and also the one of clay. The brick one is a cubit high, 
a foot wide on the inside, and one foot two digits long ; at a point five digits 
above the hearth — which is usually the thickness of an unbaked^ brick — 
an iron plate is laid, and smeared over with lute on the upper side to prevent 
it from being injured by the lire ; in front of the furnace above the plate is a 
mouth a palm high, five digits wide, and rounded at the top. The iron plate 

A — Openings in the plate. B — P.^rt of plate which projects beyond the furnace. 

has three openings which are one digit wide and three digits long, one is at 
each side and the third at the back ; through them sometimes the ash falls 
from the burning charcoal, and sometimes the draught blows through the 
chamber which is below the iron plate, and stimulates the fire. For this 
reason this furnace when used by metallurgists is named from assaying, but 
when used by the alchemists it is named from the wind^. The part of the 
iron plate which projects from the furnace is generally three-quarters of a 

^Crudorum, — unbaked ? 

'This reference is not very clear. Apparently the names refer to the German terms 
probier ofen and windt ofen. 

BOOK VII. 225 

palm long and a palm wide ; small pieces of charcoal, after being laid thereon, 
can be placed quickly in the furnace through its mouth with a pair of tongs, 
or again, if necessary, can be taken out of the furnace and laid there. 

The iron assay furnace is made of four iron bars a foot and a half high; 
which at the bottom are bent outward and broadened a short distance to enable 
them to stand more firmly ; the front part of the furnace is made from two 
of these bars, and the back part from two of them ; to these bars on both 
sides are joined and welded three iron cross-bars, the first at a height of a palm 
from the bottom, the second at a height of a foot, and the third at the top. 
The upright bars are perforated at that point where the side cross-bars are 
joined to them, in order that three similar iron bars on the remaining sides 
can be engaged in them ; thus there are twelve cross-bars, which make 
three stages at unequal intervals. At the lower stage, the upright bars are 
distant from each other one foot and five digits ; and at the middle stage the 
front is distant from the back three palms and one digit, and the sides are 
distant from each other three palms and as many digits ; at the highest stage 
from the front to the back there is a distance of two palms, and between the 
sides three palms, so that in this way the furnace becomes narrower at the 
top. Furthermore, an iron rod, bent to the shape of the mouth, is set into 
the lowest bar of the front ; this mouth, just like that of the brick furnace, 
is a palm high and five digits wide. Then the front cross-bar of the lower 
stage is perforated on each side of the mouth, and likewise the back one ; 
through these perforations there pass two iron rods, thus making altogether 
four bars in the lower stage, and these support an iron plate smeared with 
lute ; part of this plate also projects outside the furnace. The outside of 
the furnace from the lower stage to the upper, is covered with iron plates, 
which are bound to the bars by iron wires, and smeared with lute to enable 
them to bear the heat of the fire as long as possible. 

As for the clay furnace, it must be made of fat, thick clay, medium so 
far as relates to its softness or hardness. This furnace has exactly the same 
height as the iron one, and its base is made of two earthenware tiles, one 
foot and three palms long and one foot and one palm wide. Each side of the 
fore part of both tiles is gradually cut away for the length of a palm, so 
that they are half a foot and a digit wide, which part projects from the 
furi.ace ; the tiles are about a digit and a half thick. The walls are similarly 
of clay, and are set on the lower tiles at a distance of a digit from the edge, 
and support the upper tiles ; the walls are three digits high and have four 
openings, each of which is about three digits high ; those of the back part and 
of each side are five digits wide, and of the front, a palm and a half wide, to 
enable the freshly made cupels to be conveniently placed on the hearth, when 
it has been thoroughly warmed, that they may be dried there. Both tiles 
are bound on the outer edge with iron wire, pressed into them, so that they 
will be less easily broken ; and the tiles, not unlike the iron bed-plate, have 
three openings three digits long and a digit wide, in order that when the upper 
one on account of the heat of the fire or for some other reason has become 
damaged, the lower one may be exchanged and take its place. Through these 

226 BOOK VII. 

holes, the ashes from the burning charcoal, as I have stated, fall down, and 
air blows into the furnace after passing through the openings in the walls of 
the chamber. The furnace is rectangular, and inside at the lower part it is 
three palms and one digit wide and three palms and as many digits long. At 
the upper part it is two palms and three digits wide, so that it also grows 
narrower ; it is one foot high ; in the middle of the back it is cut out at 
the bottom in the shape of a semicircle, of half a digit radius. Not 
unlike the furnace before described, it has in its forepart a mouth which is 
rounded at the top, one palm high and a palm and a digit wide. Its door 
is also made of clay, and this has a window and a handle ; even the lid 
of the furnace which is made of clay has its own handle, fastened on with iron 
wire. The outer parts and sides of this furnace are bound with iron wires, 
which are usually pressed in, in the shape of triangles. The brick furnaces 
must remain stationary ; the clay and iron ones can be carried from one 
place to another. Those of brick can be prepared more quickly, while those 
of iron are more lasting, and those of clay are more suitable. Assayers 
also make temporary furnaces in another way ; they stand three bricks 
on a hearth, one on each side and a third one at the back, the fore-part lies 
open to the draught, and on these bricks is placed an iron plate, upon which 
they again stand three bricks, which hold and retain the charcoal. 

The setting of one furnace differs from another, in that some are placed 
higher and others lower ; that one is placed higher, in which the man who is 
assaying the ore or metals introduces the scorifier through the mouth with the 
tongs ; that one is placed lower, into which he introduces the crucible 
through its open top. 

In some cases the assayer uses an iron hoop* in place of a furnace ; 
this is placed upon the hearth of a chimney, the lower edge being daubed 
with lute to prevent the blast of the bellows from escaping under it. 
If the blast is given slowly, the ore will be smelted and the copper will melt in 
the triangular crucible, which is placed in it and taken away again with the 
tongs. The hoop is two palms high and half a digit thick ; its diameter is 
generally one foot and one palm, and where the blast from the bellows enters 
into it, it is notched out. The bellows is a double one, such as goldworkers 
use, and sometimes smiths. In the middle of the bellows there is a board in 
which there is an air-hole, five digits wide and seven long, covered by a 
little flap which is fastened over the air-hole on the lower side of the board ; 
this flap is of equal length and width. The bellows, without its head, is 
three feet long, and at the back is one foot and one palm wide and 
somewhat rounded, and it is three palms wide at the head ; the head itself 
is three palms long and two palms and a digit wide at the part where it joins 
the boards, then it gradually becomes narrower. The nozzle, of which there 
is only one, is one foot and two digits long ; this nozzle, and one-half of the 
head in which the nozzle is fixed, are placed in an opening of the wall, this 
being one foot and one palm thick ; it reaches only to the iron hoop on the 

Kircuhis. This term does not offer a very satisfactory equivalent, as such a furnace 
has no distinctive name in Enghsh. It is obviously a sort of forge for fusing in crucibles. 



hearth, for it does not project beyond the wall. The hide of the bellows is 
fixed to the bellows-boards with its own pecuhar kind of iron nails. It jf)ins 
both bellows-boards to the head, and over it there are cross strijjs of 
hide fixed to the bellows-boards with broad-headed nails, and similarly 
fixed to the head. The middle board of the bellows rests on an iron bar, 
to which it is fastened with iron nails cUnched on both ends, so that it cannot 
move ; the iron bar is fixed between two upright posts, through which it 
penetrates. Higher up on these upright posts there is a wooden axle, with 
iron journals which revolve in the holes in the posts. In the middle of 
this axle there is mortised a lever, fixed with iron nails to prevent it from 
flying out ; the lever is five and a half feet long, and its posterior end is 
engaged in the iron ring of an iron rod which reaches to the " tail " of the 
lowest bellows-board, and there engages another similar ring. And so when 
the workman pulls down the lever, the lower part of the bellows is raised and 
drives the wind into the nozzle ; then the wind, penetrating through the hole 
in the middle bellows-board, which is called the air-hole, lifts up the upper 
part of the bellows, upon whose upper board is a piece of lead, heavy enough 
to press down that part of the bellows again, and this being pressed down 
blows a blast through the nozzle. This is the principle of the double bellows, 
which is peculiar to the iron hoop where are placed the triangular crucibles in 
which copper ore is smelted and copper is melted. 

A — Iron hoop. B — Double bellows. C — Its nozzle. D — Lever. 

I have spoken of the furnaces and the iron hoop ; I will now speak of 
the muffles and the crucibles. The muffle is made of clay, in the shape 
of an inverted gutter tile ; it covers the scorifiers, lest coal dust fall into 
them and interfere with the assay. It is a palm and a half broad, and the 
height, which corresponds with the mouth of the furnace, is generally a palm, 



and it is nearly as long as the furnace ; only at the front end does it touch 
the mouth of the furnace, everywhere else on the sides and at the back 
there is a space of three digits, to allow the charcoal to lie in the open space 
between it and the furnace. The muffle is as thick as a fairly thick earthen 
jar ; its upper part is entire ; the back has two little windows, and each side 
has two or three or even four, through which the heat passes into the scorifiers 
and melts the ore. In place of little windows, some muffles have small holes, 
ten in the back and more on each side. Moreover, in the back below the 
little windows, or small holes, there are cut away three semi-circular notches 
half a digit high, and on each side there are four. The back of the muffle 
is generally a little lower than the front. 



The crucibles differ in the materials from which they are made, because 
they are made of either clay or ashes ; and those of clay, which we also call 
" earthen," differ in shape and size. Some are made in the shape of a mod- 
erately thick salver (scorifiers), three digits wide, and of a capacity of an 
uncia measure ; in these the ore mixed with fluxes is melted, and they are used 
by those who assay gold or silver ore. Some are triangular and much 
thicker and more capacious, holding five, or six, or even more unciae ; in 
these copper is melted, so that it can be poured out, expanded, and tested 
with fire, and in these copper ore is usually melted. 

The cupels are made of ashes ; Uke the preceding scorifiers they are 
tray-shaped, and their lower part is very thick but their capacity is less. 
In these lead is separated from silver, and by them assays are concluded. 
Inasmuch as the assayers themselves make the cupels, something must 
be said about the material from which they are made, and the method 
of making them. Some make them out of all kinds of ordinary ashes ; these 
are not good, because ashes of this kind contain a certain amount of fat, 
whereby such cupels are easily broken when they are hot. Others make 
them likewise out of any kind of ashes which have been previously 
leached ; of this kind are the ashes into which warm water has been infused 
for the purpose of making lye. These ashes, after being dried in the sun or 
a furnace, are sifted in a hair sieve ; and although warm water washes away the 



A — ScoRiFiER. B — Triangular crucible. C — Cupel. 

fat from the ashes, still the cupels which are made from such ashes are not 
very good because they often contain charcoal dust, sand, and pebbles. 
Some make them in the same way out of any kind of ashes, but first of all 
pour water into the ashes and remove the scum which floats thereon ; then, 
after it has become clear, they pour away the water, and dry the ashes ; they 
then sift them and make the cupels from them. These, indeed, are good, 
but not of the best quahty, because ashes of this kind are also not devoid of 
small pebbles and sand. To enable cupels of the best quality to be made, all 
the impurities must be removed from the ashes. These impurities are of 
two kinds ; the one sort light, to which class belong charcoal dust and fatty 
material and other things which float in water, the other sort heavy, such 
as small stones, fine sand, and any other materials which settle in the 
bottom of a vessel. Therefore, first of all, water should be poured into the 
ashes and the light impurities removed ; then the ashes should be 
kneaded with the hands, so that they will become properly mixed with 
the water. When the water has become muddy and turbid, it should be 
poured into a second vessel. In this way the small stones and fine sand, or 
any other heavy substance which may be there, remain in the first vessel, 
and should be thrown away. When all the ashes have settled in this second 
vessel, which will be shown if the water has become clear and does not taste 
of the flavour of lye, the water should be thrown away, and the ashes 
which have settled in the vessel should be dried in the sun or in a furnace. 
This material is suitable for the cupels, especially if it is the ash of beech 
wood or other wood which has a small annual growth ; those ashes made 
from twigs and limbs of vines, which have rapid annual growth, are not so 

230 BOOK VII. 

good, for the cupels made from them, since they are not sufficiently dry, 
frequently crack and break in the fire and absorb the metals. If ashes of 
beech or similar wood are not to be had, the assayer makes little balls of such 
ashes as he can get, after they have been cleared of impurities in the manner 
before described, and puts them in a baker's or potter's oven to bum, and from 
these the cupels are made, because the fire consumes whatever fat or damp 
there may be. As to all kinds of ashes, the older they are the better, for it is 
necessary that they should have the greatest possible dr3mess. For this 
reason ashes obtained from burned bones, especially from the bones of the 
heads of animals, are the most suitable for cupels, as are also those ashes 
obtained from the horns of deer and the spines of fishes. Lastly, some take the 
ashes which are obtained from burnt scrapings of leather, when the tanners 
scrape the hides to clear them from hair. Some prefer to use compounds, 
that one being recommended which has one and a half parts of ashes from the 
bones of animals or the spines of fishes, and one part of beech ashes, and half a 
part of ashes of burnt hide scrapings. From this mixture good cupels are 
made, though far better ones are obtained from equal portions of ashes of 
burnt hide scrapings, ashes of the bones of heads of sheep and calves, and 
ashes of deer horns. But the best of all are produced from deer horns alone, 
burnt to powder ; this kind, by reason of its extreme dryness, absorbs metals 
least of all. Assayers of our own day, however, generally make the 
cupels from beech ashes. These ashes, after being prepared in the 
manner just described, are first of all sprinkled with beer or water, to make 
them stick together, and are then ground in a small mortar. They are ground 
again after being mixed with the ashes obtained from the skulls of beasts or from 
the spines of fishes ; the more the ashes are ground the better they are. 
Some rub bricks and sprinkle the dust so obtained, after sifting it, into the 
beech ashes, for dust of this kind does not allow the hearth-lead to absorb 
the gold or silver by eating away the cupels. Others, to guard against the 
same thing, moisten the cupels with white of egg after they have been made, 
and when they have been dried in the sun, again crush them ; especially if they 
want to assay in it an ore or copper which contains iron. Some moisten the 
ashes again and again with cow's milk, and dry them, and grind them in a 
small mortar, and then mould the cupels. In the works in which silver 
is separated from copper, they make cupels from two parts of the ashes of 
the crucible of the cupeUation furnace, for these ashes are very dry, and from 
one part of bone-ash. Cupels which have been made in these ways also 
need to be placed in the sun or in a furnace ; afterward, in whatever way 
they have been made, they must be kept a long time in dry places, for the 
older they are, the dryer and better they are. 

Not only potters, but also the assayers themselves, make scorifiers 
and triangular crucibles. They make them out of fatty clay, which is 
dry^, and neither hard nor soft. With this clay they mix the dust of old 
broken crucibles, or of burnt and worn bricks ; then they knead with a 
pestle the clay thus mixed with dust, ajid then dry it. As to these crucibles, 
^Spissa, — "Dry." This term is used in contra-distinction to pingue, unctuous or "fatty." 



the older they are, the dryer and better they are. The moulds in which the 
cupels are moulded are of two kinds, that is, a smaller size and a larger size. 
In the smaller ones are made the cupels in which silver or gold is purged 
from the lead which has absorbed it ; in the larger ones are made cupels in 
which silver is separated from copper and lead. Both moulds are made out 
of brass and have no bottom, in order that the cupels can be taken out of 
them whole. The pestles also are of two kinds, smaller and larger, each 
likewise of brass, and from the lower end of them there projects a round 
knob, and this alone is pressed into the mould and makes the hollow part of 
the cupel. The part which is next to the knob corresponds to the upper 
part of the mould. 

A — Little mould. B — Inverted mould. C — Pestle. D — Its knob. E — Second 


So much for these matters. I will now speak of the preparation of the 
ore for assaying. It is prepared by roasting, burning, crushing, and wash- 
ing. It is necessary to take a fixed weight of ore in order that one may 
determine how great a portion of it these preparations consume. The 
hard stone containing the metal is burned in order that, when its hardness 
has been overcome, it can be crushed and washed ; indeed, the very hardest 
kind, before it is burned, is sprinkled with vinegar, in order that it may more 
rapidly soften in the fire. The soft stone should be broken with a hammer, 
crushed in a mortar and reduced to powder ; then it should be washed 
and then dried again. If earth is mixed with the mineral, it is washed in a 
basin, and that which settles is assayed in the fire after it is dried. All mining 
products which are washed must again be dried. But ore which is rich in 
metal is neither burned nor crushed nor washed, but is roasted, lest that 
method of preparation should lose some of the metal. When the fires have 

232 BOOK VII. 

been kindled, this kind of ore is roasted in an enclosed pot, which is stopped 
up with lute. A less valuable ore is even burned on a hearth, being placed 
upon the charcoal ; for we do not make a great expenditure upon metals, if 
they are not worth it. However, I will go into fuller details as to all these 
methods of preparing ore, both a httle later, and in the following Book. 

For the present, I have decided to explain those things which mining 
people usually call fluxes^ because they are added to ores, not only for 
assa3ang, but also for smelting. Great power is discovered in all these fluxes, 
but we do not see the same effects produced in every case ; and some are of a 
very complicated nature. For when they have been mixed with the ore 
and are melted in either the assay or the smelting furnace, some of them, 
because they melt easily, to some extent melt the ore ; others, because they 
either make the ore very hot or penetrate into it, greatly assist the fire in 
separating the impurities from the metals, and they also mix the fused part 
with the lead, or they partly protect from the fire the ore whose metal contents 
would be either consumed in the fire, or carried up with the fumes and fly out 
of the furnace ; some fluxes absorb the metals. To the first order be- 
longs lead, whether it be reduced to little granules or resolved into ash by 
fire, or red-lead', or ochre made from lead^, or litharge, or hearth-lead, or 

'Additamenta, — " Additions." Hence the play on words. 

We have adopted " flux " because the old English equivalent for all these materials 
was " flux," although in modern nomenclature the term is generally restricted to those 
substances which, by chemical combination in the furnace, lower the melting point of some 
of the charge. The " additions " of Agricola, therefore, include reducing, oxidizing, 
sulphurizing, desulphurizing, and collecting agents as well as fluxes. A critical examina- 
tion of the fluxes mentioned in the next four pages gives point to the Author's assertion that 
" some are of a very complicated nature." However, anyone of experience with home- 
taught assayers has come in contact with equally extraordinary combinations. The four 
orders of " additions " enumerated are quite impossible to reconcile from a modern metal- 
lurgical point of view. 

''Minium secundarium. (Interpretatio, — menning. Pb304). Agricola derived his Latin 
term from Pliny. There is great confusion in the ancient writers on the use of the word 
minium, for prior to the Middle Ages it was usually applied to vermilion derived from 
cinnabar. Vermilion was much adulterated with red-lead, even in Roman times, and finally 
in later centuries the name came to be appropriated to the lead product. Theophrastus 
(103) mentions a substitute for vermilion, but, in spite of commentators, there is no 
evidence that it was red-lead. The first to describe the manufacture of real red-lead was 
apparently Vitruvius (vii, 12), who calls it sandaraca (this name was usually applied to red 
arsenical sulphide), and says : " White-lead is heated in a furnace and by the force of the 
" fire becomes red lead. This invention was the result of observation in the case of an 
" accidental fire, and by the process a much better material is obtained than from the mines." 
He describes minium as the product from cinnabar. Dioscorides (v, 63), after discussing 
white-lead, says it may be burned until it becomes the colour of sandaracha, and is called 
sandyx. He also states (v, 69) that those are deceived who consider cinnabar to be the 
same as minium, for minium is made in Spain out of stone mixed with silver sands. There- 
fore he is not in agreement with Vitruvius and Pliny on the use of the term. Pliny 
(xxxiii, 40) says : " These barren stones (apparently lead ores barren of silver) may be 
" recognised by their colour ; it is only in the furnace that they turn red. After being 
" roasted it is pulverized and is minium secundarium. It is known to few and is very 
" inferior to the natural kind made from those sands we have mentioned (cinnabar). It is 
" with this that the genuine minium is adulterated in the works of the Company." This 
proprietary company who held a monopoly of the Spanish quicksilver mines, " had many 
" methods of adulterating it (minimn) — a source of great plunder to the Company." 
Pliny also describes the making of red lead from white. 

^Ochra plumbaria, (Interpreta/io, — pleigeel ; modern German, — Bleigelb). The German 
term indicates that this " Lead Ochre," a form of PbO, is what in the English trade is 
known as massicot, or masticot. This material can be a partial product from almost any 
cupellation where oxidation takes place below the melting point of the oxide. It may 
have been known to the Ancients among the various species into which they divided 

BOOK VII. 233 

galena ; also copper, the same either roasted or in leaves or filings' ; also the 
slags of gold, silver, copper, and lead ; also soda^", its slags, saltpetre, burned 
alum, vitriol, sal tostus, and melted salt" ; stones which easily melt 
in hot furnaces, the sand which is made from them^^ ; soft tophus^^, 

litharge, but there is no valid reason for assigning to it any special one of their terms, so far 
as we can see. 

'There are four forms of copper named as re-agents by Agricola : 

Copper filings — Aeris scobs elimata. 

Copper scales — Aeris squamae. 

Copper flowers — Aeris flos. 

Roasted copper — Acs tisium. 
The first of these was no doubt finely divided copper metal ; the second, third, and 
fourth were probably all cupric o.xide. According to Agricola {De Nat. Fos., p. 352), the 
scales were the result of hammering the metal ; the flowers came off the metal when hot bars 
were quenched in water, and a third kind were obtained from calcining the metal. " Both 
flowers (flos) and hammer-scales (squama) have the same properties as crematum copper. 
"... The particles of flower copper are finer than scales or crematum copper." If we 
assume that the verb uro used in De Re Metallica is of the same import as cremo in the De 
Natura Fossilium, we can accept this material as being merely cupric oxide, but the aes 
ustitm of Pliny — Agricola's usual source of technical nomenclature — is probably an artificial 
sulphide. Dioscorides (v, 47), who is apparently the source of Pliny's information, says : — 
" Of chalcos cecaumenos, the best is red, and pulverized resembles the colour of cinnabar ; 
" if it turns black, it is over-burnt. It is made from broken ship nails put into a rough 
" earthen pot, with alternate layers of equal parts of sulphur and salt. The opening should 
" be smeared with potter's clay and the pot put in the furnace until it is thoroughly heated," 
etc. Pliny (xxxiv, 23) states : " Moreover Cyprian copper is roasted in crude earthen 
" pots with an equal amount of sulphur ; the apertures of the pots are well luted, and they 
" are kept in the furnace until the pot is thoroughly heated. Some add salt, others use 
" alumen instead of sulphur, others add nothing, but only sprinkle it with vinegar." 

^"The reader is referred to note 6, p. 558, for more ample discussion of the alkalis. 
Agricola gives in this chapter four substances of that character : 

Soda (nitrttm). Lye. " Ashes which wool-dyers use." 
" Salt made from the ashes of musk ivy." 
The last three are certainly potash, probably impure. While the first might be either 
potash or soda, the fact that the last three are mentioned separately, together with other 
evidence, convinces us that by the first is intended the nitrum so generally imported into 
Europe from Egypt during the Middle Ages. This imported salt was certainly the natural 
bicarbonate, and we have, therefore, used the term "soda." 

^^In this chapter are mentioned seven kinds of common salt : 

Salt — Sal. 

Rock salt — Sal fossilis. 

" Made " salt — Sal factictius. 

Refined salt — Sal purgatius. 

Melted salt — Sal liquef actus. 
And in addition sal tostus and sal torrefactus. Sal facticius is used in distinction from rock- 
salt. The melted salt would apparently be salt-glass. What form the sal tostus and sal 
torrefactus could have we cannot say, however, but they were possibly some form of heated 
salt ; they may have been combinations after the order of sal artificiosus (see p. 236). 

'^''" Stones which easily melt in hot furnaces and sand which is made from them" 
(lapides qui in ardentibus fornacibus facile liqitescunt arenas ab eis resolutae). These were 
probably quartz in this instance, although fluorspar is also included in this same genus. For 
fuller discussion see note on p. 380. 

'^^Tophus. (Interpretaiio ; Toffstein oder topstein). According to Dana (Syst. of 
Min., p. 678), the German topf stein was English potstone or soapstone, a magnesian silicate. 
It is scarcely possible, however, that this is what Agricola meant by this term, for such a 
substance would be highly infusible. Agricola has a good deal to say about this mineral in 
De Natura Fossilium (p. i8g and 313), and from these descriptions it would seem to be a 
tufaceous limestone of various sorts, embracing some marls, stalagmites, calcareous sinter, 
etc. He states : " Generally fire does not melt it, but makes it harder and breaks it into 
" powder. Tophus is said to be a stone found in caverns, made from the dripping of stone 
" juice solidified by cold .... sometimes it is found containing many shells, and 
" like.wise the impressions of alder leaves; our people make lime by burning it." Pliny, 
upon whom Agricola depends largely for his nomenclature, mentions such a substance 
(xxxvi, 48): "Among the multitude of stones there is tophus. It is unsuitable for 

234 BOOK VII. 

and a certain white schist^*. But lead, its ashes, red-lead, ochre, and 
litharge, are more efficacious for ores which melt easily ; hearth-lead for 
those which melt with difficulty ; and galena for those which melt with 
greater difficulty. To the second order belong iron filings, their slag, sal 
artificiosus , argol, dried lees of vinegari^, and the lees of the aqua which separates 
gold from silver^ ^ ; these lees and sal artificiosus have the power of penetrating 
into ore, the argol to a considerable degree, the lees of vinegar to a greater 
degree, but most of all those of the aqua which separates gold from silver ; 
filings and slags of iron, since they melt more slowly, have the power of heat- 
ing the ore. To the third order belong pyrites, the cakes which are melted 
from them, soda, its slags, salt, iron, iron scales, iron filings, iron slags, vitriol, 
the sand which is resolved from stones which easily melt in the fire, and 
tophus ; but first of all are pyrites and the cakes which are melted from it, for 
they absorb the metals of the ore and guard them from the fire which con- 
sumes them. To the fourth order belong lead and copper, and their relations. 
And so with regard to fluxes, it is manifest that some are natural, others 
fall in the category of slags, and the rest are purged from slag. When we 

" buildings, because it is perishable and soft. Still, however, there are some places which 
" have no other, as Carthage, in Africa. It is eaten away by the emanations from the 
" sea, crumbled to dust by the wind, and washed away by the rain." In fact, tophus was 
a wide genus among the older mineralogists, Wallerius (M editationes Physico — Ckemicae De 
Origine Mundi, Stockholm, 1776, p. 186), for instance, gives 22 varieties. For the purposes 
for which it is used we believe it was always limestone of some form. 

^^Saxum fissile album. {The Interpreiatio gives the German as schifer) Agricola 
mentions it in Bermannus (459), in De Nalura Fossilium (p. 319), but nothing definite 
can be derived from these references. It appears to us from its use to have been either a 
quartzite or a fissile limestone. 

I'Argol {Feces vini siccae, — "Dried lees of wine." Germ, trans, gives die wein heffen, 
although the usual German term of the period was weinstein). The lees of wine were the 
crude tartar or argols of commerce and modern assayers. The argols of white wine are white, 
while they are red from red wine. The white argol which Agricola so often specifies would 
have no special excellence, unless it may be that it is less easily adulterated. Agricola {De Nat. 
Fos., p. 344) uses the expression ' Fex vini sicca called tartarum" — one of the earliest 
appearances of the latter term in this connection. The use of argol is very old, for 
Dioscorides (ist Century a.d.) not only describes argol, but also its reduction to impure 
potash. He says (v, 90) : " The lees (tryx) are to be selected from old Italian wine ; if not, 
" from other similar wine. Lees of vinegar are much stronger. They are carefully dried and 
" then burnt. There are some who burn them in a new earthen pot on a large fire until they 
" are thoroughly incinerated. Others place a quantity of the lees on live coals and pursue 
" the same method. The test as to whether it is completely burned, is that it becomes white 
" or blue, and seems to burn the tongue when touched. The method of burning lees of 
" vinegar is the same. ... It should be used fresh, as it quickly grows stale ; it should 
" be placed in a vessel in a secluded place." Pliny (xxiii, 31) says : " Following these, come 
" the lees of these various liquids. The lees of wine (vini faecibus) are so powerful as to be 
" fatal to persons on descending into the vats. The test for this is to let down a lamp, which, 
" if extinguished, indicates the peril. . . . Their virtues are greatly increased by the 
" action of fire." Matthioli, commenting on this passage from Dioscorides in 1565, makes 
the following remark (p. 1375) : " The precipitate of the wine which settles in the casks of 
the winery forms stone-like crusts, and is called by the works- people by the name tartarum." 
It will be seen above that these lees were rendered stronger by the action of fire, in which case 
the tartar was reduced to potassium carbonate. The weinstein of the old German metal- 
lurgists was often the material lixiviated from the incinerated tartar. 

Dried lees of vinegar {siccae feces aceti ; Interpretaltio, die heffe des essigs). This would 
also be crude tartar. Pliny (xxiil, 32) says : " The lees of vinegar {faex aceti) ; owing to the 
" more acrid material are more aggravating in their effects. . . . When combined with 
" melanthium it heals the bites of dogs and crocodiles." 

i^Dried lees of aqua which separates gold and silver. {Siccae feces aquarum quae aurum 
ab argento secernunt. German translation, Der scheidwasser heffe). There is no pointed 
description in Agricola's works, or in any other that we can find, as to what this material 
was. The " separating aqua " was undoubtedly nitric acid (see p. 439, Book X). There 

BOOK VII. 235 

assay ores, we can without great expense add to them a small portion of any 
sort of flux, but when we smelt them we cannot add a large portion without 
great expense. We must, therefore, consider how great the cost is, to avoid 
incurring a greater expense on smelting an ore than the profit we make out of 
the metals which it yields. 

The colour of the fumes which the ore emits after being placed on a hot 
shovel or an iron plate, indicates what flux is needed in addition to the lead, 
for the purpose of either assaying or smelting. If the fumes have a purple 
tint, it is best of all, and the ore does not generally require any flux whatever. 
If the fumes are blue, there should be added cakes melted out of pyrites or 
other cupriferous rock ; if yellow, litharge and sulphur should be added ; if 
red, glass-galls^' and salt ; if green, then cakes melted from cupriferous stones, 
litharge, and glass-galls ; if the fumes are black, melted salt or iron slag, 
litharge and white lime rock. If they are white, sulphur and iron which is 
eaten with rust ; if they are white with green patches, iron slag and 
sand obtained from stones which easily melt ; if the middle part of the 
fumes are yellow and thick, but the outer parts green, the same sand and 
iron slag. The colour of the fumes not only gives us information as to the 
proper remedies which should be apphed to each ore, but also more or less 
indication as to the solidified juices which are mixed with it, and which give 
forth such fumes. Generally, blue fumes signify that the ore contains azure ; 
3'ellow, orpiment ; red, realgar ; green, chrysocoUa ; black, black bitumen ; 
white, tin^* ; white with green patches, the same mixed with chrysocoUa ; 
the middle part yellow and other parts green show that it contains sulphur. 
Earth, however, and other things dug up which contain metals, some- 
times emit similarly coloured fumes. 

If the ore contains any stibium, then iron slag is added to it ; if pyrites, 
then are added cakes melted from a cupriferous stone and sand made from 
stones which easily melt. If the ore contains iron, then pyrites and sulphur 
are added ; for just as iron slag is the flux for an ore mixed with sulphur, so 
on the contrary, to a gold or silver ore containing iron, from which they are 

are two precipitates possible, both referred to as feces, — the first, a precipitate of silver chloride 
from clarifying the aqua valens, and the second, the residues left in making the acid by 
distillation. It is difficult to believe that silver chloride was the feces referred to in the text, 
because such a precipitate would be obviously misleading when used as a flux through the 
addition of silver to the assays, too expensive, and oi no merit for this purpose. Therefore 
one is driven to the conclusion that the feces must have been the residues left in the retorts 
when nitric acid was prepared. It would have been more in keeping with his usual mode 
of expression, however, to have referred to this material as a residuus. The materials used 
for making acid varied greatly, so there is no telling what such a feces contained. A list 
of possibilities is given in note 8, p. 443. In the main, the residue would be undigested 
vitriol, alum, saltpetre, salt, etc., together with potassium, iron, and alum sulphates. The 
Probierbuchlin (p. 27) also gives this re-agent under the term Toden kopff das ist schlam 
oder feces auss dem scheydwasser. 

''■'' Recremenium vitri. {Interpreiatio Glassgallen). Formerly, when more impure 
materials were employed than nowadays, the surface of the mass in the first melting 
of glass materials was covered with salts, mostly potassium and sodium sulphates and 
chlorides which escaped perfect vitrification. This " slag " or " glassgallen " of Agricola 
was also termed sandiver. 

i^The whole of this expression is " candidus, candido." It is by no means certain 
that this is tin, for usually tin is given as plumbum candidum. 

236 BOOK VII. 

not easily separated, is added sulphur and sand made from stones which 
easily melt. 

Sal artificiosus''-^ suitable for use in assaying ore is made in many ways. 
By the first method, equal portions of argol, lees of vinegar, and urine, 
are all boiled down together till turned into salt. The second method is from 
equal portions of the ashes which wool-dyers use, of hme, of argol purified, 
and of melted salt ; one libra of each of these ingredients is thrown into 
twenty librae of urine ; then all are boiled down to one-third and strained, 
and afterward there is added to what remains one libra and four unciae 
of unmelted salt, eight pounds of lye being at the same time poured into 
the pots, with litharge smeared around on the inside, and the whole is boiled 
till the salt becomes thoroughly dry. The third method follows. Unmelted 
salt, and iron which is eaten with rust, are put into a vessel, and after 
urine has been poured in, it is covered with a lid and put in a warm place 
for thirty days ; then the iron is washed in the urine and taken out, and 
the residue is boiled until it is turned into salt. In the fourth method by 
which sal artificiosus is prepared, the lye made from equal portions of 
lime and the ashes which wool-dyers use, together with equal portions of 
salt, soap, white argol, and saltpetre, are boiled until in the end the mix- 
ture evaporates and becomes salt. This salt is mixed with the concentrates 
from washing, to melt them. 

Saltpetre is prepared in the following manner, in order that it may be 
suitable for use in assaying ore. It is placed in a pot which is smeared on 
the inside with litharge, and lye made of quicklime is repeatedly poured over 
it, and it is heated until the fire consumes it. Wherefore the saltpetre 
does not kindle with the fire, since it has absorbed the lime which preserves 
it, and thus it is prepared^". 

The following compositions^^ are recommended to smelt all ores which 
the heat of fire breaks up or melts only with difficulty. Of these, one is made 
from stones of the third order, which easily melt when thrown into hot 
furnaces. They are crushed into pure white powder, and with half an uncia 

^^Sal artificiosus. These are a sort of stock fluxes. Such mixtures are common in all 
old assay books, from the Probierbiichlin to later than John Cramer in 1737 (whose Latin 
lectures on Assaying were published in English under the title of " Elements of the Art of 
Assaying Metals," London, 1741). Cramer observes (p. 51) that : " Artificers compose a 
' great many flu.xes with the above-mentioned salts and with the reductive ones ; nay, 
' some use as many different fluxes as there are different ores and metals ; all which, however, 
' we think needless to describe. It is better to have explained a few of the simpler ones, 
' which serve for all the others, and are very easily prepared, than to tire the reader with 
' confused compositions : and this chiefly because unskilled artificers sometimes attempt 
' to obtain with many ingredients of the same nature heaped up beyond measure, and with 
' much labour, though not more properly and more securely, what might have been easily 
' effected, with one only and the same ingredient, thus increasing the number, not at all 
' the virtue of the things employed. Nevertheless, if anyone loves variety, he may, according 
' to the proportions and cautions above prescribed, at his will chuse among the simpler kinds 
' such as will best suit his purpose, and compose a variety of fluxes with them." 

2°This operation apparently results in a coating to prevent the deflagration of the 
saltpetre — in fact, it might be permitted to translate inflammaiur " deflagrate," instead of 

"The results which would follow from the use of these " fluxes " would obviously 
depend upon the ore treated. They can all conceivably be successful. Of these, the first 
is the lead-glass of the German assayers — a flux much emphasized by all old authorities. 

BOOK VII. 237 

of this powder there are mixed two unciae of yellow Htharge, likewise crushed. 
This mixture is put into a scorifier large enough to hold it, and placed under 
the muffle of a hot furnace ; when the charge flows like water, which occurs 
after half an hour, it is taken out of the furnace and poured on to a stone, 
and when it has hardened it has the appearance of glass, and this is likewise 
crushed. This powder is sprinkled over any metalliferous ore which does 
not easily melt when we are assaying it, and it causes the slag to exude. 
Others, in ])lace of litharge, substitute lead ash,^^ which is made in the 
following way : sulphur is thrown into lead which has been melted in a 
crucible, and it soon becomes covered with a sort of scum ; when this is 
removed, sulphur is again thrown in, and the skin which forms is again taken 
off ; this is frequently repeated, in fact until all the lead is turned into 
powder. There is a powerful flux compound which is made from one uncia 
each of prepared saltpetre, melted salt, glass-gaU, and argol, and one-third 
of an uncia of litharge and a bes of glass ground to powder ; this flux, being 
added to an equal weight of ore, liquefies it. A more powerful flux is made by 
placing together in a pot, smeared on the inside with litharge, equal portions 
of white argol, common salt, and prepared saltpetre, and these are heated 
until a white powder is obtained from them, and this is mixed with as much 
litharge ; one part of this compound is mixed with two parts of the ore which 
is to be assayed. A still more powerful flux than this is made out of ashes 
of black lead, saltpetre, orpiment, stibium, and dried lees of the aqua with 
which gold workers separate gold from silver. The ashes of lead^^ are made from 
one pound of lead and one pound of sulphur ; the lead is flattened out into 
sheets by pounding with a hammer, and placed alternately with sulphur in a 
crucible or pot, and they are heated together until the fire consumes the 
sulphur and the lead turns to ashes. One libra of crushed saltpetre is mixed 
with one libra of orpiment similarly ground to powder, and the two are cooked 
in an iron pan until they liquefy ; they are then poured out, and after cool- 
ing are again ground to powder. A libra of stibium and a bes of the 
dried lees {of what ?) are placed alternately in a crucible and heated to the 
point at which they form a button, which is similarly reduced to powder. 
A bes of this powder and one libra of the ashes of lead, as well as a libra of 
powder made out of the saltpetre and orpiment, are mixed together and a 

including Loelmeys, Ercker and Cramner, and used even yet. The " powerful flux " would be a 
reducing, desulphurizing, and an acid flux. The " more powerful " would be a basic flux 
in which the reducing action of the argols would be largely neutralized by the nitre. The 
" still more powerful " would be a strongly sulphurizing basic flux, while the " most powerful " 
would be a still more sulphurizing flux, but it is badly mixed as to its oxidation and basic 
properties. (See also note 19 on sal artificiosus). 

2^Lead ash {Cinis Plumbi. Glossary, Pleyasch). — This was obviously, from 
the method of making, an artificial lead sulphide. 

^^Ashes of lead (Nigri plumbi cinis). This, as well as lead ash, was also 
an artificial lead sulphide. Such substances were highly valued by the Ancients for medicinal 
purposes. Dioscorides (v, 56) says : " Burned lead (Molybdos cecaumenos) is made in this 
" way : Sprinkle sulphur over some very thinnest lead plates and put them into a new 
" earthen pot, add other layers, putting sulphur between each layer untfl the pot is full ; set 
" it alight and stir the melted lead with an iron rod until it is entirely reduced to ashes and 
" until none of the lead remains unburned. Then take it off, first stopping up your nose, 
" because the fumes of burnt lead are very injurious. Or burn the lead filings in a pot with 
" sulphur as aforesaid." Pliny {xxxiv., 50) gives much the same directions. 

238 BOOK VII. 

powder is made from them, one part of which added to two parts of ore 
liquefies it and cleanses it of dross. But the most powerful flux is one which 
has two drachmae of sulphur and as much glass-galls, and half an uncia of each of 
the following, — stibium, salt obtained from boiled urine, melted common salt, 
prepared saltpetre, litharge, vitriol, argol, salt obtained from ashes of musk ivy, 
dried lees of the aqua by which gold-workers separate gold from silver, 
alum reduced by fire to powder, and one unda of camphor^* combined with 
sulphur and ground into powder. A half or whole portion of this mixture, 
as the necessity of the case requires, is mixed with one portion of the ore 
and two portions of lead, and put in a scorifier ; it is sprinkled with powder 
of crushed Venetian glass, and when the mixture has been heated for an hour 
and a half or two hours, a button will settle in the bottom of the scorifier, and 
from it the lead is soon separated. 

There is also a flux which separates sulphur, orpiment and realgar from 
metalliferous ore. This flux is composed of equal portions of iron slag, 
white tophus, and salt. After these juices have been secreted, the ores 
themselves are melted, with argol added to them. There is one flux which 
preserves stibium from the fire, that the fire may not consume it, and 
which preserves the metals from the stibium ; and this is composed of equal 
portions of sulphur, prepared saltpetre, melted salt, and vitriol, heated 
together in lye until no odour emanates from the sulphur, which occurs after 
a space of three or four hours.^^ 

It is also worth while to substitute certain other mixtures. Take two 
portions of ore properly prepared, one portion of iron filings, and likewise 
one portion of salt, and mix ; then put them into a scorifier and place them 
in a muffle furnace ; when they are reduced by the fire and run together, a 
button will settle in the bottom of the scorifier. Or else take equal portions 
of ore and of lead ochre, and mix with them a small quantity of iron filings, 
and put them into a scorifier, then scatter iron filings over the mixture. Or 
else take ore which has been ground to powder and sprinkle it in a crucible, 
and then sprinkle over it an equal quantity of salt that has been three or 
four times moistened with urine and dried ; then, again and again alternately, 
powdered ore and salt ; next, after the crucible has been covered with a 
lid and sealed, it is placed upon burning charcoal. Or else take one portion of 
ore, one portion of minute lead granules, half a portion of Venetian glass, 
and the same quantity of glass-galls. Or else take one portion of ore, one 
portion of lead granules, half a portion of salt, one-fourth of a portion of argol, 
and the same quantity of lees of the aqua which separates gold from silver. 
Or else take equal portions of prepar^^d ore and a powder in which there 

^'Camphor (camphora). This was no doubt the well-known gum. Agricola, how- 
ever, believed that camphor (De Nat. Fossilium, p. 224) was a species of bitumen, and he 
devotes considerable trouble to the refutation of the statements by the Arabic authors that 
it was a gum. In any event, it would be a useful reducing agent. 

^^Inasmuch as orpiment and realgar are both arsenical sulphides, the use of iron " slag," 
if it contains enough iron, would certainly matte the sulphur and arsenic. Sulphur and 
arsenic are the " juices " referred to (see note 4, p. i). It is difficult to see the object 
of preserving the antimony with such a sulphurizing " addition," unless it was desired to 
secure a regulus of antimony alone from a given antimonial ore. 



are equal portions of very minuto lead granules, melted salt, stibium and 
iron slag Or else take equal portions of gold ore, vitriol, argol, and of salt. 
So much for the fluxes. 

In the assay furnace, when it has been prepared in the way in which I 
have described, is first placed a muffle. Then selected pieces of live charcoals 
are laid on it, for, from pieces of inferior quality, a great quantity of ash collects 
around the muffle and hinders the action of the fire. Then the scorifiers are 
placed under the muffle with tongs, and glowing coals are placed under the 
fore part of the muffle to warm the scorifiers more quickly ; and when the lead 
or ore is to be placed in the scorifiers, they are taken out again with the 
tongs. When the scorifiers glow in the heat, first of all the ash or small 
charcoals, if any have fallen into them, should be blown away with an iron 
pipe two feet long and a digit in diameter ; this same thing must be done 
if ash or small coal has fallen into the cupels. Next, put in a small ball of lead 
with the tongs, and when this lead has begun to be turned into fumes and 
consumed, add to it the prepared ore wrapped in paper. It is preferable that 
the assayer should wrap it in paper, and in this way put it in the scorifier, 
than that he should drop it in with a copper ladle ; for when the 
scorifiers are small, if he uses a ladle he frequently spills some part of the 
ore. When the paper is burnt, he stirs the ore with a small charcoal held in 
the tongs, so that the lead may absorb the metal which is mixed in the ore ; 
when this mixture has taken place, the slag partly adheres by its cir- 
cumference to the scorifier and makes a kind of black ring, and partly 
floats on the lead in which is mixed the gold or silver ; then the slag must 
be removed from it. 

The lead used must be entirely free from every trace of silver, as is that 
which is known as VUlacense.^^ But if this kind is not obtainable, the lead 
must be assayed separately, to determine with certainty that proportion of 
silver it contains, so that it may be deducted from the calculation of the 
ore, and the result be exact ; for unless such lead be used, the assay will be 
false and misleading. The lead balls are made with a pair of iron tongs, 
about one foot long ; its iron claws are so formed that when pressed 
together they are egg-shaped ; each claw contains a hollow cup, and when 
the claws are closed there extends upward from the cup a passage, so there 
are two openings, one of which leads to each hollow cup. And so when the 
molten lead is poured in through the openings, it flows down into the hollow 
cup, and two balls are formed by one pouring. 

In this place I ought not to omit mention of another method of assa5^ng 
employed by some assayers. They first of all place prepared ore in the 
scorifiers and heat it, and afterward they add the lead. Of this method I 
cannot approve, for in this way the ore frequently becomes cemented, and 
for this reason it does not stir easily afterward, and is very slow in mixing 
with the lead. 

^'The lead free from silver, called villacense, was probably from Bleyberg, not far from 
Villach in Upper Austria, this locality having been for centuries celebrated for its pure lead. 
These mines were worked prior to, and long after, Agricola's time. 



If the whole space of the furnace covered by the muffle is not filled with 
scorifiers, cupels are put in the empty space, in order that they may become 
warmed in the meantime. Sometimes, however, it is filled with scorifiers, 
when we are assaying many different ores, or many portions of one ore at the 
same time. Although the cupels are usually dried in one hour, yet smaller 
ones are done more quickly, and the larger ones more slowly. Unless the 
cupels are heated before the metal mixed with lead is placed in them, they 

A —Claws of the tongs. 


frequently break, and the lead always sputters and sometimes leaps out of them ; 
if the cupel is broken or the lead leaps out of it, it is necessary to assay 
another portion of ore ; but if the lead only sputters, then the cupels should 
be covered with broad thin pieces of glowing charcoal, and when the lead 
strikes these, it falls back again, and thus the mixture is slowly exhaled. 
Further, if in the cupellation the lead which is in the mixture is not con- 
sumed, but remains fixed and set, and is covered by a kind of skin, this is a 
sign that it has not been heated by a sufficiently hot fire ; put into the 
mixture, therefore, a dry pine stick, or a twig of a similar tree, and hold it 
in the hand in order that it can be drawn away when it has been heated. 
Then take care that the heat is sufficient and equal ; if the heat has not 
passed all round the charge, as it should when everything is done rightly, 
but causes it to have a lengthened shape, so that it appears to have a tail, 
this is a sign that the heat is deficient where the tail lies. Then in order 
that the cupel maj' be equally heated by the fire, turn it around with a small 
iron hook, whose handle is likewise made of iron and is a foot and a half long. 

Small iron hook. 

Next, if the mixture has not enough lead, add as much of it as is required 
with the iron tongs, or with the brass ladle to which is fastened a very long 
handle. In order that the charge may not be cooled, warm the lead beforehand. 



But it is better at first to add as much lead as is required to the ore which 
needs melting, rather than afterward when the melting has been half finished, 
that the whole quantity may not vanish in fumes, but part of it remain 
fast. When the heat of the fire has nearly consumed the lead, then is the 
time when the gold and silver gleam in their varied colours, and when all the 
lead has been consumed the gold or silver settles in the cupel. Then as 
soon as possible remove the cupel out of the furnace, and take the button out 
of it while it is still warm, in order that it does not adhere to the ashes. This 
generally happens if the button is already cold when it is taken out. If the 
ashes do adhere to it, do not scrape it with a knife, lest some of it be lost and 
the assay be erroneous, but squeeze it with the iron tongs, so that the ashes 
drop off through the pressure. Finally, it is of advantage to make two or 
three assays of the same ore at the same time, in order that if by chance 
one is not successful, the second, or in any event the third, may be certain. 
While the assayer is assaying the ore, in order to prevent the great heat 
of the fire from injuring his eyes, it will be useful for him always to have 
ready a thin wooden tablet, two palms wide, with a handle by which it may 
be held, and with a sht down the middle in order that he may look through 
it as through a crack, since it is necessary for him to look frequently within 
and carefully to consider everything. 

A — Handle of tablet. B — Its crack. 

Now the lead which has absorbed the silver from a metaUic ore is con- 
sumed in the cupel by the heat in the space of three quarters of an hour. When 
the assays are completed the muffle is taken out of the furnace, and the 
ashes removed with an iron shovel, not only from the brick and iron furnaces, 
but also from the earthen one, so that the furnace need not be removed from 
its foundation. 

From ore placed in the triangular crucible a button is melted out, from 
which metal is afterward made. First of aU, glowing charcoal is put into 
the iron hoop, then is put in the triangular crucible, which contains the ore 
together with those things which can liquefy it and purge it of its dross ; 
then the fire is blown with the double bellows, and the ore is heated until 
the button settles in the bottom of the crucible. We have explained that 
there are two methods of assaying ore, — one, -by which the lead is mixed 

242 BOOK VII. 

wdth ore in the scoriiier and afterward again separated from it in the cupel ; 
the other, by which it is first melted in the triangular earthen crucible and 
afterward mixed with lead in the scorifier, and later separated from it in the 
cupel. Now let us consider which is more suitable for each ore, or, if neither 
is suitable, by what other method in one way or another we can assay it. 

We justly begin with a gold ore, which we assay by both methods, for 
if it is rich and seems not to be strongly resistant to fire, but to liquefy easily, 
one centumpondium of it (known to us as the lesser weights),^' together with 
one and a half, or two unciae of lead of the larger weights, are mixed together 
and placed in the scorifier, and the two are heated in the fire until they are 
well mixed. But since such an ore sometimes resists melting, add a Httle 
salt to it, either sal torref actus or sal artificiosus, for this will subdue it, and 
prevent the alloy from collecting much dross ; stir it frequently with an iron 
rod, in order that the lead may flow around the gold on every side, and absorb 
it and cast out the waste. When this has been done, take out the aUoy and 
cleanse it of slag ; then place it in the cupel and heat it until it exhales all 
the lead, and a bead of gold settles in the bottom. 

If the gold ore is seen not to be easily melted in the fire, roast it and 
extinguish it with brine. Do this again and again, for the more often you 
roast it and extinguish it, the more easily the ore can be crushed fine, and the 
more quickly does it melt in the fire and give up whatever dross it possesses. 

2'This method of proportionate weights for assay charges is simpler than the 
modern English " assay ton," both because of the use of loo units in the standard of 
weight (the centumpondium), and because of the lack of complication between the 
Avoirdupois and Troy scales. For instance, an ore containing a libra of silver to the 
cenhmipondiutn would contain i/iooth part, and the same ratio would obtain, no matter 
what the actual weight of a ceniumpojidium of the " lesser weight " might be. To follow 
the matter still further, an uncia being i /i,200 of a centumpondium, if the ore ran one 
" uncia of the lesser weight " to the " centumpondium of the lesser weight," it would also run 
one actual uncia to the actual centumpondium ; it being a matter of indifference what 
might be the actual weight of the centumpondium upon which the scale of lesser weights 
is based. In fact Agricola's statement (p. 261) indicates that it weighed an actual drachma. 
We have, in some places, interpolated the expressions " lesser " and " greater " weights 
for clarity. 

This is not the first mention of this scheme of lesser weights, as it appears in the 
Probierbiichlein (1500 ? see Appendix B) and Biringuccio {1540). For a more complete dis- 
cussion of weights and measures see Appendix C. For convenience, we repeat here the Roman 
scale, although, as will be seen in the Appendix, Agricola used the Latin terms in many 
places merely as nomenclature equivalents of the old German scale. 

Troy Ozs. dwts. gr. 

Grains. per short ton. 

I Siliqua . . . . . . 2.87 Per Centumpondium . . 03 9 

6 Siliquae = I Scripulum . . 17.2 ,, ,, ..106 

4 Scripula = i Sextula . . 68.7 ,, ,, ..410 

6 Sexiulae = i Uncia . . 412.2 ,, „ . . 24 6 2 

12 Unciae = i Libra . . 4946.4 „ „ . . 291 13 8 

100 Librae = i Centumpondium 494640.0 

However Agricola may occasionally use 
16 Unciae = 1 Libra .. 6592.0 (?) 

100 Librae = i Centumpondium 659200.0 (?) 

Also Oz. dwts. gr. 

per short ton. 

1 Scripulum . . . . . . 17.2 Per Centumpondium . . 1 06 

3 Scripula = i Drachma . . 51.5 ,, ,, . . 3 19 

2 Drachmae = i Sicilicus .. 103.0 ,, ,, . . 6 i 15 

4 Sicilici = I Uncia . . 412.2 „ ,, . . 24 6 12 
8 Unciae = i Bes . . .. 3297.6 „ „ .. 194 12 

BOOK VII. 243 

Mix one part of this ore, when it has been roasted, crushed, and washed, with 
ihree parts ol some powder conipoiuid wliich melts ore, and six parts of lead. 
Put the charye into the triangular crucible, place it in the iron hoop to which 
the double bellows reaches, and heat hrst in a slow lire, and afterward 
gradually in a herccr hre, till it melts and Hows hke water. If the ore does 
not melt, add to it a httle more of these Huxes, mixed with an equal portion 
ui yellow litharge, and stir it with a hot iron rod until it all melts. Then 
tai<.e tiic crucible out of the hoop, shake off the button when it has cooled, 
and when it has been cleansed, melt hrst in the scorilier and afterward in 
the cupel, l^'mally, rub the gold which has settled in the bottom of the cupel, 
after it has been taken out and cooled, on the touchstone, in order to find out 
what proportion of silver it contains. Another method is to put a centum- 
pondium (of the lesser weights) of gofd ore into the triangular crucible, and 
add to it a drachma (of the larger weights) of glass-galls. If it resists melting, 
add half a drachma of roasted argol, and if even then it resists, add the 
same quantity of roasted lees of vinegar, or lees of the aqua which separates 
gold from silver, and the button wiU settle in the bottom of the crucible. 
Melt tliis button again in the scori&er and a third time in the cupel. 

We determine in the following way, before it is melted in the muffle 
furnace, whether pyrites contains gold in it or not : if, after being three times 
roasted and three times quenched in sharp vinegar, it has not broken nor 
changed its colour, there is gold in it. The vinegar by which it is quenched 
should be mixed with salt that is put in it, and frequently stirred and dissolved 
for three days. Nor is pyrites devoid of gold, when, after being roasted and 
then rubbed on the touchstone, it colours the touchstone in the same way that 
it coloured it when rubbed ui its crude state. Nor is gold lacking in that, 
whose concentrates from washing, when heated in the fire, easily melt, giving 
forth little smeh and remaining bright ; such concentrates are heated in the 
fire in a hollowed piece of charcoal covered over with another charcoal. 

We also assay gold ore without fire, but more often its sand or the con- 
centrates which have been made by washing, or the dust gathered up by 
some other means. A httle of it is shghtly moistened with water and heated 
until it begins to exhale an odour, and then to one portion of ore are placed 
two portions of quicksilver^* in a wooden dish as deep as a basin. They are 
mixed together vnth a httle brine, and are then ground with a wooden pestle 
for the space of two hours, imtil the mixture becomes of the thickness of dough, 
and the quicksilver can no longer be distinguished from the concentrates 
made by the washing, nor the concentrates from the quicksilver. Warm, or 
at least tepid, water is poured into the dish and the material is washed until 
the water runs out clear. Afterward cold water is poured into the same dish, 
and soon the quicksilver, which has absorbed aU the gold, runs together 
into a separate place away from the rest of the concentrates made by 
washing. The quicksilver is afterward separated from the gold by means 
of a pot covered with soft leather, or with canvas made of woven 
threads of cotton ; the amalgam is poured into the middle of the cloth or 

'"The amalgamation of gold ores is fully discussed in note 12, p. 297. 

244 BOOK VII. 

leather, which sags about one hand's breadth ; next, the leather is folded 
over and tied with a waxed string, and the dish catches the quicksilver 
which is squeezed through it. As for the gold which remains in the leather, 
it is placed in a scorifier and purified by being placed near glowing coals. Others 
do not wash away the dirt with warm water, but with strong lye and vinegar, 
for they pour these liquids into the pot, and also throw into it the quicksilver 
mixed with the concentrates made by washing. Then they set the pot in a 
warm place, and after twenty-four hours pour out the liquids with the dirt, and 
separate the quicksilver from the gold in the manner which I have described. 
Then they pour urine into a jar set in the ground, and in the jar place a 
pot with holes in the bottom, and in the pot they place the gold ; then the 
lid is put on and cemented, and it is joined with the jar ; they afterward heat 
it tiU the pot glows red. After it has cooled, if there is copper in the gold 
they melt it with lead in a cupel, that the copper may be separated from it ; 
but if there is silver in the gold they separate them by means of the aqua 
which has the power of parting these two metals. There are some who, 
when they separate gold from quicksilver, do not pour the amalgam into 
a leather, but put it into a gourd-shaped earthen vessel, which they place 
in the furnace and heat gradually over burning charcoal ; next, with an iron 
plate, they cover the opening of the operculum, which exudes vapour, and as 
soon as it has ceased to exude, they smear it with lute and heat it for a short 
time ; then they remove the operculum from the pot, and wipe off the 
quicksilver which adheres to it with a hare's foot, and preserve it for future 
use. By the latter method, a greater quantity of quicksilver is lost, and by 
the former method, a smaller quantity. 

If an ore is rich in silver, as is rudis silver^', frequently silver glance, 
or rarely ruby silver, gray silver, black silver, brown silver, or yellow silver, 
as soon as it is cleansed and heated, a centumpondium (of the lesser weights) of 
it is placed in an uncia of molten lead in a cupel, and is heated until the lead 
exhales. But if the ore is of poor or moderate quality, it must first be dried, 
then crushed, and then to a centumpondium (of the lesser weights) an uncia 
of lead is added, and it is heated in the scorifier until it melts. If it is not 
soon melted by the fire, it should be sprinkled with a little powder of the 
first order of fluxes, and if then it does not melt, more is added little by little 
untU it melts and exudes its slag ; that this result may be reached sooner, 
the powder which has been sprinkled over it should be stirred in with an iron 
rod. When the scorifier has been taken out of the assay furnace, the alloy 
should be poured into a hole in a baked brick ; and when it has cooled and been 
cleansed of the slag, it should be placed in a cupel and heated until it exhales 
all its lead ; the weight of silver which remains in the cupel indicates what 
proportion of silver is contained in the ore. 

We assay copper ore without lead, for if it is melted with it, the copper 
usually exhsdes and is lost. Therefore, a certain weight of such an ore 

^'For discussion of the silver ores, see note 8, p. io8. Rudis silver was a fairly 
pure silver mineral, the various coloured silvers v/sxe partly horn-silver and partly alteration 

BOOK VII. 245 

is first roasted in a hot fire for about six or eight hours ; next, when it has 
cooled, it is crushed and washed ; then the concentrates made by washing 
are again roasted, crushed, washed, dried, and weighed. The portion which 
it has lost whilst it is being roasted and washed is taken into account, and 
these concentrates by washing represent the cake which will be melted out 
of the copper ore. Place three centumpondia (lesser weights) of this, mixed 
with three centumpondia (lesser weights) each of copper scales^", saltpetre, 
and Venetian glass, mixed, into the triangular crucible, and place it in the iron 
hoop which is set on the hearth in front of the double bellows. Cover the crucible 
with charcoal in such a way that nothing may fall into the ore which is to be 
melted, and so that it may melt more quickly. At first blow a gentle blast with 
the bellows in order that the ore may be heated gradually in the fire ; then 
blow strongly till it melts, and the fire consumes that which has been added to 
it, and the ore itself exudes whatever slag it possesses. Next, cool 
the crucible which has been taken out, and when this is broken you will find 
the copper ; weigh this, in order to ascertain how great a portion of the ore 
the fire has consumed. Some ore is only once roasted, crushed, and washed ; 
and of this kind of concentrates, three centumpondia (lesser weights) are 
taken with one centumpondium each of common salt, argol and glass- 
galls. Heat them in the triangular crucible, and when the mixture has 
cooled a button of pure copper will be found, if the ore is rich in this metal. 
If, however, it is less rich, a stony lump results, with which the copper is 
intermixed ; this lump is again roasted, crushed, and, after adding stones 
which easily melt and saltpetre, it is again melted in another crucible, and 
there settles in the bottom of the crucible a button of pure copper. If you 
wish to know what proportion of silver is in this copper button, melt it in a 
cupel after adding lead. With regard to this test I will speak later. 

Those who wish to know quickly what portion of silver the copper ore 
contains, roast the ore, crush and wash it, then mix a little yellow litharge 
with one centumpondium (lesser weights) of the concentrates, and put the 
mixture into a scorifier, which they place under the muffle in a hot furnace for 
the space of half an hour. When the slag exudes, by reason of the melting force 
which is in the litharge, they take the scorifier out ; when it has cooled, they 
cleanse it of slag and again crush it, and with one centumpondium of it they 
mix one and a half unciae of lead granules. They then put it into another 
scorifier, which they place under the muffle in a hot furnace, adding to the 
mixture a little of the powder of some one of the fluxes which cause ore to 
melt ; when it has melted they take it out, and after it has cooled, cleanse 
it of slag ; lastly, they heat it in the cupel till it has exhaled all of the lead, 
and only silver remains. 

Lead ore may be assayed by this method : crush half an uncia of 
pure lead-stone and the same quantity of the chrysocolla which they call 
borax, mix them together, place them in a crucible, and put a glowing coal 

'"It is difficult to see why copper scales (squamae aeris — copper oxide ?) are added, 
unless it be to collect a small ratio of copper in the ore. This additional copper is not 
mentioned again, however. The whole of this statement is very confused. 

246 BOOK VII. 

in the middle of it. As soon as the borax crackles and the lead-stone melts, 
which soon occurs, remove the coal from the crucible, and the lead will settle 
to the bottom of it ; weigh it out, and take account of that portion of it 
which the fire has consumed. If you also wish to know what portion of silver 
is contained in the lead, melt the lead in the cupel until all of it exhales. 

Another way is to roast the lead ore, of whatsoever quality it be, wash 
it, and put into the crucible one centumpondium of the concentrates, together 
with three centumpondia of the powdered compound which melts ore, mixed 
together, and place it in the iron hoop that it may melt ; when it has cooled, 
cleanse it of its slag, and complete the test as I have already said. Another way is 
to take two unciae of prepared ore, five drachmae of roasted copper, one uncia of 
glass, or glass-galls reduced to powder, a semi-uncia of salt, and mix them. Put 
the mixture into the triangular crucible, and heat it over a gentle fire to 
prevent it from breaking ; when the mixture has melted, blow the fire 
vigorously with the bellows ; then take the crucible off the Uve coals and 
let it cool in the open air ; do not pour water on it, lest the lead button being 
acted upon by the excessive cold should become mixed with the slag, and the 
assay in this way be erroneous. When the crucible has cooled, you wUl find 
in the bottom of it the lead button. Another way is to take two unciae of 
ore, a semi-uncia of htharge, two drachmae of Venetian glass and a semi-uncia 
of saltpetre. If there is difficulty in melting the ore, add to it iron fiUngs, 
which, since they increase the heat, easily separate the waste from lead and 
other metals. By the last way, lead ore properly prepared is placed in the 
crucible, and there is added to it only the sand made from stones which easily 
melt, or iron fihngs, and then the assay is completed as formerly. 

You can assay tin ore by the following method. First roast it, then 
crush, and afterward wash it ; the concentrates are again roasted, crushed, 
and washed. Mix one and a half centumpondia of this with one centum- 
pondium of the chrysocoUa which they call borax ; from the mixture, 
when it has been moistened with water, make a lump. Afterwards, 
perforate a large round piece of charcoal, making this opening a palm deep, 
three digits wide on the upper side and narrower on the lower side ; when 
the charcoal is put in its place the latter should be on the bottom and the 
former uppermost. Let it be placed in a crucible, and let glowing coal be 
put round it on aU sides ; when the perforated piece of coal begins to bum, 
the lump is placed in the upper part of the opening, and it is covered with a 
wide piece of glowing coal, and after many pieces of coal have been put round 
it, a hot fire is blown up with the bellows, untU all the tin has run out 
of the lower opening of the charcoal into the crucible. Another way is to 
take a large piece of charcoal, hollow it out, and smear it with lute, that the 
ore may not leap out when white hot. Next, make a small hole through the 
middle of it, then fill up the large opening with smaU charcoal, and put the 
ore upon this ; put fire in the small hole and blow the lire with the nozzle of 
a hand bellows ; place the piece of charcoal in a small crucible, smeared 
with lute, in which, when the melting is finished, you will find a button 
of tin. 



In assaying bismuth ore, place pieces of ore in the scorifier, and put 
it under the mufllc in a hot furnace ; as soon as they are heated, they 
drip with bismuth, which runs together into a button. 

Quicksilver ore is usually tested by mixing one part of broken ore 
with three-parts of charcoal dust and a handful of salt. Put the mixture into 
a crucible or a pot or a jar, cover it with a lid, seal it with lute, place it on 
glowing charcoal, and as soon as a burnt cinnabar colour shows in it, take 
out the vessel ; for if you continue the heat too long the mixture exhales the 
quicksilver with the fumes. The quicksilver itself, when it has become cool, is 
found in the bottom of the crucible or other vessel. Another way is to place 
broken ore in a gourd-shaped earthen vessel, put it in the assay furnace, 
and cover with an operculum which has a long spout ; under the spout, put 
an ampulla to receive the quicksilver which distills. Cold water should be 
poured into the ampulla, so that the quicksilver which has been heated by the 
fire may be continuously cooled and gathered together, for the quicksilver 
is borne over by the force of the fire, and flows down through the spout of 
the operculum into the ampulla. We also assay quicksilver ore in the very 
same way in which we smelt it. This I will explain in its proper place. 

I-astly, we assay iron ore in the forge of a blacksmith. Such ore is burned, 
crushed, washed, and dried ; a magnet is laid over the concentrates, and 
the particles of iron are attracted to it ; these are wiped off with a brush, 
and are caught in a crucible, the magnet being continually passed over the 
concentrates and the particles wiped off, so long as there remain any particles 
which the magnet can attract to it. These particles are heated in the crucible 
with saltpetre until they melt, and an iron button is melted out of them. 
If the magnet easily and quickly attracts the particles to it, we infer that the 
ore is rich in iron ; if slowly, that it is poor ; if it appears actually to repel 
the ore, then it contains Uttle or no iron. This is enough for the assajdng of 

I win now speak of the assaying of the metal alloys. This is done both 
by coiners and merchants who buy and sell metal, and by miners, but most 
of all by the ovniers and mine masters, and by the owners and masters of 
the works in which the metals are smelted, or in which one metal is parted 
from another. 

First I win describe the way assays are usually made to ascertain what 
portion of precious metal is contained in base metal. Gold and silver are 
now reckoned as precious metals and all the others as base metals. Once 
upon a time the base metals were burned up, in order that the precious metals 
should be left pure ; the Ancients even discovered by such burning what 
portion of gold was contained in silver, and in this way all the silver was 
consumed, which was no small loss. However, the famous mathematician, 
Archimedes*^, to gratify King Hiero, invented a method of testing the silver, 

'^This old story runs that Hiero, King of Syracuse, asked Archimedes to tell him 
whether a crown made for him was pure gold or whether it contained some proportion of 
silver. Archimedes is said to have puzzled over it until he noticed the increase in water- 
level upon entering his bath. Whereupon he determined the matter by immersing bars of 
pure gold and pure silver, and thus determining the relative specific weights. The best 

248 BOOK VII. 

which was not very rapid, and was more accurate for testing a large mass 
than a smaU one. This I wiU explain in my commentaries. The 
alchemists have shown us a way of separating silver from gold by which 
neither of them is lost'^. 

Gold which contains silver,^' or silver which contains gold, is first rubbed 
on the touchstone. Then a needle in which there is a similar amount of 
gold or silver is rubbed on the same touchstone, and from the lines which are 
produced in this way, is perceived what portion of silver there is in the gold, 
or what portion of gold there is in the silver. Next there is added to the 
silver which is in the gold, enough silver to make it three times as much as the 
gold. Then lead is placed in a cupel and melted ; a little later, a small 
amount of copper is put in it, in fact, half an uncia of it, or half an uncia and 
a sicilicus (of the smaller weights) if the gold or silver does not contain any 
copper. The cupel, when the lead and copper are wanting, attracts the particles 
of gold and silver, and absorbs them. Finally, one-third of a libra of the gold, 
and one libra^* of the silver must be placed together in the same cupel and 
melted ; for if the gold and silver were first placed in the cupel and melted, as I 
have already said, it absorbs particles of them, and the gold, when separated 
from the silver, will not be found pure. These metals 'are heated until the 
lead and the copper are consumed, and again, the same weight of each is melted 
in the same manner in another cupel. The buttons are pounded with a 
hammer and flattened out, and each little leaf is shaped in the form of a 
tube, and each is put into a small glass ampulla. Over these there is poured 
one uncia and one drachma (of the large weight) of the third quality aqua 
valens, which I will describe in the Tenth Book. This is heated over a slow 
fire, and small bubbles, resembling pearls in shape, will be seen to adhere 
to the tubes. The redder the aqua appears, the better it is judged to be ; 
when the redness has vanished, small white bubbles are seen to be resting 
on the tubes, resembling pearls not only in shape, but also in colour. After 
a short time the aqua is poured off and other is poured on ; when this has 
again raised six or eight small white bubbles, it is poured off and the tubes are 
taken out and washed four or five times with spring water ; or if they are 
heated with the same water, when it is boiling, they wiU shine more brilliantly. 
Then they are placed in a saucer, which is held in the hand and gradually 
dried by the gentle heat of the fire ; afterward the saucer is placed over glowing 
charcoal and covered with a charcoal, and a moderate blast is blown upon it 

ancient account of this affair is to be found in Vitruvius, ix, Preface. The story does not seem 
very probable, seeing that Theophrastus, who died the year Archimedes was born, described 
the touchstone in detail, and that it was of common knowledge among the Greeks before 
(see note 37). In any event, there is not sufficient evidence in this story on which to build 
the conclusion of Meyer (Hist, of Chemistry, p. 14) and others, that, inasmuch as Archimedes 
was unable to solve the problem until his discovery of specific weights, therefore the 
Ancients could not part gold and silver. The probability that he did not want to injure the 
King's jewellery would show sufficient reason for his not parting these metals. It seems probable 
that the Ancients did part gold and silver by cementation. (See note on p. 438). 

^''The Alchemists (with whose works Agricola was familiar — vide preface) were the 
inventors of nitric acid separation. (See note on p. 460). 

^^Parting gold and silver by nitric acid is more exhaustively discussed in Book X. 
and notes 10, p. 443. 

'*The lesser weights, probably. 

BOOK Vll. 249 

with the mouth and then a blue flame will be emitted. In the end the tubes 
are weighed, and if their weights prove equal, he; who has undertaken this work 
has not laboured in vain. Lastly, both an' placed in another balance-pan and 
weighed ; of each tube four grains must not be counted, on account (A the 
silver which remains in the gold and cannot be separated from it. From the 
weight of the tubes we learn the weight both of the gold and of the silver 
which is in the button. If some assayer has omitted to add so much silver to 
the gold as to make it three times the quantity, but only double, or two and a 
half times as much, he will require the stronger quality of aqua which 
separates gold from silver, such as the fourth quality. Whether the aqua 
which he employs for gold and silver is suitable for the purpose, or whether 
it is more or less strong than is right, is recognised by its effect. That of 
medium strength raises the Httle bubbles on the tubes and is found to colour 
the ampulla and the operculum a strong red ; the weaker one is found to 
colour them a light red, and the stronger one to break the tubes. To pure 
silver in which there is some portion of gold, nothing should be added when 
they are being heated in the cupel prior to their being parted, except a bes 
of lead and one-fourth or one-third its amount of copper of the lesser weights. 
If the silver contains in itself a certain amount of copper, let it be weighed, 
both after it has been melted with the lead, and after the gold has been parted 
from it ; by the former we learn how much copper is in it, by the latter how 
much gold. Base metals are burnt up even to-day for the purpose of assay, 
because to lose so little of the metal is small loss, but from a large mass of 
base metal, the precious metal is always extracted, as I will explain in 
Books X. and XI. 

We assay an alloy of copper and silver in the following way. From a 
few cakes of copper the assayer cuts out portions, small samples from small 
cakes, medium samples from medium cakes, and large samples from large 
cakes ; the small ones are equal in size to half a hazel nut, the large 
ones do not exceed the size of half a chestnut, and those of medium size come 
between the two. He cuts out the samples from the middle of the 
bottom of each cake. He places the samples in a new, clean, triangular 
crucible and fixes to them pieces of paper upon which are written the weight 
of the cakes of copper, of whatever size they may be ; for example, he writes, 
" These samples have been cut from copper which weighs twenty centum- 
fondia." When he wishes to know how much silver one centumpondium of 
copper of this kind has in it, first of all he throws glowing coals into the 
iron hoop, then adds charcoal to it. When the fire has become hot, the paper 
is taken out of the crucible and put aside, he then sets that crucible on the 
fire and gradually heats it for a quarter of an hour until it becomes red hot. 
Then he stimulates the fire by blowing with a blast from the double bellows 
for half an hour, because copper which is devoid of lead requires this time to 
become hot and to melt ; copper not devoid of lead melts quicker. When 
he has blown the bellows for about the space of time stated, he removes the 
glowing charcoal with the tongs, and stirs the copper with a splinter of wood, 
which he grasps with the tongs. If it does not stir easily, it is a sign that the 



copper is not wholly liquefied ; if he finds this is the case, he asjain places a 
large piece of charcoal in the crucible, and replaces the glowing charcoal which 
had been removed, and again blows the bellows for a short time. When all 
the copper has melted he stops using the bellows, for if he were to continue 
to use them, the fire would consume part of the copper, and then that which 
remained would be richer than the cake from which it had been cut ; this is 
no small mistake. Therefore, as soon as the copper has become sufficiently 
liquified, he pours it out into a httle iron mould, which may be large or small, 
according as more or less copper is melted in the crucible for the purpose of the 
assay. The mould has a handle, Ukewise made of iron, by which it is held 
when the copper is poured in, after which, he plunges it into a tub of water 
placed near at hand, that the copper may be cooled. Then he again dries the 
copper by the fire, and cuts off its point with an iron wedge ; the portion 
nearest the point he hammers on an anvi' and makes into a leaf, which he 
cuts into pieces. 

A — Iron mould 

Others stir the molten copper with a stick of linden tree charcoal, and 
then pour it over a bundle of new clean birch twigs, beneath which is placed 
a wooden tub of sufficient size and full of water, and in this manner the copper 
is broken up into little granules as small as hemp seeds. Others employ straw 
in place of twigs. Others place a broad stone in a tub and pour in enough 
water to cover the stone, then they run out the molten copper from the 
crucible on to the stone, from which the minute granules roll off ; others 
pour the molten copper into water and stir it until it is resolved into granules. 
The fire does not easily melt the copper in the cupel unless it has been poured 
and a thin leaf made of it, or unless it has been resolved into granules or 
made into fihngs ; and if it does not melt, all the labour has been undertaken 
in vain. In order that they may be accurate^ weighed out, silver and lead 
are resolved into granules in the same manner as copper. But to return 
to the assay of copper. When the copper has been prepared by these 
methods, if it is free of lead and iron, and rich in silver, to each centumpon- 
dium (lesser weights) add one and a half unciae of lead (larger weights). If, 
however, the copper contains some lead, add one uncia of lead ; if it contains 
iron, add two unciae. First put the lead into a cupel, and after it begins 
to smoke, add the copper ; the fire generally consumes the copper, together 
with the lead, in about one hour and a quarter. When this is done, the silver 

BOOK VII. 251 

will be found in the bottom of the cupel. The fire consumes both of those 
metals more quickly if they are heated in that furnace which draws in air. It 
is better to cover the upper half of it with a lid, and not only to put on the 
muffle door, but also to close the window of the muffle door with a piece of 
charcoal, or with a piece of brick. If the copper be such that the silver can 
only be separated from it with difficulty, then before it is tested with fire in 
the cupel, lead should first be put into the scorifier, and then the copper should 
be added with a moderate quantity of melted salt, both that the lead may 
absorb the copper and that the copper may be cleansed of the dross which 
abounds in it. 

Tin which contains silver should not at the beginning of the assay be 
placed in a cupel, lest the silver, as often happens, be consumed and converted 
into fumes, together with the tin. As soon as the lead^^ has begun to fume 
in the scorifier, then add that^^ to it. In this way the lead will take the 
silver and the tin will boil and turn into ashes, which may be removed with a 
wooden splinter. The same thing occurs if any alloy is melted in which there 
is tin. When the lead has absorbed the silver which was in the tin, then, 
and not till then, it is heated in the cupel. First place the lead with which 
the silver is mixed, in an iron pan, and stand it on a hot furnace and let it 
melt ; afterward pour this lead into a small iron mould, and then beat it 
out with a hammer on an anvil and make it into leaves in the same way as 
the copper. Lastly, place it in the cupel, which assay can be carried out in 
the space of half an hour. A great heat is harmful to it, for which reason 
there is no necessity either to cover the half of the furnace with a lid or to 
close up its mouth. 

The minted metal alloys, which are known as money, are assayed in the 
following way. The smaller silver coins which have been picked out from 
the bottom and top and sides of a heap are first carefully cleansed ; then, after 
they have been melted in the triangular crucible, they are either resolved 
into granules, or made into thin leaves. As for the large coins which weigh 
a drachma, a sicilicus, half an uncia, or an uncia, beat them into leaves. 
Then take a bes of the granules, or an equal weight of the leaves, and likewise 
take another bes in the same way. Wrap each sample separately in paper, 
and afterwards place two small pieces of lead in two cupels which have first 
been heated. The more precious the money is, the smaller portion of lead 
do we require for the assay, the more base, the larger is the portion required ; 
for if a bes of silver is said to contain only half an uncia or one uncia of copper, 
we add to the bes of granules half an uncia of lead. If it is composed of equal 
parts of silver and copper, we add an uncia of lead, but if in a bes of copper 
there is only half an uncia or one uncia of silver, we add an uncia and a half 
of lead. As soon as the lead has begun to fume, put into each cupel one of 
the papers in which is wrapped the sample of silver alloyed with copper, and 
close the mouth of the muffle with charcoal. Heat them with a gentle fire 
until all the lead and copper are consumed, for a hot fire by its heat forces the 

^^Lead and Tin seem badly mixed in this paragraph. 
"It is not clear what is added. 

252 BOOK VII. 

silver, combined with a certain portion of lead, into the cupel, in which way 
the assay is rendered erroneous. Then take the beads out of the cupel and 
clean them of dross. If neither depresses the pan of the balance in which it 
is placed, but their weight is equal, the assay has been free from error ; but 
if one bead depresses its pan, then there is an error, for which reason the 
assay must be repeated. If the hes of coin contains but seven unciae of 
pure silver it is because the King, or Prince, or the State who coins the money, 
has taken one uncia, which he keeps partly for profit and partly for the 
expense of coining, he having added copper to the silver. Of all these 
matters I have written extensively in my book De Precio Metallorum et 

We assay gold coins in various ways. If there is copper mixed with 
the gold, we melt them by fire in the same way as silver coins ; if there is 
silver mixed with the gold, they are separated by the strongest aqua valens ; 
if there is copper and silver mixed with the gold, then in the first place, after 
the addition of lead, they are heated in the cupel until the fire consumes the 
copper and the lead, and afterward the gold is parted from the silver. 

It remains to speak of the touchstone^' with which gold and silver are 
tested, and which was also used by the Ancients. For although the assay made 
by fire is more certain, still, since we often have no furnace, nor muffle, nor 
crucibles, or some delay must be occasioned in using them, we can always 
rub gold or silver on the touchstone, which we can have in readiness. 
Further, when gold coins are assayed in the fire, of what use are they after- 
ward ? A touchstone must be selected which is thoroughly black and free 
of sulphur, for the blacker it is and the more devoid of sulphur, the better it 

"Historical Note on Touchstone (Coticula. Interpretatio, — Goldstein). Theophrastus 
is, we believe, the first to describe the touchstone, although it was generally known to the 
Greeks, as is evidenced by the metaphors of many of the poets, — Pindar, Theognis, Euripides, etc. 
The general . knowledge of the constituents of alloys which is implied, raises the question as 
to whether the Greeks did not know a great deal more about parting metals, than has been 
attributed to them. Theophrastus says (78-80) : " The nature of the stone which tries 
" gold is also very wonderful, as it seems to have the same power with fire ; which is also 
" a test of that metal. Some people have for this reason questioned the truth of this power 
" in the stone, but their doubts are ill-founded, for this trial is not of the same nature or 
" made in the same manner as the other. The trial by fire is by the colour and by the 
" quantity lost by it ; but that by the stone is made only by rubbing the metal on it ; the 
" stone seeming to have the power to receive separately the distinct particles of different 
" metals. It is said also that there is a much better kind of this stone now found out, than 
" that which was formerly used ; insomuch that it now serves not only for the trial of refined 
" gold, but also of copper or silver coloured with gold ; and shows how much of the 
" adulterating matter by weight is mixed with gold ; this has signs which it yields from 
" the smallest weight of the adulterating matter, which is a grain, from thence a colybus, 
" and thence a quadrans or semi-obolus, by which it is easy to distinguish if, and in what 
" degree, that metal is adulterated. AH these stones are found in the River Tmolus ; their 
" te.xture is smooth and like that of pebbles ; their figure broad, not round ; and their 
" bigness twice that of the common larger sort of pebbles. In their use in the trial of metals 
" there is a difference in power between their upper surface, which has lain toward the sun, 
" and their under, which has been to the earth ; the upper performing its office the more 
" nicely ; and this is consonant to reason, as the upper part is dryer ; for the humidity of 
" the other surfacejiinders its receiving so well the particles of metals ; for the same reason 
'' also it does not perform its office as well in hot weather as in colder, for in the hot it emits 
" a kind of humidity out of its substance, which runs all over it. This hinders the metalline 
" particles from adhering perfectly, and makes mistakes in the trials. This exudation of a 
" humid matter is also common to many other stones, among others, to those of which 
" statues are made ; and this has been looked on as peculiar to the statue." (Based on 

BOOK VII. 253 

generally is ; I have written elsewhere of its nature^*. First the gold is 
rubbed on the touchstone, whether it contains silver or whether it is obtained 
from the mines or from the smelting ; silver also is rubbed in the same 
way. Then one of the needles, that we judge by its colour to be of similar 
composition, is rubbed on the touchstone ; if this proves too pale, another 
needle which has a stronger colour is rubbed on the touchstone ; and if this 
proves too deep in colour, a third which has a little paler colour is used. For 
this will show us how great a proportion of silver or copper, or silver and 
copper together, is in the gold, or else how great a proportion of copper is in 

These needles are of four kinds. ^^ The first kind are made of gold and 
silver, the second of gold and copper, the third of gold, silver, and copper, 
and the fourth of silver and copper. The first three kinds of needles are 
used principally for testing gold, and the fourth for silver. Needles of this 
kind are prepared in the following ways. The lesser weights correspond 
proportionately to the larger weights, and both of them are used, not 
only b}^ mining people, but by coiners also. The needles are made in 
accordance with the lesser weights, and each set corresponds to a bes, 
which, in our own vocabulary, is called a mark. The bes, which is employed 
by those who coin gold, is divided into twenty-four double sextulae, which 

Hill's trans.) This humid " exudation of fine-grained stones in summer " would not sound 
abnormal if it were called condensation. Pliny (xxxiil, 43) says : " The mention of 
" gold and silver should be accompanied by that of the stone called coticula. Formerly, 
" according to Theophrastus, it was onlv to be found in the river Tmolus but now found in 
" many parts, it was found in small pieces never over four inches long by two broad. That 
" side which lay toward the sun is better than that toward the ground. Those experienced 
" with the coticula when they rub ore (vena) with it, can at once say how much gold it contains, 
" how much silver or copper. This method is so accurate that they do not mistake it to a 
" scruple." This purported use for determining values of ore is of about Pliny's average 
accuracy. The first detailed account of touchneedles and their manner of making, which we 
have been able to find, is that of the Probierbiichlein (1527? see Appendix) where many of the 
tables given by Agricola may be found. 

^^De Natitra Fossilium (p. 267) and De Ortu et Causis Subterraneorum (p. 59). The 
author does not add any material mineralogical information to the quotations from 
Theophrastus and Pliny given above. 

''In these tables Agricola has simply adopted Roman names as equivalents of the 
old German weights, but as they did not always approximate in proportions, he coined terms 
such as " units of 4 siliquae," etc. It might seem more desirable to have introduced 
the German terms into this te.xt, but while it would apply in this instance, as we have 
discussed on p. 259, the actual values of the Roman weights are very different from the 
German, and as elsewhere in the book actual Roman weights are applied, we have con- 
sidered it better to use the Latin terms consistently throughout. Further, the obsolete 
German would be to most readers but little improvement upon the Latin. For convenience 
of readers we set out the various scales as used by Agricola, together with the German : — 
Roman Scale. Old German Scale. 

6 Siliquae = 1 Scrip ulum . . 3 Grenlin = i Gran 

4 Scripula = i Sextula . . 4 Gran = I Krat 

2 Sextulae = 1 Duella . . 24 Kratt = I Mark 
24 Duellae = i Bes or 

24 Grenlin = 1 " Nummus " 

12 " Nummi " = i Mark. 
Also the following scales are applied to fineness by Agricola : — 

3 Scripula = i Drachma . . 4 Pfennige = 1 Quintlein 
2 Drachmae = i Sicilicus . . 4 Quintlein = I Loth 

2 Sicilici = 1 Semuncia . . 16 Loth = 1 Mark 

16 Semunciae = i Bes 
The term " nummus," a coin, given above and in the te.xt, appears in the German 
translation as pfennig as applied to both German scales, but as they are of different values. 



are now called after the Greek name ceratia ; and each double sextula is 
divided into four semi-sextulae, which are called granas ; and each semi-sextula 
is divided into three units of four siliquae each, of which each unit is called 
a grenlin. If we made the needles to be each four siliquae, there would be 
two hundred and eighty-eight in a bes, but if each were made to be a semi-sextula 
or a double scripula, then there would be ninety-six in a bes. By these two 
methods too many needles would be made, and the majority of them, by reason 
of the small difference in the proportion of the gold, would indicate nothing, 
therefore it is advisable to make them each of a double sextula ; in this waj 
twenty-four needles are made, of which the first is made of twenty-three 
duellae of silver and one of gold. Fannius is our authority that the Ancients 
called the double sextula a duella. When a bar of silver is rubbed on the 
touchstone and colours it just as this needle does, it contains one duella of gold. 
In this manner we determine by the other needles what proportion of gold 
there is, or when the gold exceeds the silver in weight, what proportion of 

The needles are made*" : — 

The 1st needle of 23 duellae of silver and i duella of gold. 
2nd ,, 22 ,, ,, 2 duellae of gold. 






',', 3rd ! 

1 ^^ 


„ 4th 


,. 5th 


„ 6th 


„ 7th 


„ 8th 


we have left Agricola's adaptation in one scale to avoid confusion. The Latin terms adopted 
by Agricola are given below, together with the German 

Number in one 

Value in 

Roman Term. 

German Term. 

Mark or Bes. 





" Unit of 4 Siliquae " 





256 . 



Scruple (?) 





96 . 




64 . 



Halb Krai 

48 . 



Halb Loth 

32 . 




24 . 




16 . 


" Unit of 5 Drachmae & i 

Scripulum " 

" Nummus " 





8 . 




I . 


While the proportions in a bes or mark are the same in both scales, the actual weight 
values are vastly different — for instance, the mark contained about 3609.6, and the bes 
3297 Troy Grains. Agricola also uses : 

Selibra Halb-pfundt 

Libra Pfundt 

Centumpondium Centner. 
As the Roman libra contains 12 unciae and the German pfundt 16 untzen, the actual weights of 
these latter quantities are still further apart — the former 4946 and the latter 7219 Troy 

* "There are no tables in the Latin text, the whole having been written out in extenso, 
but they have now been arranged as above, as being in a much more convenient and expressive 



The gth needle of 15 duellae of silver and 9 duellae of gold. 









pure gold 






By the first eleven needles, when they are rubbed on the touchstone, we 
test what proportion of gold a bar of silver contains, and with the remaining 
thirteen we test what proportion of silver is in a bar of gold ; and also what 
proportion of either may be in money. 

Since some gold coins are composed of gold and copper, thirteen needles 
of another kind are made as follows : — 




"he 1st of 

12 duellae of gold 



duellae of copp 

2nd ,, 



,. 3rd „ 



4th „ 



., 5th ,. 



„ 6th „ 



„ 7th „ 



., 8th „ 



., gth „ 



„ loth „ 



„ nth „ 



„ i2th „ 



., 13th „ 



These needles are not much used, because gold coins of that kind are 
somewhat rare ; the ones chiefly used are those in which there is much 
copper. Needles of the third kind, which are composed of gold, silver, and 
copper, are more largely used, because such gold coins are common. But since 
with the gold there are mixed equal or unequal portions of silver and copper, 
two sorts of needles are made. If the proportion of silver and copper is 
equal, the needles are as follows : — 






ist of 



6 duellae 


6 duellae 


2nd ,, 







3rd „ 





4th „ 







5th „ 





6th „ 







7th „ 





8th „ 







9th „ 





loth „ 







nth „ 





I2th „ 



13th „ 

pure gold. 

Some make twenty-five needles, in order to be able to detect the two 
scripula of silver or copper which are in a bes of gold. Of these needles^ the 
first is composed of twelve duellae of gold and six of silver, and the same 
number of copper. The second, of twelve duellae and one sextula of gold and 
five duellae and one and a half sextulae of silver, and the same number of 
duellae and one and a half sextulae of copper. The remaining needles are 
made in the same proportion. 

Pliny is our authority that the Romans could tell to within one scHpulum 
how much gold was in any given alloy, and how much silver or copper. 

Needles may be made in either of two ways, namely, in the ways of which 
I have spoken, and in the ways of which I am now about to speak. If 

BOOK VII. 257 

unequal portions of silver and copper have been mixed with the gold, thirty- 
seven needles are made in the following way : — 





Duellae ^f^' 



^ 2S' ■^^^^?"«*- 

The 1st of 




2nd „ 




„ 3rd „ 




4th „ 


8 I 



,. 5th „ 


7 1 





„ 6th „ 


6 1 





,, 7th „ 


7 I 



.. 8th ,„ 


6 I 





9th „ 


5 i| 




„ loth „ 


6 i| 



,. nth ,, 




„ i2th „ 


5 h 



„ 13th „ 




„ 14th „ 


5 \ 





„ 15th „ 


4 I 





„ i6th „ 


5 \ 



„ 17th „ 


4 I 





„ i8th „ 


4 4 




„ 19th „ 


4 I 



,, 20th „ 





„ 2ISt „ 


3 I 


„ 22nd ,, 


2 li 



„ 23rd „ 


3 * 





„ 24th „ 


2 li 




,. 25th „ 




„ 26th „ 


2 I 





„ 27th „ 


2 4 





„ 28th „ 


2 \ 


„ 29th „ 




„ 30th „ 


I T-\ 



., 31st „ 


I I 


„ 32nd „ 


I I 




„ 33rd „ 






„ 34th „ 




„ 35th „ 






„ 36th „ 






„ 37th „ 

pure gold. 

258 BOOK VII. 

Since it is rarely found that gold, which has been coined, does not amount to 
at least fifteen duellae of gold in a bes, some make only twenty-eight needles, and 
some make them different from those already described, inasmuch as the 
alloy of gold with silver and copper is sometimes differently proportioned. 

These needles are made : — 

Gold. Silver. Copper. 
Duellae. Duellae , Siliquae. Duellae , ' SUiquae. 

The 1st of 15 618 2 I 4 

2nd ,,15 6 4 2 i^ 8 

.. 3rd ,,15 5 ^ 3 I* 

4th ,, 16 6 ^ I ij 

„ 5th „ 16 51 8 2 I 4 

6th ,, 16 4 i| 8 3 4 

„ 7th ., 17 514 I J 8 

„ 8th ,,17 5 4 I i| 8 

9th ,,17 414 2 I 8 

,, loth ,, 18 41 II 

,, nth ,, 18 4 2 

,, 12th ,, 18 31 21 

„ 13th ,,19 3 i| 4 18 

,, 14th ,,19 3^4 118 

,, 15th ,,19 2 li 4 2 8 

„ i6th ,, 20 3 I 

„ 17th „ 20 2 II 

„ i8th „ 20 2 2 

„ 19th ,,21 2^4 18 

„ 20th „ 21 I i| 4 I 8 

„ 2ist „ 21 118 I J 4 

„ 22nd „ 22 118 i 4 

„ 23rd „ 22 I I I 

„ 24th „ 22 1^4 18 

„ 25th „ 23 i^ 4 8 

„ 26th „ 23 ij \ 

„ 27th ,,23 18 i 4 
,, 28th „ pure gold 

Next follows the fourth kind of needles, by which we test silver coins 

which contain copper, or copper coins which contain silver. The bes by 

which we weigh the silver is divided in two different ways. It is either 

divided twelve times, into units of five drachmae and one scripulum each, 



which the ordinary people call nummi*^ ; each of these units we again divide 
into twenty-four units of four siliquae each, which the same ordinary people 
call a grenlin ; or else the bes is divided into sixteen scmiinciae which 
are called loths, each of which is again divided into eighteen units of four 
siliquae each, which they call grenlin. Or else the bes is divided into 
sixteen semunciae, of which each is divided into four drachmae, and 
each drachma into four pfennige. Needles are made in accordance with 
each method of dividing the bes. According to the first method, to the 
number of twenty-four half nummi ; according to the second method, to the 
number of thirty-one half semunciae, that is to say a sicilicus ; for if the 
needles were made to the number of the smaller weights, the number of 
needles would again be too large, and not a few of them, by reason of the 
small difference in proportion of silver or copper, would have no significance. 
We test both bars and coined money composed of silver and copper by both 
scales. The one is as follows : the first needle is made of twenty-three 
parts of copper and one part silver ; whereby, whatsoever bar or coin, when 
rubbed on the touchstone, colours it just as this needle does, in that bar or 
money there is one twenty-fourth part of silver, and so also, in accordance 
with the proportion of silver, is known the remaining proportion of the copper. 

e 1st needle is 

made of 23 parts 

of copper eind i of silver 



2 „ 



























II .. 



























., 20 














See note 






r method of 


needles is 

as follows : 







Semunciae Sicilici 

1st is 










3ici „ 










5th „ 




6th „ 





7th „ 

, , 



8th ., 













nth „ 


















15th „ 




i6th „ 









i8th „ 














































28th „ 















31st of pure silver. 

So much for this. Perhaps I have used more words than those most 
highly skilled in the art may require, but it is necessary for the understanding 
of these matters. 

I will now speak of the weights, of which I have frequently made mention. 
Among mining people these are of two kinds, that is, the greater weights and 
the lesser weights. The centumpondium is the first and largest weight, and of 



course consists of one hundred lihrae, and for that reason is called a 
hundred weight. 

The various weights are : — 

1st ^ 100 librae = cenlumpondiv.m. 

2nd = 50 




















This libra consists of sixteen unciae, and the half part of the libra is 
the selibra, which our people call a mark, and consists of eight unciae, or, as 
they divide it, of sixteen semunciae : — 

































The above is how the "greater" weights are divided. The "lesser" 
weights are made of silver or brass or copper. Of these, the first and largest 
generally weighs one drachma, for it is necessary for us to weigh, not only 
ore, but also metals to be assayed, and smaller quantities of lead. The first 
of these weights is called a cenlumpondittm and the number of librae in it 
corresponds to the larger scale, being likewise one hundred*^. 
The 1st is called i centumpondium. 


50 librae. 

3rd . 

25 „ 


16 „ 

5th , 

8 „ 


4 ., 


2 „ 




, I selibra. 


8 semunciae 








I sicilicus. 

The fourteenth is the last, for the proportionate weights which correspond 
with a drachma and half a drachma are not used. On all these weights of 
the lesser scale, are written the numbers of librae and of semunciae. Some 

"See note 27, p. 242, for discussion of this " Assay ton " arrangement. 



copper assayers divide both the lesser and greater scale weights into divisions 
of a different scale. Their largest weight of the greater scale weighs one 
hundred and twelve librae, which is the first unit of measurement. 




































selibra or sixteen semunciae 









1 2th 









3 © 3iQ 
(i£j| SJ 21 S Q a 



^4 1 Q Q [U Q a 

@ Q] 63 B 

As for the selibra of the lesser weights, which our people, as I have often 
said, call a mark, and the Romans call a bes, coiners who coin gold, divide it 
just like the greater weights scale, into twenty-four units of two sextulae 
each, and each unit of two sextulae is divided into four semi-sextulae and 
each semi-sextula into three units of four siUquae each. Some also divide 
the separate units of four siliquae into four individual siliquae, but most, 
omitting the semi-sextulae, then divide the double sextula into twelve units of 
four siliquae each, and do not divide these into four individual siliquae. Thus 
the first and greatest unit of measurement, which is the bes, weighs twenty- 
four double sextulae. 

BOOK VII. 263 

The 2nd - 12 double scxtulac. 

„ 3rd = 6 „ 

„ 4th = 3 .. 

.. 5th = 2 „ 

„ 6th = I „ 

,, 7th =^ 2 semi-sextnlae or four semi-sextidae. 

8th = I serni-sexiula or 3 units of 4 siliquae each. 

9th = 2 units of four siliquae each. 

,, loth ^ I ,, 

Coiners who mint silver also divide the bes of the lesser weights in the same 
wa}' as the greater weights ; our people, indeed, divide it into sixteen sem- 
toiciae, and the semuncia into eighteen units of four siliquae each. 

There are ten weights which are placed in the other pan of the balance, 
when they weigh the silver which remains from the copper that has been 
consumed, when they assay the alloy with fire. 

he 1st = 


semunciae = i bes. 

2nd := 



„ 3rd - 



„ 4th = 



„ 5th = 


or 18 units of 4 siliquae each. 

„ 6th = 


units of 4 siliquae each. 

„ 7th = 


,/ .. 

„ 8th = 


,, ,, 

„ 9th = 


J) .. 

„ loth = 


,, ,, 

The coiners of Nuremberg who mint silver, divide the bes into sixteen sem- 
unciae, but divide the semuncia into four drachmae, and the drachma into 
four pfennige. They employ nine weights. 
The 1st = 16 semunciae. 

„ 2nd =8 

„ 3rd =4 

„ 4th ^2 

„ 5th = I 
For they divide the bes in the same way as our own people, but since they 
divide the semuncia into four drachmae, 

the 6th weight = 2 drachmae. 

,, 7th ,, ^ I drachma or 4 pfennige. 

,, 8th ,, =2 pfennige. 

„ 9th ,, =1 pfennig 

The men of Cologne and Antwerp*' divide the bes into twelve units of 
five drachmae and one scripulum, which weights they call nummi. Each 
of these they again divide into twenty-four units of four siliquae each, 
which they call grenlins. They have ten weights, of which 

^^Agrippinanses and Antuerpiani. 

264 BOOK VII. 

the 1st = 12 nummi =- i bes. 

,, 2nd = 6 „ 

„ 3rd = 3 „ 

„ 4th = 2 „ 

„ 5th = 1 ,, :^ 24 units of 4 siliquae each. 

„ 6th =12 units of 4 siliquae each. 

„ 7th = 6 „ 

„ 8th = 3 „ 

„ 9th = 2 ,, 

,, loth = I ,, 
And so with them, just as with our own people, the mark is divided into 
two hundred and eighty-eight grenlins, and by the people of Nuremberg it is 
divided into two hundred and fifty-six pfennige. Lastly, the Venetians divide 
the bes into eight unciae. The uncia into four sicilici, the sicilicus into 
thirty-six siliquae. They make twelve weights, which they use whenever they 
wish to assay alloys of silver and copper. Of these 
the 1st = 8 unciae = i bes. 

2nd = 4 


3rd = 2 


4th = I 

or 4 sicilici. 

5th = 2 


6th = I 


7th = 18 


8th = 9 


9th = 6 


loth = 3 


nth = 2 


12th = I 


Since the Venetians divide the bes into eleven hundred and fifty-two siliquae, 
or two hundred and eighty-eight units of 4 siliquae each, into which number 
our people also divide the bes, they thus make the same number of siliquae, 
and both agree, even though the Venetians divide the bes into smaller 

This, then, is the system of weights, both of the greater and the lesser kinds, 
which metallurgists employ, and likewise the system of the lesser weights 
which coiners and merchants employ, when they are assaying metals and 
coined money. The bes of the larger weight with which they provide them- 
selves when they weigh large masses of these things, I have explained in my 
work De Mensuris et Ponderibus, and in another book, De Precio Metallorum 
et Monetis. 

There are three small balances by which we weigh ore, metals, and 
fluxes. The first, by which we weigh lead and fluxes, is the largest among these 
smaller balances, and when eight unciae (of the greater weights) are placed in 
one of its pans, and the same number in the other, it sustains no damage. 
The second is more delicate, and by this we weigh the ore or the metal, which 
is to be assayed ; this is well able to carry one centumpondium of the lesser 



weights in one pan, and in the other, ore or metal as heavy as that weight. 
The third is the most delicate, and by this we weigh the beads of gold or 
silver, which, when the assay is completed, settle in the bottom of the cupel. 
But if anyone weighs lead in the second balance, or an ore in the third, he 
will do them much injur}'. 

Whatsoever small amount of metal is obtained from a centumpondium 
of the lesser weights of ore or metal alloy, the same greater weight of metal 
is smelted from a ccnhimpondium of the greater weight of ore or metal alloy. 

A— First small balance. B — Second, C — Third, placed in a case. 



UESTIONS of assaying wore explained in the last 
Book, and I have now come to a greater task, that 
is, to the description of how we extract the metals. 
First of all I will explain the method of preparing 
the ore' ; for since Nature usually creates metals 
in an impure state, mixed with earth, stones, and 
solidified juices, it is necessary to separate most of 
these impurities from the ores as far as can be, 
before they are smelted, and therefore I will now 
describe the methods by which the ores are sorted, broken with hammers, 
burnt, crushed with stamps, ground into powder, sifted, washed, roasted, 
and calcined^. 

Stamp . . Stamper . . Pilum 

Stamp-stem . . Lifter . . Pilum 

Shoes . . Stamp-heads . . Capita 

Mortar-box . . Box . . Capsa 

Cam-shaft ..Barrell ..Axis 

. . Denies 

. . Pili denies 

. .Laminae foraminum plenae 

. .Lactts 

^As would be expected, practically all the technical terms used by Agricola in this 
chapter are adaptations. The Latin terms, canalis, area, lacus, vasa, cribrum, and fossa, 
have had to be pressed into service for many different devices, largely by extemporised 
combinations. Where the devices described have become obsolete, we have adopted the 
nomenclature of the old works on Cornish methods. The following examples may be of 
interest : — 

Simple buddle = Canalis simplex Short strake = Area curia 

Divided buddle = Canalis tahellis dislinctus Canvas strake = Area linteis exlensis contecta 

Ordinary strake = Canalis devexus Limp = Radius. 

The strake (or streke) when applied to alluvial tin, would have been termed a " tye " 
in some parts of Cornwall, and the " short strake " a " gounce." In the case of the stamp 
mill, inasmuch as almost every mechanical part has its counterpart in a modern mill, we 
have considered the reader will have less difficulty if the modern designations are used 
instead of the old Cornish. The following are the essential terms in modern, old Cornish, 
and Latin : — 

Cams . . Caps 

Tappets ..Tongues 

Screens . . Crate 

Setthng pit . . Catchers 

Jigging sieve . . Dilleugher . . Cribrum angustum 
"Agricola uses four Latin verbs in connection with heat operations at temperatures 
under the melting point : Calefacio, uro, lorreo, and cremo. The first he always uses in the 
sense of " to warm " or " to heat," but the last three he uses indiscriminately in much the 
same way as the English verbs burn, roast, and calcine are used ; but in general he uses the 
Latin verbs in the order given to indicate degrees of heat. We have used the English 
verbs in their technical sense as indicated by the context. 

It is very difficult to say when roasting began as a distinct and separate metal- 
lurgical step in sulphide ore treatment. The Greeks and Romans worked both lead and 
copper sulphides (see note on p. 391, and note on p. 403), but neither in the remains of old 
works nor in their literature is there anything from which satisfactory details of such a step 
can be obtained. The Ancients, of course, understood lime-burning, and calcined several 
salts to purify them or to render them more caustic. Practically the only specific mention is 
by Pliny regarding lead ores (see p. 391). Even the statement of Theophilus (1050-1100, a.d.), 
may refer simply to rendering ore more fragile, for he says (p. 305) in regard to copper ore : 
" This stone dug up in abundance is placed upon a pile and burned (comburilur) after the 
" manner of lime. Nor does it change colour, but loses its hardness and can be broken up, 
" and afterward it is smelted." The Probierbiichlein casually mentions roasting prior to 
assaying, and Biringuccio (ni, 2) mentions incidentally that " dry and ill-disposed ores 
" before everything must be roasted in an open oven so that the air can get in." He gives 
no further information ; and therefore this account of Agricola's becomes practically the 
first. Apparently roasting, as a preliminary to the treatment of copper sulphides, did not come 
into use in England until some time later than Agricola, for in Col. Grant Francis' " Smelting 
of Copper in the Swansea District " (London, 1881, p. 29), a report is set of the " Doeinges of 
" Jochim Ganse " — an imported German — at the " Mynes by Keswicke in Cumberland, 
" A.D., 1581," wherein the delinquencies of the then current practice are described : " Thei 
" never coulde, nether yet can make (copper) under xxii. tymes passinge thro the fire, and 
" XXII. weekes doeing thereof ane sometyme more. But now the nature of these ix. hurtful! 
" humors abovesaid being discovered and opened by Jochim's way of doeing, we can, by his 
" order of workeinge, so correct theim, that parte of theim beinge by nature hurtfull to the 



A — Long table. 

Tray. C — Tub. 

I will start at the beginning with the first sort of work. Experienced 
miners, when they dig the ore, sort the metalliferous material from earth, 
stones, and solidified juices before it is taken from the shafts and tunnels, 
and they put the valuable metal in trays and the waste into buckets. But 
if some miner who is inexperienced in mining matters has omitted to do this, 
or even if some experienced miner, compelled by some unavoidable necessity, 
has been unable to do so, as soon as the material which has been dug out 
has been removed from the mine, all of it should be examined, and that part of 
the ore which is rich in metal sorted from that part of it which is devoid of 
metal, whether such part be earth, or solidified juices, or stones. To smelt 
waste together with an ore involves a loss, for some expenditure is thrown 
away, seeing that out of earth and stones only empty and useless slags are 

" copper in wasteinge of it, ar by arte maide freindes, and be not onely an encrease to the 
" copper, but further it in smeltinge ; and the rest of the other evill humors shalbe so 
" corrected, and their humors so taken from them, that by once rosteinge and once smeltinge 
" the ure (which shalbe done in the space of three dayes), the same copper ure shall yeeld us 
" black copper." Jochim proposed by ' rostynge ' to be rid of "sulphur, arsineque, and 
" antimony." 



melted out, and further, the solidified juices also impede the smelting of the 
metals and cause loss. The rock which lies contiguous to rich ore should also be 
broken into small pieces, crushed, and washed, lest any of the mineral should 
be lost. When, either through ignorance or carelessness, the miners while 
excavating have mixed the ore with earth or broken rock, the work of sorting 
the crude metal or the best ore is done not only by men, but also by boys and 
women. They throw the mixed material upon a long table, beside which they 
sit for almost the whole day, and they sort out the ore ; when it has been 
sorted out, they collect it in trays, and when collected they throw it into 
tubs, which are carried to the works in which the ores are smelted. 

The metal which is dug out in a pure or crude state, to which class belong 
native silver, silver glance, and gray silver, is placed on a stone by the 
mine foreman and flattened out by pounding with heavy square hammers. 
These masses, when they have been thus flattened out like plates, are placed 
either on the stump of a tree, and cut into pieces by pounding an iron chisel 
into them with a hammer, or else they are cut with an iron tool similar to a 
pair of shears. One blade of these shears is three feet long, and is firmly 
fixed in a stump, and the other blade which cuts the metal is six feet long. 

A — Masses of metal. 

-Hammer. C — Chisel. D — Tree stumps. E — Iron tool 
similar to a pair of shears. 



These pieces of metal are afterward heated in iron basins and smelted in the 
cupellation furnace by the smelters. 

Although the miners, in the shafts or tunnels, have sorted over the 
material which they mine, still the ore which has been broken down and carried 
out must be broken into pieces by a hammer or minutely crushed, so that 
the more valuable and better parts can be distinguished from the inferior and 
worthless portions. This is of the greatest importance in smelting ore, for 
if the ore is smelted without this separation, the valuable part frequently 
receives great damage before the worthless part melts in the fire, or else the 
one consumes the other ; this latter difficulty can, however, be partly 
avoided by the exercise of care and partly by the use of fluxes. Now, if a 
vein is of poor quality, the better portions which have been broken down and 
carried out should be thrown together in one place, and the inferior portion 
and the rock thrown away. The sorters place a hard broad stone on a table ; 
the tables are generally four feet square and made of joined planks, and to 
the edge of the sides and back are fixed upright planks, which rise about a 
foot from the table ; the front, where the sorter sits, is left open. The 

A — Tables. B — Upright planks. C — Hammer. D — Quadrangular hammer. 
E — Deeper vessel. F — Shallower vessel. G — Iron rod. 



lumps of ore, rich in gold or silver, are put by the sorters on the stone and 
broken up witii a broad, but not thick, hammer ; they either break them into 
pieces and throw thrm into one vessel, or they break and sort — whence they 
get their name — the more precious from the worthless, throwing and collecting 
them separati^ly into different vessels. Other men crush the lumps of ore 
less rich in gold or silver, which have likewise been put on the stone, with a 
broad thick hammer, and when it has been well crushed, they collect it and 
throw it hito one vessel. There are two kinds of vessels ; one is deeper, and a 
little wider in the centre than at the top or bottom ; the other is not so deep 
though it is broader at the bottom, and becomes gradually a little narrower 
toward the top. The latter vessel is covered with a lid, while the former is not 
covered ; an iron rod through the handles, bent over on either end, is 
grasped in the hand when the vessel is carried. But, above all, it behooves 
the sorters to be assiduous in their labours. 

By another method of breaking ore with hammers, large hard frag- 
ments of ore are broken before they are burned. The legs of the workmen 
— at all events of those who crush pyrites in this manner with large hammers 
in Goslar — are protected with coverings resembling leggings, and their hands 

A— Pyrites. B—Leggings. C — Gloves. D — Hammer. 



are protected with long gloves, to prevent them from being injured by the 
chips which fly away from the fragments. 

In that district of Greater Germany which is called Westphalia and in 
that district of Lower Germany which is named Eifel, the broken ore which 
has been burned, is thrown by the workmen into a round area paved with the 
hardest stones, and the fragments are pounded up with iron tools, which are 
very much like hammers in shape and are used like threshing sledges. This 
tool is a foot long, a palm wide, and a digit thick, and has an opening in the 
middle just as hammers have, in which is fixed a wooden handle of no great 
thickness, but up to three and a half feet long, in order that the workmen 
can pound the ore with greater force by reason of its weight falling from a 
greater height. They strike and pound with the broad side of the tool, in the 
same way as corn is pounded out on a threshing floor with the threshing 
sledges, although the latter are made of wood and are smooth and fixed to 
poles. When the ore has been broken into small pieces, they sweep it 
together with brooms and remove it to the works, where it is washed 

A — Are.\ paved with stones. B 
D — Iron tool. E — Its handle. 

-Broken ore. C — Area covered v^fiTH broken ore. 
F— Broom. G— Short strake. H — Wooden hoe. 


in a short strake, at the head of which stands the washer, who draws the water 
upward with a wooden hoe. The water running down again, carries all 
the hght particles into a trough placed underneath. I shall deal more fully 
with this method of washing a httle later. 

Ore is burned for two reasons ; either that from being hard, it may become 
soft and more easily broken and more readily crushed with a hammer or 
stamps, and then can be smelted ; or that the fatty things, that is to say, 
sulphur, bitumen, orpiment, or realgar^ may be consumed. Sulphur is 
frequently found in metallic ores, and, generally speaking, is more harmful 
to the metals, except gold, than are the other things. It is most harmful of 
all to iron, and less to tin than to bismuth, lead, silver, or copper. 
Since very rarely gold is found in which there is not some silver, even gold 
ores containing sulphur ought to be roasted before they are smelted, because, 
in a very vigorous furnace lire, sulphur resolves metal into ashes and makes 
slag of it. Bitumen acts in the same way, in fact sometimes it consumes 
silver, which we may see in bituminous cadmia*. 

I now come to the methods of roasting, and first of all to that one which 
is common to all ores. The earth is dug out to the required extent, and 
thus is made a quadrangular area of fair size, open at the front, and above 
this, firewood is laid close together, and on it other wood is laid trans- 
versely, likewise close together, for which reason our countrymen call this 
pile of wood a crate ; this is repeated until the pile attains a height of one 
or two cubits. Then there is placed upon it a quantity of ore that has been 
broken into small pieces with a hammer ; first the largest of these pieces, 
next those of medium size, and lastly the smallest, and thus is built up a 
gently sloping cone. To prevent it from becoming scattered, fine sand of the 

'Orpiment and realgar are the red and yellow arsenical sulphides. (See note on p. iii). 

*Cadmia hituminosa. The description of this substance by Agricola, given below, 
indicates that it was his term for the complex copper-zinc-arsenic-cobalt minerals found in 
the well-known, highly bituminous, copper schists at Mannsfeld. The later Mineralogists, 
Wallerius {Mineralogia, Stockholm, 1747), Valmont De Bomare (Mineralogie, Paris, 1762), 
and others assume Agricola's cadmia biiiiininosa to be " black arsenic " or " arsenic noir," 
but we see no reason for this assumption. Agricola's statement {De Nat. Foss., p. 369) is 
" . . . . the schistose stone dug up at the foot of the Melibocus Mountains, or as they are 
" now called the Harz (Hercyniwn), near Eisleben, Mannsfeld, and near Hcttstedt, is similar 
" to spinas (a bituminous substance described by Theophrastus), if not identical with it. 
" This is black, bituminous, and cupriferous, and when first extracted from the mine it is thrown 
" out into an open space and heaped up in a mound. Then the lower part of the mound is 
" surrounded by faggots, on to which are likewise thrown stones of the same kind. Then 
" the faggots are kindled and the fire soon spreads to the stones placed upon them ; by 
" these the fire is communicated to the next, which thus spreads to the whole heap. This 
" easy reception of fire is a characteristic which bitumen possesses in common with sulphur. 
" Yet the small, pure and black bituminous ore is distinguished from the stones as follows : 
"when- they burn they emit the kind of odour which is usually given off by burning 
" bituminous coal, and besides, if while they are burning a small shower of rain should fall, they 
" burn more brightly and soften more quickly. Indeed, when the wind carries the fumes 
" so that they descend into nearby standing waters, there can be seen floating in it 
" something like a bituminous liquid, either black, or brown, or purple, which is sufficient to 
" indicate that those stones were bituminous. And that genus of stones has been recently 
" found in the Harz in layers, having occasionally gold-coloured specks of pyrites adhering 
" to them, representing various flat sea-fish or pike or perch or birds, and poultry cocks, 
" and sometimes salamanders." 



A — Area. B — Wood. C — Ore. D — Cone-shaped piles. E— Canal. 

same ore is soaked with water and smeared over it and beaten on with shovels ; 
some workers, if they cannot obtain such fine sand, cover the pile with char- 
coal-dust, just as do charcoal-burners. But at Goslar, the pile, when it has 
been built up in the form of a cone, is smeared with atr amentum sutorium 
ruhrum^, which is made by the leaching of roasted pyrites soaked with water. 
In some districts the ore is roasted once, in others twice, in others three times, 
as its hardness may require. At Goslar, when pyrites is roasted for the third 
time, that which is placed on the top of the pyre exudes a certain greenish, 
dry, rough, thin substance, as I have elsewhere written^ ; this is no more 
easily burned by the fire than is asbestos. Very often also, water is put on 

^Airamentitm sutorium rubmni. Literally, this would be red vitriol. The German 
translation gives rot kupferwasser, also red vitriol. We must confess that we cannot make 
this substance out, nor can we find it mentioned in the other works of Agricola. It may be 
the residue from leaching roasted pyrites for vitriol, which would be reddish o.xide of iron. 

^The statement " elsewhere " does not convey very much more information. It 
is {De Nat. Fas., p. 253) : " When Goslar pyrites and Eisleben (copper) schists are placed on 
" the pyre and roasted for the third time, they both exude a certain substance which is of a 
"greenish colour, dry, rough, and fibrous (ienue). This substance, like asbestos, is not 
" consum.ed by the fire. The schists exude it more plentifully than the pyrites." The 
Interpretatio gives federwis, as the German equivalent of aniiantus (asbestos). This term was 
used for the feathery alum efflorescence on aluminous slates. 



to the ore whicli has bfcn roasted, while it is still hot, in order to make 
it softer and more easily broken ; lur after lire has dried up the moisture 
in the ore, it breaks up more easily while it is still hot, ol which fact burnt 
limestone affords the best example. 

By iligL;ing out the earth they make the areas much larger, and square ; 
walls should be built along the sides and back to hold the heat of the 
fire more effectively, and the front should be left open. In these compart- 
ments tin ore is roasted in the following manner. Fiist of all wood about 
twelve feet long should be laid in the area in four layers, alternately straight 
and transverse. Then the larger pieces of ore should be laid upon them, and 
on these again the smaller ones, which should also be placed around the sides ; 
the fine sand of the same ore should also be spread over the pile and pounded 
with shovels, to prevent the pile from falling before it has been roasted ; the 
w(.)od should then bo fired. 

A — Lighted pyre. 

-Pyre which is being constructed. C — Ore. D- 
E — Pile of the same wood. 

Lead ore, if roasting is necessary, should be piled in an area just like the 
last, but sloping, and the wood should be placed over it. A tree trunk should 
be laid' right across the front of the ore to prevent it from falling out. The 
ore, being roasted in this way, becomes partly melted and resembles slag. 


Thuringian pyrites, in which there is gold, sulphur, and vitriol, after the last 
particle of vitriol has been obtained by heating it in water, is thrown into a 
furnace, in which logs are placed. This furnace is very similar to an oven 
in shape, in order that when the ore is roasted the valuable contents may not 
fly awg,y with the smoke, but may adhere to the roof of the furnace. In this 
way sulphur very often hangs like icicles from the two openings of the roof 
through which the smoke escapes. 

A — Burning pyre which is composed of lead ore with wood placed above it. 
B — Workman throwing ore into another area. C — Oven-shaped furnace. 
D — Openings through which the smoke escapes. 

If pyrites or cadmia, or any other ore containing metal, possesses a good 
deal of sulphur or bitumen, it should be so roasted that neither is lost. For 
this purpose it is thrown on an iron plate full of holes, and roasted with char- 
coal placed on top ; three walls support this plate, two on the sides and the 
third at the back. Beneath the plate are placed pots containing water, into 
which the sulphurous or bituminous vapour descends, and in the water the 
fat accumulates and floats on the top. If it is sulphur, it is generally of a 
yellow colour ; if bitumen, it is black hke pitch. If these were not drawn 
out they would do much harm to the metal, when the ore is being smelted. 
When they have thus been separated they prove of some service to man, 
especially the sulphurous kind. From the vapour which is carried down, not 



A— Iron plates full of holes. H — Walls. C— Plate on which ore is placed. 
D — Burning charcoal placed on the ore. E — Pots. F — Furnace. G — Middle 






into the water, but into the ground, there is created a sulphurous or a 
bituminous substance resembling foinpholyx'', and so light that it can be 
blown away with a breath. Some employ a vaulted furnace, open at the 
front and divided into two chambers. A wall built in the middle of the 
furnace divides the lower chamber into two equal parts, in which are set pots 
containing water, as above described. The upper chamber is again divided 
into three parts, the middle one of which is always open, for in it the wood 
is placed, and it is not broader than the middle wall, of which it forms the 
topmost portion. The other two compartments have iron doors which are 
closed, and which, together with the roof, keep in the heat when the wood 
is lighted. In these upper compartments are iron bars which take the place 
of a floor, and on these are arranged pots without bottoms, having in 
place of a bottom, a grating made of iron wire, fixed to each, through 
the openings of which the sulphurous or bituminous vapours roasted from 
the ore run into the lower pots. Each of the upper pots holds a hundred 

A — Heap of cupriferous stones. B — Kindled heap. C — Stones being taken to 

THE beds of faggots. 

'Bearing in mind that bituminous cadmia contained arsenical-cobalt minerals, this 
substance " resembling pompholyx " would probably be arsenic oxide. In De Natiira 
Fossilium (p. 368), Agricola discusses the pompholyx from cadmia at length and pronounces 
it to be of remarkably " corrosive " quality. (See also note on p. 112.) 


pounds of ore ; when they are filled they are covered with lids and smeared 
with lute. 

In Eislebtn and the neighbourhood, when they roast the schistose 
stone from which copper is smelted, and which is not free from bitumen, 
they do not use piles of logs, but bundles of faggots. At one time, they used 
to pile this kind of stone, when extracted from the pit, on bundles of 
faggots and roast it by firing the faggots ; nowadays, they first of all 
carry these same stones to a heap, where they are left to lie for some time in 
such a way as to allow the air and rain to soften them. Then they make a 
bed of faggot bundles near the heap, and carry the nearest stones to this 
bed ; afterward they again place bundles of faggots in the empty place 
from which the first stones have been removed, and pile over this extended 
bed, the stones which lay nearest to the first lot ; and they do this right up to 
the end, until all the stones have been piled mound-shape on a bed of faggots. 
Finally they fire the faggots, not, however, on the side where the wind is 
blowing, but on the opposite side, lest the fire blown up by the force of the 
wind should consume the faggots before the stones are roasted and made soft ; 
by this method the stones which are adjacent to the faggots take fire and 
communicate it to the next ones, and these again to the adjoining ones, and 
in this way the heap very often bums continuously for thirty days or more. 
This schist rock when rich in copper, as I have said elsewhere, exudes a 
substance of a nature similar to asbestos. 

Ore is crushed with iron-shod stamps, in order that the metal may be 
separated from the stone and the hanging-wall rock.^ The machines which 
miners use for this purpose are of four kinds, and are made by the following 
method. A block of oak timber six feet long, two feet and a palm square, is 
laid on the ground. In the middle of this is fixed a mortar-box, two feet and six 
digits long, one foot and six digits deep ; the front, which might be called a 

'Historical Note on Crushing and Concentration of Ores. There can be no 
question that the first step in the metallurgy of ores was direct smelting, and that this 
antedates human records. The obvious advantages of reducing the bulk of the material to 
be smelted by the elimination of barren portions of the ore, must have appealed to metal- 
lurgists at a very early date. Logically, therefore, we should find the second step in 
metallurgy to be concentration in some form. The question of crushing is so much involved 
with concentration that we have not endeavoured to keep them separate. The earliest 
indication of these processes appears to be certain inscriptions on monuments of the iv 
Dynasty (4,000 B.C. ?) depicting gold washing (Wilkinson, The Ancient Egyptians, London, 
1874, li, p. 137). Certain stele of the xii Dynasty (2,400 B.C.) in the British Museum 
(144 Bay I and 145 Bav 6) refer to gold washing in the Sudan, and one of them appears to 
indicate the working of gold ore as distinguished from alluvial. The first written descrip- 
tion of the Egyptian methods — and probably that reflecting the most ancient technology 
of crushing and concentration — is that of Agatharchides, a Greek geographer of the second 
Century B.C. This work is lost, but the passage in question is quoted by Diodorus Siculus 
(ist Century B.C.) and by Photius (died 891 a.d.). We give Booth's translation of 
Diodorus (London, 1700, p. 8g), slightly amended: "In the confines of Egypt and the 
" neighbouring covmtries of Arabia and Ethiopia there is a place full of rich gold mines, 
" out of which with much cost and pains of many labourers gold is dug. The soil here 
" is naturally black, but in the body of the earth run many white veins, shining like 
" white marble, surpassing in lustre all other bright things. Out of these laborious 
" mines, those appointed overseers cause the gold to be dug up by the labour of a vast 
" multitude of people. For the Kings of Egypt condemn to these mines notorious 
" criminals, captives taken in war, persons sometimes falsely accused, or against 
" whom the King is incens'd ; and not only they themselves, but sometimes all their 


mouth, lies open ; the bottom is covered with a plate of iron, a palm thick 
and two palms and as many digits wide, each end of which is wedged into the 
timber with broad wedges, and the front and back part of it are fixed to the 
timber with iron nails. To the sides of the mortar above the block are fixed 
two upright posts, whose upper ends are somewhat cut back and are mor- 
tised to the timbers of the building. Two and a half feet above the mortar 

" kindred and relations together with them, are sent to work here, both to punish 
" them, and by their labour to advance the profit and gain of the Kings. There are 
" infinite numbers upon these accounts thrust down into these mines, all bound in fetters, 
" where they work continually, without being admitted any rest night or day, and so 
" strictly guarded that there is no possibility or way left to make an escape. For they 
" set over them barbarians, soldiers of various and strange languages, so that it is not 
" possible to corrupt any of the guard by discoursing one with another, or by the gaining 
" insinuations of familiar converse. The earth which is hardest and full of gold they 
" soften by putting fire under it, and then work it out with their hands. The rocks thus 
" soften'd and made more pliant and yielding, several thousands of profligate wretches 
" break in pieces with hammers and pickaxes. There is one artist that is the overseer of the 
" whole work, who marks out the stone, and shows the labourers the way and manner 
" how he would have it done. Those that are the strongest amongst them that are 
" appointed to this slavery, provided with sharp iron pickaxes, cleave the marble-shining rock 
" by mere force and strength, and not by arts or sleight-of-hand. They undermine not the 
" rock in a direct line, but follow the bright shining vein of the mine. They carry lamps 
" fastened to their foreheads to give them light, being otherwise in perfect darkness in the 
" various windings and turnings wrought in the mine ; and having their bodies appearing 
" sometimes of one colour and sometimes of another (according to the nature of the mine 
" where they work) they throw the lumps and pieces of the stone cut out of the rock upon the 
" floor. And thus they are employed continually without intermission, at the very nod of 
" the overseer, who lashes them severely besides. And there are little boys who penetrate 
" through the galleries into the cavities and with great labour and toil gather up the lumps 
" and pieces hewed out of the rock as they are cast upon- the ground, and carry them forth 
" and lay them upon the bank. Those that are over thirty years of age take a piece of the 
" rock of such a certain quantity, and pound it in a stone mortar with iron pestles till it be 
" as small as a vetch ; then those little stones so pounded are taken from them by women 
" and older men, who cast them into mills that stand together there near at hand in a long 
" row, and two or three of them being employed at one mill they grind a certain measure given 
" to them at a time, until it is as small as fine meal. No care at all is taken of the bodies of 
" these poor creatures, so that they have not a rag so much as to cover their nakedness, and 
" no man that sees them can choose but commiserate their sad and deplorable condition. 
" For though they are sick, maimed, or lame, no rest nor intermission in the least is allowed 
" them ; neither the weakness of old age, nor women's infirmities are any plea to excuse them ; 
" but all are driven to their work with blows and cudgelling, till at length, overborne with 
" the intolerable weight of their misery, they drop down dead in the midst of their insufferable 
" labours ; so that these miserable creatures always expect the future to be more terrible 
" than even the present, and therefore long for death as far more desirable than life. 

" At length the masters of the work take the stone thus ground to powder, and carry 
" it away in order to perfect it. They spread the mineral so ground upon a broad board, some- 
" what sloping, and pouring water upon it, rub it and cleanse it ; and so all the earthy and 
" drossy part being separated from the rest by the water, it runs off the board, and the gold 
" by reason of its weight remains behind. Then washing it several times again, they first rub 
" it lightly with their hands ; afterward they draw off any earthy and drossy matter with 
" slender sponges gently applied to the powdered dust, till it be clean, pure gold. At last 
" other workmen take it away by weight and measure, and these put it into earthen pots, and 
" accorcUng to the quantity of the gold in every pot they mix with it some lead, grains of 
" salt, a little tin and barley bran. Then, covering every pot close, and carefully 
" daubing them over with clay, they put them in a furnace, where they abide five days and 
" nights together ; then after a convenient time that they have stood to cool, nothing of the 
" other matter is to be found in the pots but only pure, refined gold, some little 
" thing diminished in the weight. And thus gold is prepared in the borders of Egypt, and 
" perfected and completed with so many and so great toils and vexations. And, therefore, 
" I cannot but conclude that nature itself teaches us, that as gold is got with labour and toil, 
" so it is kept with difficulty ; it creates everywhere the greatest cares ; and the use of it is 
" mixed both with pleasure and sorrow." 

The remains at Mt. Laurion show many of the ancient mills and concentration works 
of the Greeks, but we cannot be absolutely certain at what period in the history of these 
mines crushing and concentration were introduced. While the mines were worked with 


are placed two cross-beams joined together, one in front and one in the back, 
the ends of which arc mortised into the upright posts already mentioned. 
Through each mortise is bored a hole, into which is driven an iron clavis ; 
one end of the clavis has two horns, and the other end is perforated in order 
tliat a wedge driven through, binds the beams more firmly ; one horn of the 
clavis turns up and the other down. Three and a half feet above the cross- activity prior to 300 B.C. (see note 6, p. 27), it was quite feasible for the ancient miner 
to have smelted these argentiferous lead ores direct. However, at some period prior to the 
decadence of the mines in the 3rd Century B.C., tliere was in use an extensive system of milling 
and concentration. For the foUowinf; details we are indebted mostly to Edouard Anlaillon 
{Lrs Mines Du Laurion dans I' Aniiquite, Chap. iv.). The ore was first hand-picked (in 
i860 one portion of these rejects was estimated at 7,000,000 tons) and afterward it was 
apparently crushed in stone mortars some 16 to 24 inches in diameter, and thence passed to 
the mills. These mills, which crushed dry, were of the upper and lower millstone order, like 
the old-fashioned flour mills, and were turned by hand. The stones were capable of 
adjustment in such a way as to yield different sizes. The sand was sifted and the oversize 
returned to the mills. From the mills it was taken to washing plants, which consisted 
essentially of an inclined area, below which a canal, sometimes with riffles, lead through a 
series of basins, ultimately returning the water again to near the head of the area. These 
washing areas, constructed with great care, were made of stone cemented over smoothly, 
and were so efficiently done as to remain still intact. In washing, a workman brushed 
upward the pulp placed on the inclined upper portion of the area, thus concentrating there a 
considerable proportion of the galena ; what escaped had an opportunity to settle in the 
sequence of basins, somewhat on the order of the buddle. A quotation by Strabo (in, 2, 10) 
from the lost work of Polybius (200-125 ^.c.) also indicates concentration of lead-silver ores in 
Spain previous to the Christian era : " Polybius speaking of the silver mines of New Carthage, 
" tells us that they are extremely large, distant from the city about 20 stadia, and occupy a 
" circuit of 400 stadia, that there are 40,000 men regularly engaged in them, and that they 
" yield daily to the Roman people (a revenue of) 25,000 drachmae. The rest of the process 
" I pass over, as it is too long, but as for the silver ore collected, he tells us that it is broken 
" up, and sifted through sieves over water ; that what remains is to be again broken, and the 
" water having been strained off, it is to be sifted and broken a third time. The dregs which 
" remain after the fifth time are to be melted, and the lead being poured off, the silver is 
" obtained pure. These silver mines still exist ; however, they are no longer the property 
" of the state, neither these nor those elsewhere, but are possessed by private individuals. The 
" gold mines, on the contrary, nearly all belong to the state. Both at Castlon and other 
" places there are singular lead mines worked. They contain a small proportion of silver, but 
" not sufficient to pay for the expense of refining." (Hamilton's Translation, Vol. I., p. 222). 
While Pliny gives considerable information on vein mining and on alluvial washing, the 
following obscure passage (xxxiii, 21) appears to be the only reference to concentration of 
ores : " That which is dug out is crushed, washed, roasted, and ground to powder. This 
" powder is called apiiascudes, while the silver (lead ?) which becomes disengaged in the 
" furnace is called sudor (sweat). That which is ejected from the chimney is called scoria 
" as with other metals. In the case of gold this scoria is crushed and melted again." It is 
evident enough from these quotations that the Ancients by "washing" and "sifting," 
grasped the practical effect of differences in specific gravity of the various components of 
an ore. Such processes are barely mentioned by other mediaeval authors, such as Theo- 
philus, Biringuccio, etc., and thus the account in this chapter is the first tangible technical 
description. Lead mining has been in active progress in Derbyshire since the 13th century, 
and concentration was done on an inclined Isoard until the i6th century, when William 
Humpfrey (see below) introduced the jigging sieve. Some further notes on this industry will 
be found in note i, p. 77. However, the buddle and strake which appear at that time, are 
but modest improvements over the board described by Agatharchides in the quotation above. 
The ancient crushing appliances, as indicated by the ancient authors and by the Greek 
and Roman remains scattered over Europe, were hand-mortars and mill-stones of the same 
order as those with which they ground flour. The stamp-mill, the next advance over 
grinding in mill-stones, seems to have been invented some time late in the 15th or early 
in the 16th centuries, but who invented it is unknown. Beckmann (Hist, of Inventions, 
". P- 335) says : " In the year 1519 the process of sifting and wet-stamping was established 
" at Joachimsthal by Paul Grommestetter, a native of Schwarz, named on that account 
" the Schwarzer, whom Melzer praises as an ingenious and active washer ; and we are 
" told that he had before introduced the same improvements at Schneeberg. Soon after, 
" that, is in 1521, a large stamping-work was erected at Joachimsthal, and the process 
" of washing was begun. A considerable saving was thus made, as a great many metallic 
" particles were before left in the washed sand, which was either thrown away or used as 
" mortar for building. In the year 1525, Hans Portner employed at ScUackenwalde the 


beams, two other cross-beams of the same kind are again joined in a similar 
manner ; these cross-beams have square openings, in which the iron-shod 
stamps are inserted. The stamps are not far distant from each other, and 
fit closely in the cross-beams. Each stamp has a tappet at the back, which 
requires to be daubed with grease on the lower side that it can be raised 
more easily. For each stamp there are on a cam-shaft, two cams, rounded on 

" wet method of stamping, whereas before that period the ore there was ground. In the 
" Harz this invention was introduced at Wildenmann by Peter Philip, who was assay- 
" master there soon after the works at the Upper Harz were resumed by Duke Henry the 
" Younger, about the year 1524. This we learn from the papers of Herdan Hacke or 
" Haecke, who was preacher at Wildenmann in 1572." 

In view of the great amount of direct and indirect reference to tin mining in Cornwall, 
covering four centuries prior to Agricola, it would be natural to expect some statement 
bearing upon the treatment of ore. Curiously enough, while alluvial washing and smelting of 
the black-tin are often referred to, there is nothing that we have been able to find, prior to 
Richard Carew's " Survey of Cornwall " (London, 1602, p. 12) which gives any tangible 
evidence on the technical phases of ore-dressing. In any event, an inspection of charters, 
tax-rolls. Stannary Court proceedings, etc., prior to that date gives the impression that vein 
mining was a very minor portion of the source of production. Although Carew's work 
dates 45 years after Agricola, his description is of interest : "As much almost dooth it 
" exceede credite, that the Tynne, for and in so small quantitie digged up with so great toyle, 
" and passing afterwards thorow the managing of so many hands, ere it comes to sale, should 
" be any way able to acquite the cost : for being once brought above ground in the stone, 
" it is first broken in peeces with hammers ; and then carryed, either in waynes, or on horses' 
" backs, to a stamping mill, where three, and in some places sixe great logges of timber, 
" bounde at the ends with yron, and lifted up and downe by a wheele, driven with the water, 
" doe break it smaller. If the stones be over-moyst, they are dried by the fire in an yron 
" cradle or grate. From the stamping mill, it passeth to the crazing mill, which betweene 
' two grinding stones, turned also with a water-wheel, bruseth the same to a find sand ; 
" howbeit, of late times they mostly use wet stampers, and so have no need of the crazing 
" mills for their best stuffe, but only for the crust of their tayles. The streame, after it hath 
" forsaken the mill, is made to fall by certayne degrees, one somewhat distant from another ; 
" upon each of which, at every discent, lyeth a greene turfe, three or foure foote square, and 
" one foote thick. On this the Tinner layeth a certayne portion of the sandie Tinne, and 
" with his shovel softly tosseth the same to and fro, that, through this stirring, the water 
" which runneth over it may wash away the light earth from the Tinne, which of a heavier 
" substance lyeth fast on the turfe. Having so clensed one portion, he setteth the same 
" aside, a.nd beginneth with another, until his labour take end with his taske. The best of 
" those turfes (for all sorts serve not) are fetched about two miles to the eastwards of S. 
" Michael's Mount, where at low water they cast aside the sand, and dig them up : they 
" are full of rootes of trees, and on some of them nuts have been found, which confirmeth 
" my former assertion of the sea's intrusion. After it is thus washed, they put the remnant 
" into a wooden dish, broad, flat, and round, being about two foote over, and having two 
" handles fastened at the sides, by which they softly shogge the same to and fro in the water 
" betweene their legges, as they sit over it, untill whatsoever of the earthie substance that 
" was yet left be flitted away. Some of later time, with a sleighter invention, and lighter 
" labour, doe cause certayne boyes to stir it up and down with their feete, which worketh 
" the same effect ; the residue, after this often clensing, they call Blacke Tynne." 

It will be noticed that the " wet stampers " and the buddle — worked with " boyes 
"feete" — are "innovations of late times." And the interesting question arises as to 
whether Cornwall did not derive the stamp-mill, buddle, and strake, from the Germans. 
The first adequate detafled description of Cornish appliances is that of Pryce (Mineralogia 
Cornubiensis, London, 1778) where the apparatus is identical with that described by Agricola 
130 years before. The word " stamper " of Cornwall is of German origin, from siampfer, 
or, as it is often written in old German works, stamper. However, the pursuit of the subject 
through etymology ends here, for no derivatives in German can be found for buddle, tye, 
strake, or other collateral terms. The first tangible evidence of German influence is to be 
found in Carew who, continuing after the above quotation, states : " But sithence I gathered 
" stickes to the building of this poore nest. Sir Francis Godolphin (whose kind helpe hath much 
" advanced this my playing labour) entertained a Dutch Mynerall man, and taking light from 
" his experience, but building thereon farre more profitable conclusions of his owne invention, 
" hath practised a more saving way in these matters, and besides, made Tynne with good 
" profit of that refuse which Tynners rejected as nothing worth." Beyond this quotation 
we can find no direct evidence of the influence of " Dutch Mynerall men " in Cornish tin 
mining at this time. There can be no doubt, however, that in copper mining in Cornwall 
and elsewhere in England, the " Dutch Mynerall men " did play a large part in the latter 


the outer end, which alternately raise the stamp, in order that, by its dropping 
into the mortar, it may with its iron head pound and crush the rock which 
has been thrown under it. To the cam-shaft is fixed a water-wheel whose 
buckets are turned by water-power. Instead of doors, the mouth of the 
mortar has a board, which is fitted into notches cut out of the front of the block. 
This board can be raised, in order that when the mouth is open, the workmen 

part of the i6th Century. Pettus (Fodinee Regales. London, 1670, p. 20) states that " about 
" the third year of Queen Elizabeth (1561) she by the advice of her Council sent o\-er for 
" some Germans experienced in mines, and being supplied, she, on the tenth of October, in the 
" sixth of her reign, granted the mines of eight counties .... to Houghsetter, a 
" German whose name and family still continue in Cardiganshire." Elizabeth granted 
large mining rights to various Germans, and the opening paragraphs of two out of several 
Charters may be quoted in point. This grant is dated 1565, and in part reads : " Elizabeth, 
" by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. 
" To all Men to whom these Letters Patents shall come, Greeting. Where heretofore we 
" have granted Privileges to Cornelius de Voz, for the Mining and Digging in our Realm 
" of England, for Allom and Copperas, and for divers Ewers of Metals that were to be found 
" in digging for the said Allom and Copperas, incidently and consequently without fraud 
" or guile, as by the same our Privilege may appear. And where we also moved, by credible 
" Report to us made, of one Daniel Houghsetter, a German born, and of his Skill and Know- 
" ledge of and in all manner of Mines, of Metals and Minerals, have given and granted 
" Privilege to Thomas Thurland, Clerk, one of our Chaplains, and Master of the Hospital of 
" Savo}', and to the same Daniel, for digging and mining for all manner of Ewers of Gold, 
" Silver, Copper, and Quicksilver, within our Counties of York, Lancaster, Cumberland, 
" Westmorland, Cornwall, Devon, Gloucester, and Worcester, and within our Principality 
" of Wales ; and with the same further to deal, as by our said Privilege thereof granted and 
" made to the said Thomas Thurland and Daniel Houghsetter may appear. And we now 
" being minded that the said Commodities, and all other Treasures of the Earth, in all other 
" Places of our Realm of England . . . ." On the same date another grant reads : 
" Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the 
" Faith, &c. To all Men to whom these our Letters Patents shall come, Greeting. Where 
" we have received credible Information that our faithful and well-beloved Subject William 
" Humfrey, Saymaster of our Mint within our Tower of London, by his great Endeavour, 
" Labour, and Charge, hath brought into this our Realm of England one Christopher Shutz, 
"an Almain, born at St. Anneu Berg, under the Obedience of the Fleeter of Saxony; a 
" Workman as it is reported, of great Cunning, Knowledge, and Experience, as well in the 
" finding of the Calamin Stone, call'd in Latin, lapis calaminaris, and in the right and proper 
" use and commodity thereof, for the Composition of the mix'd Metal commonly call'd 
" latten, etc." Col. Grant- Francis, in his most valuable collection (Smelting of Copper in 
the Swansea District, London, 1881) has published a collection of correspondence relating 
to early mining and smelting operations in Great Britain. And among them (p. i., etc.) are 
letters in the years 1583-6 from William Carnsewe and others to Thomas Smyth, with regard 
to the first smelter erected at Neath, which was based upon copper mines in Cornwall. He 
mentions " Mr. Weston's (a partner) provydence in bringynge hys Dutch myners hether 
" to aplye such businys in this countrye ys more to be commendyd than his ignorance of 
" our countrymen's actyvytyes in suche matters." The principal " Dutche Mineral Master " 
referred to was one Ulrick Frosse, who had charge of the mine at Perin Sands in Cornwall, and 
subsequently of the smelter at Neath. Further on is given (p. 25) a Report by Jochim 
Gaunse upon the Smelting of copper ores at Keswick in Cumberland in 1581, referred to in 
note 2, p. 267. The Daniel Hochstetter mentioned in the Charter above, together with 
other German and English gentlemen, formed the " Company of Mines Royal " and among 
the properties worked were those with which Gaunse's report is concerned. There is in 
the Record Office, London (Exchequer K.R. Com. Derby 611. Eliz.) the record of an 
interesting inquisition into Derbyshire methods in which a then recent great improvement 
was the jigging sieve, the introduction of which was due to William Humphrey (mentioned 
above). It is possible that he learned of it from the German with whom he was associated. 
Much more evidence of the activity of the Germans in English mining at this period can 
be adduced. 

On the other hand, Cornwall has laid claims to having taught the art of tin mining 
and metallurgy to the Germans. Matthew Paris, a Benedictine monk, by birth an English- 
man, who died in 1259, relates (Historia Major Angliae, London, 1571) that a Cornishman 
who fled to Germany on account of a murder, first discovered tin there in 1241, and that in 
consequence the price of tin fell greatly. This statement is recalled with great persistence 
by many writers on Cornwall. (Camden, Britannia. London, 1586 ; Borlase, Natural 
History of Cornwall, Oxford, 1758 ; Pryce, Mineralogia Cornubiensis, London, 1778, p. 70, 
and others). 


A— Mortar. B— Upright posts, C— Cross-beams. D— Stamps. E— Their heads. 
F — .4xLE (cam-shaft). G— Tooth of the stamp (tappet). H — Teeth of axle (cams). 

can remove with a shovel the fine sand, and hkewise the coarse sand and 
broken rock, into which the rocks have been crushed ; this board can be 
lowered, so that the mouth thus being closed, the fresh rock thrown in may 
be crushed with the iron-shod stamps. If an oak block is not available, 
two timbers are placed on the ground and joined together with iron clamps, 
each of the timbers being six feet long, a foot wide, and a foot and a half thick. 
Such depth as should be allowed to the mortar, is obtained by cutting out the 
first beam to a width of three-quarters of a foot and to a length of two and a 
third and one twenty-fourth of a foot. In the bottom of the part thus dug 
out, there should be laid a very hard rock, a foot thick and three-quarters of a 
foot wide ; about it, if any space remains, earth or sand should be filled in 
and pounded. On the front, this bed rock is covered with a plank ; this 
'•ock when it has been broken, should be taken away and replaced by 
another. A smaller mortar having room for only three stamps may also be 
made in the same manner. 

The stamp-stems are made of small square timbers nine feet long and 
half a foot wide each way. The iron head of each is made in the following 



way ; the lower part of the head is three palms long and the upper part the 
same length. The lower part is a palm square in the middle for two palms, 
then below this, for a length of two digits it gradually spreads until it 
becomes five digits square ; above the middle part, for a length of two 
digits, it again gradually swells out until it becomes a palm and a half square. 
Higher up, where the head of the shoe is enclosed in the stem, it is bored 
through and similarly the stem itself is pierced, and through the opening of 
each, there passes a broad iron wedge, which prevents the head falling off the 
stem. To prevent the stamp head from becoming broken by the constant 
striking of fragments of ore or rocks, there is placed around it a quadrangular 
iron band a digit thick, seven digits wide, and six digits deep. Those who 
use three stamps, as is common, make them much larger, and they are 
made square and three palms broad each way ; then the iron shoe 
of each has a total length of two feet and a palm ; at the lower end, it is 
hexagonal, and at that point it is seven digits wide and thick. The lower 
part of it which projects beyond the stem is one foot and two palms long ; 
the upper part, which is enclosed in the stem, is three palms long ; the 

A— Stamp. B— Stem cut out in lower part. C— Shoe, D— The other shoe, 


H— Angular cam-shaft. I— Cams. K— Pair of compasses. 



lower part is a palm wide and thick ; then gradually the upper part becomes 
narrower and thinner, so that at the top it is three digits and a half wide and 
two thick. It is bored through at the place where the angles have been 
somewhat cut away ; the hole is three digits long and one wide, and is one 
digit's distance from the top. There are some who make that part of the 
head which is enclosed in the stem, barbed and grooved, in order that when 
the hooks have been fixed into the stem and wedges fitted to the grooves, 
it may remain tightly fixed, especially when it is also held with two quad- 
rangular iron bands. Some divide the cam-shaft with a compass into six 
sides, others into nine ; it is better for it to be divided into twelve sides, in 
order that successively one side may contain a cam and the next be without one. 
The water-wheel is entirely enclosed under a quadrangular box, in case 
either the deep snows or ice in winter, or storms, may impede its running and 
its turning around. The joints in the planks are stopped all around with 
moss. The cover, however, has one opening, through which there passes 
a race bringing down water which, dropping on the buckets of the wheel, 
turns it round, and flows out again in the lower race under the box. The 
spokes of the water-wheel are not infrequently mortised into the middle of 

A— Box. Although the upper part is not open, it is shown open here, that the 




the cam-shaft ; in this case the cams on both sides raise the stamps, which 
either both crush dry or wet ore, or else the one set crushes dry ore and the 
other set wet ore, just as circumstances require the one or the other ; 
further, when the one set is raised and the iron clavises in them are fixed 
into openings in the first cross-beam, the other set alone crushes the ore. 

Broken rock or stones, or the coarse or fine sand, arc removed from 
the mortar of this machine and heaped up, as is also done with the same 
materials when raked out of the dump near the mine. They are thrown 
by a workman into a box, which is open on the top and the front, and is three 
feet long and nearly a foot and a half wide. Its sides are sloping and made 
of planks, but its bottom is made of iron wire netting, and fastened with 
wire to two iron rods, which are fixed to the two side planks. This bottom 
has openings, through which broken rock of the size of a hazel nut cannot 
pass ; the pieces which are too large to pass through are removed by the 
workman, who again places them under stamps, while those which have 
passed through, together with the coarse and fine sand, he collects in a large 
vessel and keeps for the washing. When he is performing his laborious 






task he suspends the box from a beam by two ropes. This box may rightly 
be called a quadrangular sieve, as may also that kind which follows. 

Some employ a sieve shaped like a wooden bucket, bound with two iron 
hoops ; its bottom, like that of the box, is made of iron wire netting. 
They place this on two small cross-planks fixed upon a post set in the ground. 
Some do not fix the post in the ground, but stand it on the ground untU 
there arises a heap of the material which has passed through the sieve, and 
in this the post is fixed. With an iron shovel the workman throws into this 
sieve broken rock, small stones, coarse and fine sand raked out of the dump ; 
holding the handles of the sieve in his hands, he agitates it up and down in 

A — Sieve. B— Small planks. C — Post. D — Bottom of sieve. E— Open box. 
F — Small cross-beam. G — Upright posts. 

order that by this movement the dust, fine and coarse sand, small stones, and 
fine broken rock may fall through the bottom. Others do not use a sieve, but 
an open box, whose bottom is likewise covered with wire netting ; this they 
fix on a small cross-beam fastened to two upright beams and tilt it backward 
and forward. 

Some use a sieve made of copper, having square copper handles on both 
sides, and through these handles runs a pole, of which one end projects three- 
quarters of a foot beyond one handle ; the workman then places that end in 
a rope which is suspended from a beam, and rapidly shakes the pole alter- 



nately backward and forward. By this movement the small particles 
fall through the bottom of the sieve. In order that the end of the pole- 
may be easily placed in the rope, a stick, two palms long, holds open the 
lower part of the rope as it hangs double, each end of the rope being tied to 
the beam ; part of the rope, however, hangs beyond the stick to a length of 
half a foot. A large box is also used for this purpose, of which the bottom 
is either made of a plank full of holes or of iron netting, as are the other 
boxes. An iron bale is fastened from the middle of the planks which form 
its sides ; to this bale is fastened a rope which is suspended from a wooden 
beam, in order that the box may be moved or tilted in any direction. 

-Box. B — Bale. 
G — Sieve. 

C — Rope. D — Beam. E — Handles. F — Five-toothed rake. 
H — Its handles. I — Pole. K^Rope. L — Timber. 

There are two handles on each end, not unlike the handles of a wheel- 
barrow ; these are held by two workmen, who shake the box to and fro. 
This box is the one principally used by the Germans who dwell in the 
Carpathian mountains. The smaller particles are separated from the larger 
ones by means of three boxes and two sieves, in order that those which 
pass through each, bemg of equal size, may be washed together ; for the 
bottoms of both the boxes and sieves have openings which do not let 
through broken rock of the size of a hazel nut. As for the dry remnants 


in the bottoms of the sieves, if they contain any metal the miners put them 
under the stamps. The larger pieces of broken rock are not separated from 
the smaller by this method until the men and boys, with five-toothed rakes, 
have separated them from the rock fragments, the little stones, the 
coarse and the fine sand and earth, which have been thrown on to the dumps. 
At Neusohl, in the Carpathians, there are mines where the veins of copper 
lie in the ridges and peaks of the mountains, and in order to save expense 
being incurred by a long and difficult transport, along a rough and sometimes 
very precipitous road, one workman sorts over the dumps which have been 
thrown out from the mines, and another carries in a wheelbarrow the earth, 
fine and coarse sand, little stones, broken rock, and even the poorer ore, and 
overturns the barrow into a long open chute fixed to a steep rock. This 
chute is held apart by small cleats, and the material slides down a distance of 
about one hundred and fifty feet into a short box, whose bottom is made of a 
thick copper plate, full of holes. This box has two handles by which it is 
shaken to and fro, and at the top there are two bales made of hazel sticks, 
in which is fixed the iron hook of a rope hung from the branch of a tree or 
from a wooden beam which projects from an upright post. From time to 
time a sifter pulls this box and thrusts it violently against the tree or post, 
by which means the small particles passing through its holes descend down 
another chute into another short box, in whose bottom there are smaller 
holes. A second sifter, in like manner, thrusts this box violently against a 
tree or post, and a second time the smaller particles are received into a third 
chute, and slide down into a third box, whose bottom has still smaller holes. 
A third sifter, in like manner, thrusts this box violently against a tree or post, 
and for the third time the tiny particles fall through the holes upon a table. 
While the workman is bringing in the barrow, another load which has been 
sorted from the dump, each sifter withdraws the hooks from his bale 
and carries away his own box and overturns it, heaping up the broken rock 
or sand which remains in the bottom of it. As for the tiny particles which 
have slid down upon the table, the first washer — for there are as many 
washers as sifters — sweeps them off and in a tub nearly full of water, washes 
them through a sieve whose holes are smaller than the holes of the third box. 
When this tub has been filled with the material which has passed through 
the sieve, he draws out the plug to let the water run away ; then he removes 
with a shovel that which has settled in the tub and throws it upon the table 
of a second washer, who washes it in a sieve with smaller holes. The sedi- 
ment which has this time settled in his tub, he takes out and throws on the 
table of a third washer, who washes it in a sieve with the smallest holes. 
The copper concentrates which have settled in the last tub are taken out and 
smelted ; the sediment which each washer has removed with a limp is 
washed on a canvas strake. The sifters at Altenberg, in the tin mines of 
the mountains bordering on Bohemia, use such boxes as I have described, 
hung from wooden beams. These, however, are a little larger and open in 
the front, through which opening the broken rock which has not gone through 
the sieve can be shaken out immediately by thrusting the sieve against its post. 



A — Workman carrying broken rock in a barrow. B— First chute. C— First box. 
D— Its handles. E— Its bales. F— Rope. G— Beam. H— Post. I— Second 
CHUTE. K — Second box. L— Third chute. M— Third box. N — First table. 
O— First sieve. P— First tub. Q— Second table. R— Second sieve. S— Second 
TUB. T — Third table. V — Third sieve. X — Third tub. Y~Plugs. 



If the ore is rich in metal, the earth, the fine and coarse sand, and the 
pieces of rock which have been broken from the hanging-wall, are dug out of 
the dump with a spade or rake and, with a shovel, are thrown into a large sieve 
or basket, and washed in a tub nearly full of water. The sieve is generally 
a cubit broad and half a foot deep ; its bottom has holes of such size that the 
larger pieces of broken rock cannot pass through them, for this material rests 
upon the straight and cross iron wires, which at their points of contact are 
bound by small iron clips. The sieve is held together by an iron band and by 
two cross-rods likewise of iron ; the rest of the sieve is made of staves in the 
shape of a little tub, and is bound with two iron hoops ; some, however, 
bind it with hoops of hazel or oak, but in that case they use three of them. 
On each side it has handles, which are held in the hands by whoever washes 
the metaUiferous material. Into this sieve a boy throws the material to be 
washed, and a woman shakes it up and down, turning it alternately to the 

A — Sieve. B — Its handles. C — Tub. D — Bottom of sieve made of iron wires. 
E — Hoop. F — Rods. G — Hoops. H — Woman shaking the sieve. I — Boy supplying 
IT with material which requires washing. K — Man with shovel removing from 
the tub the material which has passed through the sieve. 



right and to the left, and in this way passes through it the smaller pieces of 
earth, sand, and broken rock. The larger pieces remain in the sieve, and 
these are taken out, placed in a heap and put under the stamps. The 
mud, together with line sand, coarse sand, and broken rock, whicii remain 
after the water has been drawn out of the tub, is removed by an iron shovel 
and washed in the sluice, about which 1 will speak a little later. 

The Bolicmians use a basket a foot and a half broad and half a foot deep, 
bound together by osiers. It has two handles by which it is grasped, when 
they move it about and shake it in the tub or in a small pool nearly full 
of water. All that passes through it into the tub or pool they take out and 
wash in a bowl, which is higher in the back part and lower and fiat in the 
front ; it is grasped by the two handles and shaken in the water, the lighter 
particles flowing away, and the heavier and mineral portion sinking to the 

\ — Basket. B — Its handles. C — Dish. D — Its back part. E — Its front part. 
F— Handles of same. 

Gold ore, after being broken vfith hammers or crushed by the stamps, 
and even tin ore, is further milled to powder. The upper millstone, which 



is turned by water-power, is made in the following way. An axle is rounded 
to compass measure, or is made angular, and its iron pinions turn in iron 
sockets which are held in beams. The axle is turned by a water-wheel, the 
buckets of which are fixed to the rim and are struck by the force of a stream. 

A — Axle. B — Water-wheel. C — Toothed drum. D — Drum made of rundles. 
E — Iron axle. F — Millstone. G — Hopper. H — Round wooden plate. 

I — Trough. 

Into the axle is mortised a toothed drum, whose teeth are fixed in the side 
of the rim. These teeth turn a second drum of rundles, which are made of 
very hard material. This drum surrounds an iron axle which has a pinion 
at the bottom and revolves in an iron cup in a timber. At the top of the 
iron axle is an iron tongue, dove-tailed into the miUstone, and so when the 
teeth of the one drum turn the rundles of the other, the millstone is made to 
turn round. An overhanging machine supplies it with ore through a hopper, 
and the ore, being ground to powder, is discharged from a round wooden plate 
into a trough and flowing away through it accumulates on the floor ; 
from there the ore is carried away and reserved for washing. Since this 


method of grinding requires the millstone to be now raised and now 
lowered, the timber in whose socket the iron of the pinion axle revolves, rests 
upon two beams, which can be raised and lowered. 

There are three mills in use in milling gold ores, especially for quartz" 
which is not lacking in metal. They are not all turned by water-power, 
but some by the strength of men, and two of them even by the power 
of beasts of burden. The first revolving one differs from the next only 
in its driving wheel, which is closed in and turned by men treading it, or by 
horses, which are placed inside, or by asses, or even by strong goats ; the 
eyes of these beasts are covered by linen bands. The second mill, both 
when pushed and turned round, differs from the two above by having an 
upright axle in the place of the horizontal one ; this axle has at its lower end 
a disc, which two workmen turn by treading back its cleats with their feet, 
though frequently one man sustains all the labour ; or sometimes there 
projects from the axle a pole which is turned by a horse or an ass, for which 
reason it is called an asinaria. The toothed drum which is at the upper end 
of the axle turns the drum which is made of rundles, and together with it the 

The third mill is turned round and round, and not pushed by hand ; but 
between this and the others there is a great distinction, for the lower 
millstone is so shaped at the top that it can hold within it the upper mill- 
stone, which revolves around an iron axle ; this axle is fastened in the 
centre of the lower stone and passes through the upper stone. A workman, 
by grasping in his hand an upright iron bar placed in the upper millstone, 
moves it round. The middle of the upper millstone is bored through, and 
the ore, being thrown into this opening, falls down upon the lower millstone 
and is there ground to powder, which gradually runs out through its opening ; 
it is washed by various methods before it is mixed with quicksilver, 
which I will explain presently. 

Some people build a machine which at one and the same time can crush, 
grind, cleanse, and wash the gold ore, and mix the gold with quicksilver. 
This machine has one water-wheel, which is turned by a stream striking its 
buckets ; the main axle on one side of the water-wheel has long cams, which 
raise the stamps that crush the dry ore. Then the crushed ore is thrown 
into the hopper of the upper millstone, and gradually falling through the 
opening, is ground to powder. The lower millstone is square, but has a round 
depression in which the round, upper millstone turns, and it has an outlet 
from which the powder falls into the first tub. A vertical iron axle is dove- 
tailed into a cross-piece, which is in turn fixed into the upper millstone ; 
the upper pinion of this axle is held in a bearing fixed in a beam ; the drum 
of the vertical axle is made of rundles, and is turned by the toothed drum 
on the main axle, and thus turns the millstone. The powder falls continually 
into the first tub, together with water, and from there runs into a second tub 
which is set lower down, and out of the second into a third, which is the 
lowest ; from the third, it generally flows into a small trough hewn out of a 

^^Lapidibus liquesceniihus. (See note 15, p. 380). 


A— First mill. B— Wheel turned by goats. C— Second mill. D— Disc of 





tree trunk. Quicksilver^^ is placed in each tub, across which is fixed a small 
plank, and through a hole in the middle of each plank there passes a small 
upright axle, which is enlarged above the plank to prevent it from dropping 
into the tub lower than it should. At the lower end of the axle three sets 
of paddles intersect, each made from two little boards fixed to the axle 
opposite each other. The upper end of this axle has a pinion held by a 
bearing set in a beam, and around each of these axles is a small drum made 
of rundles, each of which is turned by a small toothed drum on a horizontal 

"Historical Note on Amalgamation. The recovery of gold by the use of mercury 
possibly dates from Roman times, but the application of the process to silver does not 
seem to go back prior to the i6th Century. Quicksilver was well-known to the Greeks, 
and is described by Theophrastus (105) and others (see note 58, p. 432, on quicksilver). 
However, the Greeks made no mention of its use for amalgamation, and, in fact, 
Dioscorides (v, 70) says " it is kept in vessels of glass, lead, tin or silver ; if kept in 
" vessels of any other kind it consumes them and flows away." It was used by them 
for medicinal purposes. The Romans amalgamated gold with mercury, but whether they 
took advantage of the principle to recover gold from ores we do not know. Vitruvius 
(VII, 8) makes the following statement : — " If quicksilver be placed in a vessel and a 
" stone of a hundred pounds' weight be placed on it, it will swim at the top, and will, 
" notwithstanding its weight, be incapable of pressing the liquid so as to break or separate 
" it. If this be taken out, and only a single scruple of gold be put in, that will not swim, but 
" immediately descend to the bottom. This is a proof that the gravity of a body does not 
" depend on its weight, but on its nature. Quicksilver is used for many purposes ; without 
" it, neither silver nor brass can be properly gilt. When gold is embroidered on a garment 
" which is worn out and no longer fit for use, the cloth is burnt over the fire in earthen pots ; 
" the ashes are thrown into water and quicksilver added to them ; this collects all the 
" particles of gold and unites with them. The water is then poured off and the residuum 
" placed in a cloth, which, when squeezed with the hands, suffers the liquid quicksilver to 
" pass through the pores of the cloth, but retains the gold in a mass within it." (Gwilt's 
Trans., p. 217). Pliny is rather more explicit (xxxiii, 32) : " All floats on it (quicksilver) 
" except gold. This it draws into itself, and on that account is the best means of purifying ; 
" for, on being repeatedly agitated in earthen pots it casts out the other things and the 
" impurities. These things being rejected, in order that it may give up the gold, it is squeezed 
" in prepared skins, through which, exuding like perspiration, it leaves the gold pure." It 
may be noted particularly that both these authors state that gold is the only substance that 
does not float, and, moreover, nowhere do we find any reference to silver combining with 
mercury, although Beckmann (Hist, of Inventions, Vol. i, p. 14) not only states that the 
above passage from Pliny refers to silver, but in further error, attributes the origin of silver 
amalgamation of ores to the Spaniards in the Indies. 

The Alchemists of the Middle Ages were well aware that silver would amalgamate with 
mercury. There is, however, difficulty in any conclusion that it was applied by them to 
separating silver or gold from ore. The involved gibberish in which most of their utterances 
was couched, obscures most of their reactions in any event. The School of Geber (Appendix B) 
held that all metals were a compound of " spiritual " mercury and sulphur, and they clearly 
amalgamated silver with mercury, and separated them by distillation. The Probierhiichlein 
(1520 ?) describes a method of recovering silver from the cement used in parting gold and 
silver, by mixing the cement (silver chlorides) with quicksilver. Agricola nowhere in 
this work mentions the treatment of silver ores by amalgamation, although he was familiar 
with Biringuccio (De La Pirotechnia), as he himself mentions in the Preface. This work, 
pubUshed at least ten years before De Re MeialUca, contains the first comprehensive 
account of silver amalgamation. There is more than usual interest in the description, 
because, not only did it precede De Re Metallica, but it is also a specific explanation 
of the fundamental essentials of the Patio Process long before the date when the Spaniards 
could possibly have invented that process in Mexico. We quote Mr. A. Dick's translation 
from Percy (Metallurgy of Silver and Gold, p. 560) : 

" He was certainly endowed with much useful and ingenious thought who invented 
" the short method of extracting metal from the sweepings produced by those arts which have 
" to do with gold and silver, every substance left in the refuse by smelters, and also the 
" substance from certain ores themselves, without the labour of fusing, but by the sole 
" means and virtue of mercury. To effect this, a large basin is first constructed of stone or 
" timber and walled, into which is fitted a millstone made to turn like that of a mill. Into the 
" hollow of this basin is placed matter containing gold (della materia vra che iiene oro), well 
" ground in a mortar and afterward washed and dried ; and, with the above-mentioned 


axle, one end of which is mortised into the large horizontal axle, and the 
other end is held in a hollow covered with thick iron plates in a beam. Thus 
the paddles, of which there are three sets in each tub, turn round, and 
agitating the powder, thoroughly mix it with water and separate the minute 
particles of gold from it, and these are attracted by the quicksilver and 
purified. The water carries away the waste. The quicksilver is poured 
into a bag made of leather or cloth woven from cotton, and when this bag is 
squeezed, as I have described elsewhere, the quicksilver drips through it into 
a jar placed underneath. The pure gold^^ remains in the bag. Some people 
substitute three broad sluices for the tubs, each of which has an angular axle 
on which are set six narrow spokes, and to them are fixed the same number of 
broad paddles ; the water that is poured in strikes these paddles and turns 
them round, and they agitate the powder which is mixed with the water and 
separate the metal from it. If the powder which is being treated contains 
gold particles, the first method of washing is far superior, because the quick- 
silver in the tubs immediately attracts the gold ; if it is powder in which 
are the small black stones from which tin is smelted, this latter method is 
not to be despised. It is very advantageous to place interlaced fir boughs 
in the sluices in which such tin-stuff is washed, after it has run through the 
launders from the mills, because the fine tin-stone is either held back by the 
twigs, or if the current carries them along they fall away from the water 
and settle down. 

" millstone, it is ground while being moistened with vinegar, or water, in which has been 
" dissolved corrosive sublimate (solimato), verdigris {verde rame), and common salt. Over 
" these materials is then put as much mercury as will cover them ; they are then stirred for 
" an hour or two, by turning the millstone, either by hand, or horse-power, according 
" to the plan adopted, bearing in mind that the more the mercury and the materials are 
" bruised together by the millstone, the more the mercury may be trusted to have taken up 
" the substance which the materials contain. The mercury, in this condition, can then be 
" separated from the earthy matter b^' a sieve, or by washing, and thus you will recover 
" the auriferous mercury {el vro mercurio). After this, by driving off the mercury by 
" means of a flask (i.e., by heating in a retort or an alembic), or by passing it through a bag, 
" there will remain, at the bottom, the gold, silver, or copper, or whatever metal was placed 
" in the basin under the millstone to be ground. Having been desirous of knowing this 
" secret, I gave to him who taught it to me a ring with a diamond worth 25 ducats ; he also 
" required me to give him the eighth part of any profit I might make by using it. This I 
" wished to tell you, not that you should return the ducats to me for teaching you the secret, 
" but in order that you should esteem it all the more and hold it dear." 

In another part of the treatise Biringuccio states that washed (concentrated) ores may 
be ultimately reduced either by lead or mercury. Concerning these silver concentrates 
he writes : " Afterward drenching them with vinegar in which has been put green 
" copper (i.e., verdigris) ; or drenching them with water in which has been dissolved vitriol 
" and green copper. . . ." He next describes how this material should be ground with 
mercury. The question as to who was the inventor of silver amalgamation will probably 
never be cleared up. According to UUoa (Relacion Historica Del Viage a la America 
Meridional, Madrid, 1748) Dom Pedro Fernandes De Velasco discovered the process in Mexico 
in 1566. The earliest technical account is that of Father Joseph De Acosta (Historia Natural 
y Moral de las Indias, Seville, 1590, English trans. Edward Grimston, London, 1604, re- 
published by the Hakluyt Society, 1880). Acosta was born in 1540, and spent the years 
1570 to 1585 in Peru, and 1586 in Mexico. It may be noted that Potosi was discovered 
in 1545. He states that refining silver with rnercury was introduced at Potosi by Pedro 
Fernandes de Velasco from Mexico in 1571, and states (Grimston's Trans., Vol. i, p. 2ig) : 
" . . . They put the powder of the metall into the vessels upon furnaces, whereas they 
" anoint it and mortifie it with brine, putting to every fiftie quintalles of powder five 
" quintalles of salt. And this they do for that the salt separates the earth and filth, to the 
" end the quicksilver may the more easily draw the silver unto it. After, they put quick- 

^^Aiirtim in ea remanet purum. This same error of assuming squeezed amalgam to 
be pure gold occurs in Pliny : see previous footnote. 



A — Water-wheel. B— Axle. C — Stamp. D— Hopper in the upper millstone. 
E — Opening passing through the centre. F — Lower millstone. G — Its 


M — Drum of rundles on the iron axle. N — Toothed drum of main axle. O — Tubs. 
P — ^The small planks. Q — Small upright axles. R — Enlarged part of one. 
S— Their paddles. T— Their drums which are made of rundles. V — Small 
horizontal axle set into the end of the main axle. X — Its toothed drums. 
Y— Three sluices. Z — Their small axles. AA — Spokes. BB — Paddles. 


Seven methods of washing are in common use for the ores of many 
metals ; for they are washed either in a simple huddle, or in a divided huddle, 
or in an ordinary strake, or in a large tank, or in a short strake, or in a canvas 
strake, or in a jigging sieve. Other methods of washing are either peculiar 
to some particular metal, or are combined with the method of crushing wet 
ore by stamps. 

A simple huddle is made in the following way. In the first place, the head 
is higher than the rest of the huddle, and is three feet long and a foot and a half 
broad ; this head is made of planks laid upon a timber and fastened, and 
on both sides, side-boards are set up so as to hold the water, which flows in 
through a pipe or trough, so that it shall fall straight down. The middle of 
the head is somewhat depressed in order that the broken rock and the larger 
metallic particles may settle into it. The huddle is sunk into the earth to a 
depth of three-quarters of a foot below the head, and is twelve feet long and 
a foot and a half wide and deep ; the bottom and each side are lined with 
planks to prevent the earth, when it is softened by the water, from faUing 
in or from absorbing the metallic particles. The lower end of the huddle is 
obstructed by a board, which is not as high as the sides. To this straight 
huddle there is joined a second transverse buddle, six feet long and a foot 
and a half wide and deep, similarly Uned with planks ; at the lower 

' silver into a piece of holland and presse it out upon the metall, which goes forth hke a dewe, 
' alwaies turning and stirring the metall, to the end it may be well incorporate. Before the 
' invention of these furnaces of fire, they did often mingle their metall with quicksilver in 
' great troughes, letting it settle some daies, and did then mix it and stirre it againe, until 
' they thought all the quicksilver were well incorporate with the silver, the which continued 
' twentie daies and more, and at least nine daies." Frequent mention of the different 
methods of silver amalgamation is made by the Spanish writers subsequent to this time, the 
best account being that of Alonso Barba, a priest. Barba was a native of Lepe, in Andalusia, 
and followed his calling at various places in Peru from about 1600 to about 1630, and at one 
time held the Curacy of St. Bernard at Potosi. In 1640 he published at Madrid his Arte de 
los Metales, etc., in five books. The first two books of this work were translated into English 
by the Earl of Sandwich, and published in London in 1674, under the title " The First Book of 
the Art of Metals." This translation is equally wretched with those in French and German, 
as might be expected from the translators' total lack of technical understanding. Among 
the methods of silver amalgamation described by Barba is one which, upon later "discovery" 
at Virginia City, is now known as the " Washoe Process." None of the Spanish writers, 
so far as we know, make reference to Biringuccio's account, and the question arises 
whether the Patio Process was an importation from Europe or whether it was re-invented 
in Mexico. While there is no direct evidence on the point, the presumption is in favour of 
the former. 

The general introduction of the amalgamation of silver ores into Central Europe 
seems to have been verv slow, and over 200 years elapsed after its adoption in Peru and Mexico 
before it received serious attention by the German Metallurgists. Ignaz Elder v. Born 
was the first to establish the process effectually in Europe, he having in 1784 erected a 
" quick-mill " at Glasshutte, near Shemnitz. He published an elaborate account of a 
process which he claimed as his own, under the title Uebcr das Anqnicken der Goldund Silher- 
hdlt igen Erze, Vienna, 1786. The only thing new in his process seems to have been mechanical 
agitation. According to Born, a Spaniard named Don Juan de Corduba, in the year 1588, 
applied to the Court at Vienna offering to extract silver from ores with mercury. Various 
tests were carried out under the celebrated Lazarus Erckern, and although it appears that 
some vitriol and salt were used, the trials apparently failed, for Erckern concluded his report 
with the advice : " That their Lordships should not suffer any more expense to be thrown 
" away upon this experiment." Born's work was translated into English by R. E. Raspe, 
under the title — " Baron Inigo Born's New Process of Amalgamation, etc.," London, 1791. 
Some interest attaches to Raspe, in that he was not only the author of " Baron Munchausen," 
but was also the villain in Scott's " Antiquary." Raspe was a German Professor at Cassel, who 
fled to England to avoid arrest for theft. He worked at various mines in Cornwall, and in 
1791 involved Sir John Sinclair in a fruitless mine, but disappeared before that was known. 
The incident was finally used by Sir Walter Scott in this novel. 



end it is closed up with a board, also lower than the sides of the huddle so 
that the water can flow away ; this water falls into a launder and is carried 
outside the building. In this simple buddle is washed the metallic material 
which has passed on to the floor of the works through the five large sieves. 
When this has been gathered into a heap, the washer throws it into the head 
of the buddle, and water is poured upon it through the pipe or small trough, 
and the portion which sinks and settles in the middle of the head compart- 
ment he stirs with a wooden scrubber, — this is what we will henceforth call 
the implement made of a stick to which is fixed a piece of wood a foot long 
and a palm broad. The water is made turbid by this stirring, and carries 
the mud and sand and small particles of metal into the buddle below. 
Together with the broken rock, the larger metallic particles remain in the 
head compartment, and when these have been removed, boys throw them upon 
the platform of a washing tank or the short strake, and separate them from 
the broken rock. When the buddle is full of mud and sand, the washer closes 
the pipe through which the water flows into the head ; very soon the 
water which remains in the buddle flows away, and when this has taken 

A— Head of buddle. B — Pipe. C — Buddle. D — Board. E — Transverse buddle. 
F — Shovel. G — Scrubber. 



place, he removes with a shovel the mud and sand which are mixed with 
minute particles of metal, and washes them on a canvas strake. Sometimes 
before the buddies have been fiUed fuU, the boys throw the material into a 
bowl and carry it to the strakes and wash it. 

Pulverized ore is washed in the head of this kind of a buddle ; but usually 
when tin-stone is washed in it, interlacing fir boughs are put into the buddle, in 
the same manner as in the sluice when wet ore is crushed with stamps. The 
larger tin-stone particles, which sink in the upper part of the buddle, 
are washed separately in a strake ; those particles which are of medium 
size, and settle in the middle part, are washed separately in the same way ; 
and the mud mixed with minute particles of tin-stone, which has settled in 
the lowest part of the buddle below the fir boughs, is washed separately on 
the canvas strakes. 

The divided buddle differs from the last one by having several cross- 
boards, which, being placed inside it, divide it off like steps ; if the buddle 
is twelve feet long, four of them are placed within ; if nine feet long, three. 
The nearer each one is to the head, the greater is its height ; the further from 
the head, the lower it is ; and so when the highest is a foot and a palm high, 

A — Pipe. B — Cross launder. C — Small troughs. D — Head of the buddle. 
E — Wooden scrubber. F — Dividing boards. G — Short strake. 



the second is usually a foot and three digits high, the third a foot and two 
digits, and the lowest a foot and one digit. In this huddle is generally washed 
that metalliferous material which has been sifted through the large sieve 
into the tub containing water. This material is continuously thrown with 
an iron shovel into the head of the buddle, and the water which has been 
let in is stirred up by a wooden scrubber, until the buddle is full, then the 
cross-boards arc taken out by the washer, and the water is drained off ; next 
the metalliferous material which has settled in the compartments is again 
washed, either on a short strake or on the canvas strakes or in the jigging 
sieves. Since a short strake is often united with the upper part of this buddle, 
a pipe in the first place carries the water into a cross launder, from which it 
flows down through one little launder into the buddle, and through another 
into the short strake. 

An ordinary strake, so far as the planks are concerned, is not unlike the 
last two. The head of this, as of the others, is first made of earth stamped 
down, then covered with planks ; and where it is necessary, earth is 
thrown in and beaten down a second time, so that no crevice may remain 
through which water carrying the particles of metal can escape. The water 
ought to fall straight down into the strake, which has a length of eight feet 

A— Head B — Strake. C — Trowel. D— Scrubber. E— Canvas F — Rod by 



and a breadth of a foot and a half ; it is connected with a transverse launder, 
which then extends to a settling pit outside the building. A boy with 
a shovel or a ladle takes the impure concentrates or impure tin-stone from a 
heap, and throws them into the head of the strake or spreads them over it. 
A washer with a wooden scrubber then agitates them in the strake, whereby 
the mud mixed with water flows away into the transverse launder, and the 
concentrates or the tin-stone settle on the strake. Since sometimes the 
concentrates or fine tin-stone flow down together with the mud into the 
transverse launder, a second washer closes it, after a distance of about six feet, 
with a cross-board and frequently stirs the mud with a shovel, in order that 
when mixed with water it may flow out into the settling-pit ; and there 
remains in the launder only the concentrates or tin-stone. The tin-stuff 
of Schlackenwald and Erbisdroff is washed in this kind of a strake once 
or twice ; those of Altenberg three or four times ; those of Geyer often 
seven times ; for in the ore at Schlackenwald and Erbisdorff the tin-stone 
particles are of a fair size, and are crushed with stamps ; at Altenberg they 
are of much smaller size, and in the broken ore at Geyer only a few particles 
of tin-stone can be seen occasionally. 

This method of washmg was first devised by the miners who treated 
tin ore, whence it passed on from the works of the tin workers to those of the 
silver workers and others ; this system is even more reliable than 
washing in jigging-sieves. Near this ordinary strake there is generally a 
canvas strake. 

In modern times two ordinary strakes, similarly made, are generally 
joined together ; the head of one is three feet distant from that of the other, 
while the bodies are four feet distant from each other, and there is only one 
cross launder under the two strakes. One boy shovels, from the heap into the 
head of each, the concentrates or tin-stone mixed with mud. There are 
two washers, one of whom sits at the right side of one strake, and the 
other at the left of the other strake, and each pursues his task, using the 
following sort of implement. Under each strake is a siU, from a socket in 
which a round pole rises, and is held by half an iron ring in a beam of the 
building, so that it may revolve ; this pole is nine feet long and a palm 
thick. Penetrating the pole is a small round piece of wood, three palms 
long and as many digits thick, to which is affixed a small board two feet 
long and five digits wide, in an opening of which one end of a small axle 
revolves, and to this axle is fixed the handle of a little scrubber. The other 
end of this axle turns in an opening of a second board, which is likewise fixed 
to a small round piece of wood ; this round piece, like the first one, is three 
palms long and as many digits thick, and is used by the washer as a handle. 
The little scrubber is made of a stick three feet long, to the end of which is 
fixed a small tablet of wood a foot long, six digits broad, and a digit and a 
half thick. The washer constantly moves the handle of this implement 
with one hand ; in this way the little scrubber stirs the concentrates or 
the fine tin-stone mixed with mud in the head of the strake, and the mud, on 
being stirred, flows on to the strake. In the other hand he holds a second 



A— Upper cross launder. B— Small launders. C— Heads of strakes. 

D— 'Strakes. E— Lower transverse launder. F— Settling pit. G — Socket 

IN THE sill. H — Halved iron rings fixed to beam. I— Pole. K— Its little 

scrubber. L— Second small scrubber. 



little scrubber, which has a handle of half the length, and with this he cease- 
lessly stirs the concentrates or tin-stone which have settled in the upper 
part of the strake; in this way the mud and water flow down into the 
transverse launder, and from it into the setthng-pit which is outside the 

Before the short strake and the jigging-sieve had been invented, metallifer- 
ous ores, especially tin, were crushed dry with stamps and washed in a large 
trough hollowed out of one or two tree trunks ; and at the head of this trough 
was a platform, on which the ore was thrown after being completely crushed. 
The washer pulled it down into the trough with a wooden scrubber which 
had a long handle, and when the water had been let into the trough, he stirred 
the ore with the same scrubber. 

A — Trough. B — Platform. C — Wooden scrubber. 
The short strake is narrow in the upper part where the water flows down 
into it through the little launder ; in fact it is only two feet wide ; at the lower 
end it is wider, being three feet and as many palms. At the sides, which are 
six feet long, are fixed boards two palms high. In other respects the head 
resembles the head of the simple buddle, except that it is not depressed in the 
middle. Beneath is a cross launder closed by a low board. In this short 
strake not only is ore agitated and washed with a wooden scrubber, but boys 



also separate the concentrates from the broken rock in them and collect them 
in tubs. The short strake is now rarely employed by miners, owing to the 
carelessness of the boys, which has been frequently detected ; for this 
reason, the jigging-sieve has taken its place. The mud which settles in the 
launder, if the ore is rich, is taken up and washed in a jigging-sieve or on a 
canvas strake. 

A — Short strake. B — Small 

LAUNDER. C — Transverse launder. D — Wooden 


A canvas strake is made in the following way. Two beams, eighteen feet 
long and half a foot broad and three palms thick, are placed on a slope ; one 
half of each of these beams is partially cut away lengthwise, to allow the ends 
of planks to be fastened in them, for the bottom is covered by planks three 
feet long, set crosswise and laid close together. One half of each supporting 
beam is left intact and rises a palm above the planks, in order that the water 
that is nrnning down may not escape at the sides, but shall flow straight 
down. The head of the strake is higher than the rest of the body, and slopes 
so as to enable the water to flow away. The whole strake is covered by six 
stretched pieces of canvas, smoothed with a stick. The first of them occupies 
the lowest division, and the second is so laid as to slightly overlap it ; on 



A — Beams. B — Canvas. C — Head of strake. D — Small lau.'^der. E — Settling 
PIT OR TANK. F — Wooden scrubber. G — Tubs. 

the second division, the third is similarly laid, and so on, one on the other. 
If they are laid in the opposite way, the water flowing down carries the 
concentrates or particles of tin-stone under the canvas, and a useless task 
is attempted. Boys or men throw the concentrates or tin-stuff mixed with 
mud into the head of the strake, after the canvas has been thus stretched, 
and having opened the small launder they let the water flow in ; then 
they stir the concentrates or tin-stone with a wooden scrubber till the water 
carries them all on to the canvas ; next they gently sweep the linen with 
the wooden scrubber untU the mud flows into the setthng-pit or into the 
transverse launder. As soon as there is little or no mud on the canvas, but 
only concentrates or tin-stone, they carry the canvas away and wash it in a 
tub placed close by. The tin-stone settles in the tub, and the men return 
immediately to the same task. Finally, they pour the water out of the tub, 
and collect the concentrates or tin-stone. However, if either concentrates 
or tin-stone have washed down from the canvas and settled in the settling- 
pit or in the transverse launder, they wash the mud again. 

Some neither remove the canvas nor wash it in the tubs, but place over 



it on each edge narrow strips, of no great thickness, and fix them to the beams 
with nails. They agitate the metalliferous material with wooden scrubbers 
and wash it in a similar way. As soon as little or no mud remains on the 
canvas, but only concentrates or fine tin-stone, they lift one beam so that 
the whole strake rests on the other, and dash it with water, which has been 
drawn with buckets out of the small tank, and in this way all the sediment 
which clings to the canvas falls into the trough placed underneath. This 
trough is hewn out of a tree and placed in a ditch dug in the ground ; the 
interior of the trough is a foot wide at the top, but narrower in the bottom, 
because it is rounded out. In the middle of this trough they put a cross- 
board, in order that the fairly large particles of concentrates or fairly large- 
sized tin-stone may remain in the forepart into which they have fallen, and 
the fine concentrates or fine tin-stone in the lower part, for the water flows 
from one into the other, and at last flows down through an opening into the 
pit. As for the fairly large-sized concentrates or tin-stone which have been 
removed from the trough, they are washed again on the ordinary strake. 

A— Canvas strake. B— Man dashing water on the canvas. C — Bucket. 
D — Bucket of another kind. E — Man removing concentrates or tin-stone 



The fine concentrates and fine tin-stone are washed again on this canvas 
strake. By this method, the canvas lasts longer because it remains fixed, 
and nearly double the work is done by one washer as quickly as can be done 
by two washers by the other method. 

The jigging sieve has recently come into use by miners. The 
metalliferous material is thrown into it and sifted in a tub nearly full of water. 
The sieve is shaken up and down, and by this movement all the material 
below the size of a pea passes through into the tub, and the rest remains on the 
bottom of the sieve. This residue is of two kinds, the metallic particles, 
which occupy the lower place, and the particles of rock and earth, which 
take the higher place, because the heavy substance always settles, and the 
light is borne upward by the force of the water. This light material is taken 
away with a limp, which is a thin tablet of wood almost semicircular in 
shape, three-quarters of a foot long, and half a foot wide. Before the 
lighter portion is taken away the contents of the sieve are generally divided 
crosswise with a limp, to enable the water to penetrate into it more quickly. 
Afterward fresh material is again thrown into the sieve and shaken up and 
down, and when a great quantity of metallic particles have settled in the sieve, 
they are taken out and put into a tray close by. But since there fall into 
the tub with the mud, not only particles of gold or silver, but also of sand, 
pyrites, cadmia, galena, quartz, and other substances, and since the 
water cannot separate these from the metallic particles because they are all 
heavy, this muddy mixture is washed a second time, and the part which is 
useless is thrown away. To prevent the sieve passing this sand again too 
quickly, the washer lays small stones or gravel in the bottom of the sieve. 
However, if the sieve is not shaken straight up and down, but is tilted to one 
side, the small stones or broken ore move from one part to another, and the 
metallic material again falls into the tub, and the operation is frustrated. 
The miners of our country have made an even finer sieve, which does not 
fail even with unskilled washers ; in washing with this sieve they have no 
need for the bottom to be strewn with small stones. By this method the mud 
settles in the tub with the very fine metallic particles, and the larger sizes of 
metal remain in the sieve and are covered with the valueless sand, and this 
is taken away with a limp. The concentrates which have been collected 
are smelted together with other things. The mud mixed with the very fine 
metallic particles is washed for a third time and in the finest sieve, whose 
bottom is woven of hair. If the ore is rich in metal, all the material which 
has been removed by the hmp is washed on the canvas strakes, or if the ore 
is poor it is thrown away. 

I have explained the methods of washing which are used in common for 
the ores of many metals. I now come to another method of crushing ore, 
for I ought to speak of this before describing those methods of washing which 
are pecuhar to ores of particular metals. 

In the year 1512, George, the illustrious Duke of Saxony^*, gave the over- 

'^George, Duke of Saxony, surnamed "The Bearded," was born 1471, and died 1539. 
He was chiefly knuwn for his bitter opposition to the Reformation. 



A — Fine sieves. B — Limp. C — Finer sieve. D — Finest sieve 


lordship of all the dumps ejected from the mines in Meissen to the noble 
and wise Sigismund Maltitz, father of John, Bishop of Meissen. Reject- 
ing the dry stamps, the large sieve, and the stone mills of Dippolds- 
walde and Altenberg, in which places are dug the small black stones 
from which tin is smelted, he invented a machine which could crush the ore 
wet under iron-shod stamps. That is called " wet ore " which is softened by 
water which flows into the mortar box, and they are sometimes called "wet 
stamps ' ' because they are drenched by the same water ; and on the other hand, the 
other kinds are called "dry stamps" or "dry ore," because no water is used 
to soften the ore when the stamps are crushing. But to return to our subject. 
This machine is not dissimilar to the one which crushes the ore with dry 
iron-shod stamps, but the heads of the wet stamps are larger by half than the 
heads of the others. The mortar-box, which is made of oak or beech timber, is 
set up in the space between the upright posts ; it does not open in front, but 
at one end, and it is three feet long, three-quarters of a foot wide, and one foot 
and six digits deep. If it has no bottom, it is set up in the same way over a 
slab of hard, smooth rock placed in the ground, which has been dug down a 
little. The joints are stopped up all round with moss or cloth rags. If 
the mortar has a bottom, then an iron sole-plate, three feet long, three- 
quarters of a foot wide, and a palm thick, is placed in it. In the opening 
in the end of the mortar there is fixed an iron plate full of holes, in such a 
way that there is a space of two digits between it and the shoe of the nearest 
stamp, and the same distance between this screen and the upright post, in 
an opening through which runs a small but fairly long launder. The crushed 
particles of silver ore flow through this launder with the water into a settling- 
pit, while the material which settles in the launder is removed with an iron 
shovel to the nearest planked floor ; that material which has settled in the 
pit is removed with an iron shovel on to another floor. Most people make 
two launders, in order that while the workman empties one of them of the 
accumulation which has settled in it, a fresh deposit may be settling in the 
other. The water flows in through a small launder at the other end of the 
mortar that is near the water-wheel which turns the machine. The workman 
throws the ore to be crushed into the mortar in such a way that the pieces, 
when they are thrown in among the stamps, do not impede the work. By 
this method a silver or gold ore is crushed very fine by the stamps. 

When tin ore is crushed by this kind of iron-shod stamps, as soon as 
crushing begins, the launder which extends from the screen discharges the 
water carrying the fine tin-stone and fine sand into a transverse trough, 
from which the water flows down through the spouts, which pierce the side of 
the trough, into the one or other of the large buddies set underneath. The 
reason why there are two is that, while the washer empties the one which is 
filled with fine tin-stone and sand, the material may flow into the other. 
Each buddle is twelve feet long, one cubit deep, and a foot and a half broad. 
The tin-stone which settles in the upper part of the buddies is called the 
large size ; these are frequently stirred with a shovel, in order that the 
mechum sized particles of tin-stone, and the mud mixed with the very fine 


A. — Mortar. B — Open end of mortar. C — Slab of rock. D— Iron sole plates. 
E — Screen. F — Launder. G — Wooden shovel. H— Settling pit. I— Iron 
SHOVEL, K — Heap of material which has settled. L— Ore which requires 
CRUSHING. M — Small launder. 



particles of the stones may flow away. The particles of medium size generally 
settle in the middle part of the buddle, where they are arrested by interwoven 
fir twigs. The mud which flows down with the water settles between the 
twigs and the board which closes the lower end of the buddle. The tin-stone 
of large size is removed separately from the buddle with a shovel ; those 
of medium size are also removed separately, and likewise the mud is removed 
separately, for they are separately washed on the canvas strakes and on 
the ordinary strake, and separately roasted and smelted. The tin-stone 
which has settled in the middle part of the buddle, is also always washed 
separately on the canvas strakes ; but if the particles are nearly equal in size 
to those which have settled in the upper part of the buddle, they are washed 
with them in the ordinary strake and are roasted and smelted with them. 
However, the mud is never washed with the others, either on the canvas 
strakes or on the ordinary strake, but separately, and the fine tin-stone which 
is obtained from it is roasted and smelted separately. The two large buddies 
discharge into a cross trough, and it again empties through a launder into 
a settling-pit which is outside the building. 

A — Launder reaching to the screen. B — Transverse trough. C — Spouts. 

D — Large huddles. E — Shovel. F — Interwoven twigs. G — Boards closing 

THE buddles. H — Cross trough. 



This method of washing has lately undergone a considerable change ; for 
the launtUT which carries the water, mixed with the crushed tin-stone and 
fine sand which flow from the openings of the screen, does not reach to a 
transverse trough which is inside the same room, but runs straight through 
a partition into a small settling-pit. A boy draws a three-toothed rake 
through the material which has settled in the portion of the launder outside 
the room, by which means the larger sized particles of tin-stone settle at the 
bottom, and these the washer takes out with the wooden shovel and carries 
into the room ; this material is thrown into an ordinary strake and swept 
with a wooden scrubber and washed. As for those tin-stone particles which 
the water carries off from the strake, after they have been brought back on to 
the strake, he washes them again until they are clean. 

The remaining tin-stone, mixed with sand, flows into the small settling-pit 
which is within the building, and this discharges into two large buddies. The 
tin-stone of moderate size, mixed with those of fairly large size, settle in the 
upper part, and the small size in the lower part ; but both are impure, and 
for this reason they are taken out separately and th? former is washed twice, 

A — First launder. B — Three-toothed rake. C — Small settling pit. D — Large 


Boards. H — Their holes. I — Shovel. K — Building. L — Stove. (This picture 



first in a buddle like the simple buddle, and afterward on an ordinary 
strake. Likewise the latter is washed twice, first on a canvas strake and 
afterward on an ordinary strake. This buddle, which is like the simple 
buddle, differs from it in the head, the whole of which in this case is sloping, 
while in the case of the other it is depressed in the centre. In order that the 
boy may be able to rest the shovel with which he cleanses the tin-stone, 
this sluice has a small wooden roller which turns in holes in two thick 
boards fixed to the sides of the buddle ; if he did not do this, he would become 
over-exhausted by his task, for he spends whole days standing over these 
labours. The large buddle, the one like the simple buddle, the ordinary 
strake, and the canvas strakes, are erected within a special buUding. In 
this building there is a stove that gives out heat through the earthen tiles 
or iron plates of which it is composed, in order that the washers can pursue 
their labours even in winter, if the rivers are not completely frozen over. 

On the canvas strakes are washed the very fine tin-stone mixed with 
mud which has settled in the lower end of the large buddle, as well as 
in the lower end of the simple buddle and of the ordinary strake. The canvas 
is cleaned in a trough hewn out of one tree trunk and partitioned off with 
two boards, so that three compartments are made. The first and second pieces 
of canvas are washed in the first compartment, the third and fourth in the 
second compartment, the fifth and sixth in the third compartment. Since 
among the very fine tin-stone there are usually some grains of stone, rock, 
or marble, the master cleanses them on the ordinary strake, lightly brushing 
the top of the material with a broom, the twigs of which do not all run the 
same way, but some straight and some crosswise. In this way the water 
carries off these impurities from the strake into the settling-pit because they 
are lighter, and leaves the tin-stone on the table because it is heavier. 

Below all buddies or strakes, both inside and outside the building, there 
are placed either settling-pits or cross-troughs into which they discharge, 
in order that the water may carry on down into the stream but very few 
of the most minute particles of tin-stone. The large settling-pit which is 
outside the building is generally made of joined flooring, and is eight feet in 
length, breadth and depth. When a large quantity of mud, mixed with 
very fine tin-stone, has settled in it, first of all the water is let out by with- 
drawing a plug, then the mud which is taken out is washed outside the house 
on the canvas strakes, and afterward the concentrates are washed on the 
strake which is inside the building. By these methods the very finest tin- 
stone is made clean. 

The mud mixed with the very fine tin-stone, which has neither settled 
in the large settling-pit nor in the transverse launder which is outside the 
room and below the canvas strakes, flows away and settles in the bed of the 
stream or river. In order to recover even a portion of the fine tin-stone, 
many miners erect weirs in the bed of the stream or river, very much like 
those that are made above the mills, to deflect the current into the races 
through which it flows to the water-wheels. At one side of each weir there 
is an area dug out to a depth of five or six or seven feet, and if the nature of 

BOOK vin 


A — Launder from the screen of the mortar-box. B — Three-toothed rake, 
C — Smali settling-pit. D — Canvas. E — Strakes. F — Brooms. 



the place will permit, extending in every direction more than sixty feet. 
Thus, when the water of the river or stream in autumn and winter inundates 
the land, the gates of the weir are closed, by which means the current carries 
the mud mixed with fine tin-stone into the area. In spring and summer 
this mud is washed on the canvas strakes or on the ordinary strake, and 
even the finest black-tin is collected. Within a distance of four thousand 
fathoms along the bed of the stream or river below the buildings in which 
the tin-stuff is washed, the miners do not make such weirs, but put inclined 
fences in the meadows, and in front of each fence they dig a ditch of the 
same length, so that the mud mixed with the fine tin-stone, carried along by the 
stream or river when in flood, may settle in the ditch and cUng to the fence. 
When this mud is collected, it is likewise washed on canvas strakes and on 
the ordinary strake, in order that the fine tin-stone may be separated from 
it. Indeed we may see many such areas and fences collecting mud of this 
kind in Meissen below Altenberg in the river Moglitz, — which is always of a 
reddish colour when the rock containing the black tin is being crushed under 
the stamps. 

A — River. B — Weir. C — Gate. D — Area. E — Meadow. F — Fence. G — Ditch. 


But to return to the stamping machines. Some usually set up four 
machines of this kind in one place, that is to say, two above and the same 
number below. By this plan it is necessary that the current which has been 
diverted should fall down from a greater height upon the upper water- 
wheels, because these turn axles whose cams raise heavier stamps. The 
stamp-stems of the upper machines should be nearly twice as long as the stems 
of the lower ones, because all the mortar-boxes are placed on the same level. 
These stamps have their tappets near their upper ends, not as in the case of 
the lower stamps, which are placed just above the bottom. The water flowing 
down from the two upper water-wheels is caught in two broad races, from 
which it falls on to the two lower water-wheels. Since all these machines 
have the stamps very close together, the stems should be somewhat cut away, 
to prevent the iron shoes from rubbing each other at the point where they are 
set into the stems. Where so many machines cannot be constructed, by 
reason of the narrowness of the valley, the mountain is excavated and 
levelled in two places, one of which is higher than the other, and in this case 
two machines are constructed and generally placed in one building. A 
broad race receives in the same way the water which flows down from the 
upper water-wheel, and similarly lets it fall on the lower water-wheel. The 
mortar-boxes are not then placed on one level, but each on the level which 
is appropriate to its own machine, and for this reason, two workmen are then 
required to throw ore into the mortar-boxes. When no stream can be 
diverted which will fall from a higher place upon the top of the water-wheel, 
one is diverted which wiU turn the foot of the wheel ; a great quantity of 
water from the stream is collected in one pool capable of holding it, and 
from this place, when the gates are raised, the water is discharged against 
the wheel which turns in the race. The buckets of a water-wheel of this 
kind are deeper and bent back, projecting upward ; those of the former 
are shallower and bent forward, inclining dovmward. 

Further, in the Julian and Rhaetian Alps^^ and in the Carpathian 
Mountains, gold or even silver ore is now put under stamps, which are 
sometimes placed more than twenty in a row, and crushed wet in a long mortar- 
box. The mortar has two plates full of holes through which the ore, after 
being crushed, flows out with the water into the transverse laimder placed 
underneath, and from there it is carried down by two spouts into the heads of 
the canvas strakes. Each head is made of a thick broad plank, which can be 
raised and set upright, and to which on each side are fixed pieces projecting 
upward. In this plank there are many cup-like depressions equal in size and 
similar in shape, in each of which an egg could be placed. Right down in 
these depressions are small crevices which can retain the concentrates of gold 
or silver, and when the hollows are nearly filled with these materials, the 
plank is raised on one side so that the concentrates will faU into a large bowl. 
The cup-like depressions are washed out by dashing them with water. These 

^^The Julian Alps are a section east of the Carnic Alps and lie north of Trieste. The 
term Rhaetian Alps is applied to that section along the Swiss Italian Boundary, about 
north of Lake Como. 



A— First machine. B— Its stamps. C— Its mortar-box. D— Second machine. 

E— Its stamps. F— Its mortar-box. G— Third machine. H— Its stamps. I— Its 

MORTAR-BOX. K— Fourth machine. L— Its stamps. M— Its mortar-box. 



concentrates are washed separately in different bowls from those which have 
settled on the canvas. This bowl is smooth and two digits wide and deep, 
being in shape very similar to a small boat ; it is broad in the fore part, 
narrow in the back, and in the middle of it there is a cross groove, in which 
the particles of pure gold or silver settle, while the grains of sand, since they 
are lighter, flow out of it. 

In some parts of Moravia, gold ore, which consists of quartz mixed with 
gold, is placed under the stamps and crushed wet. When crushed fine it 
flows out through a launder into a trough, is there stirred by a wooden 
scrubber, and the minute particles of gold which settle in the upper end of 
the trough are washed in a black bowl. 

A — Stamps. B — Mortar. C — Plates full of holes. D — Transverse launder. 

E — Planks full of cup-like depressions. F — Spout. G — Bowl into which the 

concentrates fall. H — Canvas strake. I — Bowls shaped like a small boat. 

K — Settling-pit under the canvas strake. 

So far I have spoken of machines which crush wet ore with iron-shod 
stamps. I will now explain the methods of washing which are in a measure 
peculiar to the ore of certain metals, beginning with gold. The ore which 
contains particles of this metal, and the sand of streams arid rivers which 



contains grains of it, are washed in frames or bowls ; the sands especially 
are also washed in troughs. More than one method is employed for washing 
on frames, for these frames either pass or retain the particles or concentrates 
of gold ; they pass them if they have holes, and retain them if they have 
no holes. But either the frame itself has holes, or a box is substituted for 
it ; if the frame itself is perforated it passes the particles or concentrates 
of gold into a trough ; if the box has them, it passes the gold material into 
the long sluice. I will first speak of these two methods of washing. The 
frame is made of two planks joined together, and is twelve feet long and 
three feet wide, and is full of holes large enough for a pea to pass. To prevent 
the ore or sand with which the gold is mixed from falling out at the sides, 
small projecting edge-boards are fixed to it. This frame is set upon two 
stools, the first of which is higher than the second, in order that the gravel 
and small stones can roll down it. The washer throws the ore or sand into 
the head of the frame, which is higher, and opening the small launder, lets 
the water into it, and then agitates it with a wooden scrubber. In this way, 
the gravel and small stones roll down the frame on to the ground, while the 

A — Head of frame. B — Frame. C— Holes. D — Edge-boards. E— Stools 
F — Scrubber. G — Trough. H— Launder. I— Rowl. 



particles or concentrates of gold, together with the sand, pass through the 
holes into the trough which is placed under the frame, and after being 
collected are washed in the bowl. 

A box which has a bottom made of a plate full of holes, is placed over 
the upper end of a sluice, which is fairly long but of moderate width. The 
gold material to be washed is thrown into this box, and a great quantity of 
water is let in. The lumps, if ore is being washed, are mashed with an iron 
shovel. The fine portions fall through the bottom of the box into the sluice, 
but the coarse pieces remain in the box, and these are removed with a scraper 
through an opening which is nearly in the middle of one side. Since a large 
amount of water is necessarily let into the box, in order to prevent it from 
sweeping away any particles of gold which have fallen into the sluice, the 
sluice is divided off by ten, or if it is as long again, by fifteen riffles. These 
riffles are placed equidistant from one another, and each is higher than the one 
next toward the lower end of the sluice. The little compartments which are 
thus made are filled with the material and the water which flows through 

A — Sluice. B — Box. C— Bottom of inverted box. D — Open part of it. E — Iron 

HOE. F — Riffles. G — Small launder. H — Bowl with which settlings are taken 

AWAY. I — Black bowl in which they are washed. 



the box ; as soon as these compartments are full and the water has begun 
to flow over clear, the little launder through which this water enters into the 
box is closed, and the water is turned in another direction. Then the 
lowest riffle is removed from the sluice, and the sediment which has 
accumulated flows out with the water and is caught in a bowl. The 
riffles are removed one by one and the sediment from each is taken into a 
separate bowl, and each is separately washed and cleansed in a bowl. The 
larger particles of gold concentrates settle in the higher compartments, the 
smaller size, in the lower compartments. This bowl is shallow and smooth, 
and smeared with oil or some other slippery substance, so that the tiny particles 
of gold may not cling to it, and it is painted black, that the gold may be more 
easily discernible ; on the exterior, on both sides and in the middle, it is 
slightly hollowed out in order that it may be grasped and held firmly in the 
hands when shaken. By this method the particles or concentrates of gold 
settle in the back part of the bowl ; for if the back part of the bowl is 
tapped or shaken with one hand, as is usual, the contents move toward the 
fore part. In this way the Moravians, especially, wash gold ore. 

The gold particles are also caught on frames which are either bare or 
covered. If bare, the particles are caught in pockets ; if covered, they 

A— Plank. B — Side-boards. C — Iron wire. D — Handles. 


cling to the coverings. Pockets are made in various ways, eitlier with iron 
wire or small cross-boards fixed to the frame, or by holes which are sunk 
into the sluice itself or into its head, but which do not quite go through. 
These holes are round or square, or are grooves running crosswise. The 
frames arc either covered with skins, pieces of cloth, or turf, which I will 
deal with one by one in turn. 

In order to prevent the sand which contains the particles of gold from 
spilling out, the washer fixes side-boards to the edges of a plank which is six 
feet long and one and a quarter wide. He then lays crosswise many iron 
wires a digit apart, and where they join he fixes them to the bottom plank 
with iron nails. Then he makes the head of the frame higher, and into this 
he throws the sand which needs washing, and taking in his hands the handles 
which are at the head of the frame, he draws it backward and forward 
several times in the river or stream. In this way the small stones and graA'el 
flow down along the frame, and the sand mixed with particles of gold remains 
in the pockets between the strips. When the contents of the pockets have 
been shaken out and collected in one place, he washes them in a bowl and 
thus cleans the gold dust. 

Other people, among whom are the Lusitanians^^, fix to the sides of a 
sluice, which is about six feet long and a foot and a half broad, many cross- 
strips or riffles, which project backward and are a digit apart. The washer 
or his wife lets the water into the head of the sluice, where he throws the sand 
which contains the particles of gold. As it flows down he agitates it with a 
wooden scrubber, which he moves transversely to the riffles. He constantly 
removes with a pointed wooden stick the sediment which settles in the pockets 
between the riffles, and in this way the particles of gold settle in them, 
while the sand and other valueless materials are carried by the water into a 
tub placed below the sluice. He removes the particles of metal with a small 
wooden shovel into a wooden bowl. This bowl does not exceed a foot and a 
quarter in breadth, and by moving it up and down in the stream he cleanses 
the gold dust, for the remaining sand flows out of the dish, and the gold dust 
settles in the middle of it, where there is a cup-like depression. Some make 
use of a bowl which is grooved inside like a shell, but with a smooth lip where 
the water flows out. This smooth place, however, is narrower where the 
grooves run into it, and broader where the water flows out. 

^'Ancient Lusitania comprised Portugal and some neighbouring portions of Spain. 



-Head of the sluice. 
E — Dish. F- 


-Riffles. C — Wooden scrubber. D — Pointed stick, 
cup-like depression. g — grooved dish. 

The cup-like pockets and grooves are cut or burned at the same time into 
the bottom of the sluice ; the bottom is composed of three planks ten feet 
long, and is about four feet wide ; but the lower end, through which the water 
is discharged, is narrower. This sluice, which Ukewise has side-boards fixed 
to its edges, is full of rounded pockets and of grooves which lead to them, 
there being two grooves to one pocket, in order that the water mixed with 
sand may flow into each pocket through the upper groove, and that after the 
sand has partly settled, the water may again flow out through the lower 
groove. The sluice is set in the river or stream or on the bank, and placed 
on two stools, of which the first is higher than the second in order that the 
gravel and small stones may roll down the sluice. The washer throws sand 
into the head with a shovel, and opening the launder, lets in the water, which 
carries the particles of metal with a little sand down into the pockets, while 
the gravel and smaU stones with the rest of the sand falls into a tub placed 
below the sluice. As soon as the pockets are filled, he brushes out the 
concentrates and washes them in a bowl. He washes again and again 
through this sluice. 



A — Head of the sluice. B— Side-boards. C — Lower end of the sluice. 

D— Pockets. E— Grooves. F — Stools. G — Shovel. H— Tub set belov^. 

I — Launder. 

Some people cut a number of cross-grooves, one palm distant from each 
other, in a sluice similarly composed of three planks eight feet long. The 
upper edge of these grooves is sloping, that the particles of gold may slip into 
them when the washer stirs the sand with a wooden shovel ; but their lower 
edge is vertical so that the gold particles may thus be unable to slide 
out of them. As soon as these grooves are full of gold particles mixed 
with fine sand, the sluice is removed from the stools and raised up on its 
head. The head in this case is nothing but the upper end of the planks 
of which the sluice is composed. In this way the metallic particles, being 
turned over backward, fall into another tub, for the small stones and gravel 
have rolled down the sluice. Some people place large bowls under the 
sluice instead of tubs, and as in the other cases, the unclean concentrates are 
washed in the small bowl. 

The Thuringians cut rounded pockets, a digit in diameter and depth, in 
the head of the sluice, and at the same time they cut grooves reaching from 
one to another. The sluice itself they cover with canvas. The sand which 



A — Cross grooves. B — Tub set under the sluice. C — Another tub. 

IS to be washed, is thrown into the head and stirred with a wooden scrubber ; 
in this way the water carries the Hght particles of gold on to the canvas, 
and the heavy ones sink in the pockets, and when these hollows are full, the 
head is removed and turned over a tub, and the concentrates are collected 
and washed in a bowl. Some people make use of a sluice which has square 
pockets with short vertical recesses which hold the particles of gold. Other 
workers use a sluice made of planks, which are rough by reason of the very 
small shavings which stiU chng to them ; these sluices are used instead of 
those with coverings, of which this sluice is bare, and when the sand is washed, 
the particles of gold cling no less to these shavings than to canvas, or skins, or 
cloths, or turf. The washer sweeps the sluice upward with a broom, and 
when he has washed as much of the sand as he wishes, he lets a more abundant 
supply of water into the sluice again to wash out the concentrates, which he 
collects in a tub set below the sluice, and then washes again in a bowl. Just 
as Thuringians cover the sluice with canvas, so some people cover it with 
the skins of oxen or horses. They push the auriferous sand upward with a 
wooden scrubber, and by this system the light material flows away with the 
water, while the particles of gold settle among the hairs ; the skins are 
afterward washed in a tub ; and the concentrates are colleced in a bowl. 



A — Sluice covered with canvas. B — Its head full of pockets and grooves. 

C — Head removed and washed in a tub. D — Sluice which has square pockets. 

E — Sluice to whose planks small shavings cling. F — Broom. G — Skins of oxen. 

H — Wooden scrubber. 


The Colchians^' placed the skins of animals in the pools of springs ; and 
since many particles of gold had clung to them when they were removed, 

A — Spring. B — Skin. C — Argonauts. 

the poets invented the "golden fleece" of the Colchians. In like manner, 
it can be contrived by the methods of miners that skins should take up, not 
only particles of gold, but also of silver and gems. 

"Colchis, the traditional land of the Golden Fleece, lay between the Caucasus on the 
north, Armenia on the south, and the Black Sea on the west. If Agricola's account of the 
metallurgical purpose of the fleece is correct, then Jason must have had real cause for com- 
plaint as to the tangible results of his expedition. The fact that we hear nothing of the 
fleece after the day it was taken from the dragon would thus support Agricola's theory. Tons 
of ink have been expended during the past thirty centuries in explanations of what the fleece 
really was. These explanations range through the supernatural and metallurgical, but more 
recent writers have endeavoured to construct the journey of the Argonauts into an epic of the 
development of the Greek trade in gold with the Euxine. We will not attempt to traverse 
them from a metallurgical point of view further than to maintain that Agricola's explanation 
is as probable and equally as ingenious as any other, although Strabo (xi, 2, 19.) gives much 
the same view long before. 

Alluvial raining — gold washing — being as old as the first glimmer of civilisation, 
it is referred to, directly or indirectly, by a great majority of ancient writers, poets, historians, 
geographers, and naturalists. Early Egyptian inscriptions often refer to this industry, 
but from the point of view of technical methods the description by Pliny is practically 
the only one of interest, and in Pliny's chapter on the subject, alluvial is badly con- 



Many people cover the frame with a green cloth as long and wide as the 
frame itself, and fasten it with iron nails in such a way that they can easily 

-Head of frame. B — Frame. C — Cloth. D — Small launder, 


E — Tub set 

draw them out and remove the cloth. When the cloth appears to be golden 
because of the particles which adhere to it, it is washed in a special tub and 
the particles are collected in a bowl. The remainder which has run down into 
the tub is again washed on the frame. 

fused with vein mining. This passage (xxxiii, 21) is as follows : " Gold is found in 
" the world in three waj's, to say nothing of that found in India by the ants, and in 
" Scythia by the Griffins. The first is as gold dust found in streams, as, for instance, in the 
" Tagus in Spain, in the Padus in Italy, in the Hebrus in Thracia, in the Pactolus in Asia, 
" and in the Ganges in India ; indeed, there is no gold found more perfe'ct than this, as the 
" current polishes it thoroughly by attrition. . . . Others by equal labour and greater 
" expense bring rivers from the mountain heights, often a hundred miles, for the purpose of 
" washing this debris. The ditches thus made are called corrugi, from our word conivatio, I 
" suppose ; and these entail a thousand fresh labours. The fall must be steep, that the 
" water may rush down from very high places, rather than flow gently. The ditches 
" across the valleys are joined by aqueducts, and in other places, impassable rocks have to be 
" cut away and forced to make room for troughs of hollowed-out logs. Those who cut the 
" rocks are suspended by ropes, so that to those who watch them from a distance, the 
" workmen seem not so much beasts as birds. Hanging thus, they take the levels and trace 
" the lines which the ditch is to take ; and thus, where there is no place for man's footstep, 
" streams are dragged by men. The water is vitiated for washing if the current of the 


Some people, in place of a green cloth, use a cloth of tightly woven 
horsehair, which has a rough knotty surface. Since these knots stand out 

A — Cloth full of small knots, spread out. B — Small knots more conspicuously 
SHOWN. C — Tub in which cloth is washed. 

and the cloth is rough, even the very small particles of gold adhere to it ; 
these cloths are likewise washed in a tub with water. 

" stream carries mud with it. This kind of earth is called urium, hence these ditches are 
" laid out to carry the water over beds of pebbles to avoid this urium. When they have 
" reached the head of the fall, at the top of the mountain, reservoirs are excavated a couple 
" of hundred feet long and wide, and about ten feet deep. In these reservoirs there are 
" generally five gates left, about three feet square, so that when the reservoir is full, the gates 
" are opened, and the torrent bursts forth with such violence that the rocks are hurled along. 
" When they have reached the plain there is yet more labour. Trenches called agogae are 
" dug for the flow of the water. The bottoms of these are spread at regular intervals with ulex 
" to catch the gold. This ulex is similar to rosemary, rough and prickly. The sides, too, 
" are closed in with planks and are suspended when crossing precipitous spots. The earth 
" is carried to the sea and thus the shattered mountain is washed away and scattered ; and 
" this deposition of the earth in the sea has extended the shore of Spain. . . . The gold 
" procured from arriigiae does not require to be melted, but is already pure gold. It is found 
" in lumps, in shafts as well, sometimes even exceeding ten librae in weight. These lumps 
" are called palagae and palacurnae, while the small grains are called baluce. The Ulex is 
" dried and burnt and the ashes are washed on a bed of grassy turf in order that the gold 
" may settle thereon." 


Some people construct a frame not unlike the one covered with canvas, 
but shorter. In place of the canvas they set pieces of turf in rows. They 

A — Head of frame. B — Small launder through which water flows into head of 
FRAME. C — Pieces of turf. D — Trough placed under frame. E — Tub in which 


wash the sand, which has been thrown into the head of the frame, by letting 
in water. In this way the particles of gold settle in the turf, the mud and 
sand, together with the water, are carried down into the settling-pit or trough 
below, which is opened when the work is finished. After all the water has 
passed out of the settling-pit, the sand and mud are carried away and washed 
over again in the same manner. The particles which have clung to the turf 
are afterward washed down into the settling-pit or trough by a stronger 
current of the water, which is let into the frame through a small launder. 
The concentrates are finally collected and washed in a bowl. Pliny was not 
ignorant of this method of washing gold. " The ulex," he says, " after being 
dried, is burnt, and its ashes are washed over a grassy turf, that the gold 
may settle on it." 



A — Tray. B — Bowl-like depression. C — Handles. 

Sand mixed with particles of gold is also washed in a tray, or in a trough 
or bowl. The tray is open at the further end, is either hewn out of a 
squared trunk of a tree or made out of a thick plank to which side-boards 
are fixed, and is three feet long, a foot and a half wide, and three digits 
deep. The bottom is hollowed out into the shape of an elongated bowl whose 
narrow end is turned toward the head, and it has two long handles, by which 
it is drawn backward and forward in the river. In this way the fine sand 
is washed, whether it contains particles of gold or the little black stones from 
which tin is made. 

The Italians who come to the German mountains seeking gold, in order 
to wash the river sand which contains gold-dust and garnets,^^ use a fairly 
long shallow trough hewn out of a tree, rounded within and without, open 
at one end and closed at the other, which they turn in the bed of the stream 
in such a way that the water does not dash into it, but flows in gently. 
They stir the sand, which they throw into it, with a wooden hoe, also 
rounded. To prevent the particles of gold or garnets from running out with 
the Ught sand, they close the end with a board similarly rounded, but lower 
than the sides of the trough. The concentrate? of gold or garnets which. 

^^Carbunculus Carchedonius — Carthaginian carbuncle. 
Agricola in the Interpretatio as granat, i.e., garnet. 

The German is given by 


A — Trough. B — Its open end. C — End th.^t may be closed. D — Stream. 
E — Hoe. F — End-board. G — Bag. 

with a small quantity of heavy sand, have settled in the trough, they wash 
in a bowl and collect in bags and carry away with them. 

Some people wash this kind of sand in a large bowl which can easily be 
shaken, the bowl being suspended by two ropes from a beam in a building. 
The sand is thrown into it, water is poured in, then the bowl is shaken, and 
the muddy water is poured out and clear water is again poured in, this being 
done again and again. In this way, the gold particles settle in the back part 
of the bowl because they are heavy, and the sand in the front part because it 
is light ; the latter is thrown away, the former kept for smelting. The one 
who does the washing then returns immediately to his task. This method 
of washing is rarely used by miners, but frequently b}' coiners and goldsmiths 
when they wash gold, silver, or copper. The bowl they employ has only 
three handles, one of which they grasp in their hands when they shake the 
^ I, and in the other two is fastened a rope by which the bowl is hung from 
earn, or from a cross-piece which is upheld by the forks of two upright 
posts fixed in the ground. Miners frequently wash ore in a smaU bowl to test 


A — Large bowl 

D — Other large bowl which coiners 
Small bowl. 

it. This bowl, when shaken, is held in one hand and thumped with the other 
hand. In other respects this method of washing does not differ from the 

I have spoken of the various methods of washing sand which contains 
grains of gold ; I will now speak of the methods of washing the material in 
which are mixed the small black stones from which tin is made^". Eight 
such methods are in use, and of these two have been invented lately. Such 
metalliferous material is usually found torn away from veins and stringers 
and scattered far and wide by the impetus of water, although sometimes 
venae dilatatae are composed of it. The miners dig out the latter material 
with a broad mattock, while they dig the former with a pick. But they dig 
out the little stones, which are not rare in this kind of ore, with an instrument 
like the bill of a duck. In districts which contain this material, if there is 
an abundant supply of water, and if there are valleys or gentle slopes and 
hollows, so that rivers can be diverted into them, the washers in summer- 

^"As the concentration of crushed tin ore has been exhaustively treated of already, 
the descriptions from here on probably refer entirely to alluvial tin. 



A — Stream. B— Ditch. C— M.^ttock. D— Pieces of turf. E — Seven-pronged fork. 
F — Iron SHOVEL. G — Trough. H— Another trough below it. I — Small wooden trowel. 



time first of aU dig a long ditch sloping so that the water wiU run through 
it rapidly. Into the ditch is thrown the metallic material, together with the 
surface material, which is six feet thick, more or less, and often contains moss, 
roots of plants, shrubs, trees, and earth ; they are all thrown in with a broad 
mattock, and the water flows through the ditch. The sand and tin-stone, as 
they are heavy, sink to the bottom of the ditch, while the moss and roots, as 
they are hght, are carried away by the water which flows through the ditch. 
The bottom of the ditch is obstructed with turf and stones in order to prevent 
the water from carrying away the tin-stone at the same time. The washers, 
whose feet are covered with high boots made of hide, though not of rawhide, 
themselves stand in the ditch and throw out of it the roots of the trees, 
shrubs, and grass with seven-pronged wooden forks, and push back the tin- 
stone toward the head of the ditch. After four weeks, in which they have 
devoted much work and labour, they raise the tin-stone in the following 
way ; the sand with which it is mixed is repeatedly hfted from the ditch 

A— Trough. B— Wooden shovel. C~Tub. D— Launder. E— Wooden trowel. 
F— Transverse trough. G— Plug. H— Falling water. I— Ditch. K— BARROVif 
conveying material to be washed. L — Pick like the beak of a duck with which 
the miner digs out the material from which the small stones are obtained. 


with an iron shovel and agitated hither and thither in the water, until the 
sand Hows away and only the tin-stone remains on the shovel. The tin- 
stone is all collected together and washed again in a trough by pushing it 
up and turning it over with a wooden trowel, in order that the remaining 
sand may separate from it. Afterward they return to their task, which they 
continue until the metaUiferous material is exhausted, or until the water can 
no longer be diverted into the ditches. 

The trough which I mentioned is hewn out of the trunk of a tree and the 
interior is five feet long, three-quarters of a foot deep, and six digits wide. 
It is placed on an inchne and under it is put a tub which contains interwoven 
fir twigs, or else another trough is put under it, the interior of which is three 
feet long and one foot wide and deep ; the fine tin-stone, which has run out 
with the water, settles in the bottom. Some people, in place of a trough, 
put a square launder underneath, and in like manner they wash the tin- 
stone in this by agitating it up and down and turning it over with a small 
wooden trowel. A transverse trough is put under the launder, which is 
either open on one end and drains off into a tub or settUng-pit, or else is 
closed and perforated through the bottom ; in this case, it drains into a 
ditch beneath, where the water falls when the plug has been partly removed. 
The nature of this ditch I will now describe. 

If the locahty does not supply an abundance of water, the washers dig a 
ditch thirty or thirty-six feet long, and cover the bottom, the full length, with 
logs joined together and hewn on the side which lies flat on the ground. On 
each side of the ditch, and at its head also, they place four logs, one above 
the other, all hewn smooth on the inside. But since the logs are laid 
obUquely along the sides, the upper end of the ditch is made four feet wide 
and the tail end, two feet. The water has a high drop from a launder and 
first of all it faUs into interlaced fir twigs, in order that it shall fall straight 
down for the most part in an unbroken stream and thus break up the lumps 
by its weight. Some do not place these twigs under the end of the launder, 
but put a plug in its mouth, which, since it does not entirely close the launder, 
nor altogether prevent the discharge from it, nor yet allow the water to 
spout far afield, makes it drop straight down. The workman brings in a 
wheelbarrow the material to be washed, and throws it into the ditch. The 
washer standing in the upper end of the ditch breaks the Itmips with a seven- 
pronged fork, and throws out the roots of trees, shrubs, and grass with the 
same instrument, and thereby the small black stones settle down. When a 
large quantity of the tin-stone has accumulated, which generally happens 
when the washer has spent a day at this work, to prevent it from being 
washed away he places it upon the bank, and other material having been 
again thrown into the upper end of the ditch, he continues the task of washing. 
A boy stands at the lower end of the ditch, and with a thin pointed hoe 
stirs up the sediment which has settled at the lower end, to prevent the 
washed tin-stone from being carried further, which occurs when the sediment 
has accumulated to such an extent that the fir branches at the outlet of the 
ditch are covered. 



A — Launder. B — Interlacing fir twigs. C — Logs ; three on one side, for the 


WASHED. D — Logs at the head of the ditch. E — Barrow. F — Seven-proxged 
FORK. G — Hoe 

The third method of washing materials of this kind foUows. Two 
strakes are made, each of which is twelve feet long and a foot and a 
half wide and deep. A tank is set at their head, into which the water flows 
through a httle launder. A boy throws the ore into one strake ; if it is of 
poor quality he puts in a large amount of it, if it is rich he puts in less. The 
water is let in by removing the plug, the ore is stirred with a wooden shovel, 
and in this way the tin-stone, mixed with the heavier material, settles 
in the bottom of the strake, and the water carries the light material into the 
launder, through which it flows on to a canvas strake. The very fine tin- 
stone, carried by the water, settles on to the canvas and is cleansed. A low 
cross-board is placed in the strake near the head, in order that the largest 
sized tin-stone may settle there. As soon as the strake is filled with the 
material which has been washed, he closes the mouth of the tank and continues 
washing in the other strake, and then the plug is withdrawn and the 
water and tin-stone flow down into a tank below. Then he pounds the sides 



A — Strakes. B — Tank. C — Launder. D — Plug. E — Wooden shovel. 
F — Wooden mallet. G — Wooden shovel with short handle. H — The plug 
IN the strake. I — Tank placed under the plug. 

of the loaded strake with a vi'ooden mallet, in order that the tin-stone clinging 
to the sides may fall off ; all that has settled in it, he throws out with a 
wooden shovel which has a short handle. Silver slags which have been 
crushed under the stamps, also fragments of silver-lead alloy and of cakes 
melted from pyrites, are washed in a strake of this kind. 

Material of this kind is also washed while wet, in a sieve whose bottom 
is made of woven iron wire, and this is the fourth method of washing. The 
sieve is immersed in the water which is contained in a tub, and is violently 
shaken. The bottom of this tub has an opening of such size that as much 
water, together with tailings from the sieve, can flow continuously out of it as 
water flows into it. The material which settles in the strake, a boy either 
digs over with a three-toothed iron rake or sweeps with a wooden scrubber ; 
in this way the water carries off a great part of both sand and mud. The 
tin-stone or metalliferous concentrates settle in the strake and are afterward 
washed in another strake. 

These are ancient methods of washing material which contains tin- 
stone ; there follow two modern methods. If the tin-stone mixed with 



A — Sieve. B — Tub. C — Water flowing out of the bottom of it. D — Strake. 
E— Three-toothed rake. F — Wooden scrubber. 

earth or sand is found on the slopes of mountains or hills, or in the level fields 
which are either devoid of streams or into which a stream cannot be diverted, 
iriiners have lately begun to employ the following method of washing, even 
in the winter months. An open box is constructed of planks, about six 
feet long, three feet wide, and two feet and one palm deep. At the upper 
end on the inside, an iron plate three feet long and wide is fixed, at a depth 
of one foot and a half from the top ; this plate is very full of holes, through 
which tin-stone about the size of a pea can fall. A trough hewn from a tree 
is placed under the box, and this trough is about twenty-four feet long and 
three-quarters of a foot wide and deep ; very often three cross-boards are 
placed in it, dividing it off into compartments, each one of which is lower 
than the next. The turbid waters discharge into a settling-pit. 

The metalliferous material is sometimes found not very deep beneath 
the surface of the earth, but sometimes so deep that it is necessary to drive 
tunnels and sink shafts. It is transported to the washing-box in wheel- 
barrows, and when the washers are about to begin they lay a small launder. 



A— Box. B— Perforated plate. C— Trough. D— Cross-boards. E— Pool. 
F — Launder. G— Shovel. H — Rake. 

344 BOOK Vm. 

through which there flows on to the iron plate so much water as is necessary 
for this washing. Next, a boy throws the metalliferous material on to the 
iron plate with an iron shovel and breaks the small lumps, stirring them this 
way and that with the same implement. Then the water and sand penetra- 
ting the holes of the plate, fall into the box, while all the coarse gravel remains 
on the plate, and this he throws into a wheelbarrow with the same shovel. 
Meantime, a younger boy continually stirs the sand under the plate with a 
wooden scrubber nearly as wide as the box, and drives it to the upper end of 
the box ; the lighter material, as well as a small amount of tin-stone, is 
carried by the water down into the underlying trough. The boys carry on 
this labour without intermission until they have filled four wheelbarrows 
with the coarse and worthless residues, which they carry off and throw away, or 
three wheelbarrows if the material is rich in black tin. Then the foreman 
has the plank removed which was in front of the iron plate, and on which the 
boy stood. The sand, mixed with the tin-stone, is frequently pushed backward 
and forward with a scrubber, and the same sand, because it is lighter, takes 
the upper place, and is removed as soon as it appears ; that which takes the 
lower place is turned over with a spade, in order that any that is Hght 
can flow away ; when all the tin-stone is heaped together, he shovels it out 
of the box and carries it away. While the foreman does this, one boy with 
an iron hoe stirs the sand mixed with fine tin-stone, which has run out of the 
box and has settled in the trough and pushes it back to the uppermost part 
of the trough, and this material, since it contains a very great amount of tin- 
stone, is thrown on to the plate and washed again. The material which has 
settled in the lowest part of the trough is taken out separately and piled in a 
heap, and is washed on the ordinary strake ; that which has settled in the 
pool is washed on the canvas strake. In the summer-time this fruitful 
labour is repeated more often, in fact ten or eleven times. The tin-stone 
which the foreman removes from the box, is afterward washed in a jigging 
sieve, and lastly in a tub, where at length all the sand is separated out. 
Finally, any material in which are mixed particles of other metals, can be 
washed by all these methods, whether it has been disintegrated from veins or 
stringers, or whether it originated from venae dilatatae, or from streams and 

The sixth method of washing material of this kind is even more modern 
and more useful than the last. Two boxes are constructed, into each of 
which water flows through spouts from a cross trough into which it has been 
discharged through a pipe or launder. When the material has been agitated 
and broken up with iron shovels by two boys, part of it runs down and falls 
through the iron plates full of holes, or through the iron grating, and flows 
out of the box over a sloping surface into another cross trough, and from 
this into a strake seven feet long and two and a half feet wide. Then 
the foreman again stirs it with a wooden scrubber that it may become 
clean. As for the material which has flowed down with the water and settled 
in the third cross trough, or in the launder which leads from it, a third boy 
rakes it mth a two-toothed rake ; in this waj^ the fine tin-stone settles down 


A — Launder. B — Cross trough. C — Two spouts. D — Boxes. E — Plate. F — 

Grating. G — Shovels. H — Second cross trough. I — Strake. K — Wooden 

scrubber. L — Third cross trough. M — Launder. N — Three-toothed rake. 

and the water carries off the valueless sand into the creek. This method 
of washing is most advantageous, for four men can do the work of washing 
in two boxes, while the last method, if doubled, requires six men, for it requires 
two boys to throw the material to be washed on to the plate and to stir it 
with iron shovels ; two more are required with wooden scrubbers to keep 
stirring the sand, mixed with the tin-stone, under the plate, and to push it 
toward the upper end of the box ; further, two foremen are required 
to clean the tin-stone in the way I have described. In the place of a plate 
full of holes, they now fix in the boxes a grating made of iron wire as 
thick as the stalks of rye ; that these may not be depressed by the weight 
and become bent, three iron bars support them, being laid crosswise under- 
neath. To prevent the grating from being broken by the iron shovels with 
which the material is stirred in washing, five or six iron rods are placed on 
top in cross lines, and are fixed to the box so that the shovels may rub them 
instead of the grating ; for this reason the grating lasts longer than the 



plates, because it remains intact, while the rods, when worn by rubbing, can 
easily be replaced by others. 

Miners use the seventh method of washing when there is no stream of 
water in the part of the mountain which contains the black tin, or particles of 
gold, or of other metals. In this case they frequently dig more than fifty 
ditches on the slope below, or make the same number of pits, six feet long, 
three feet wide, and three-quarters of a foot deep, not any great distance 
from each other. At the season when a torrent rises from storms of 
great violence or long duration, and rushes down the mountain, some of 
the miners dig the metalliferous material in the woods with broad hoes and 

A — Pits. 

drag it to the torrent. Other miners divert the torrent into the ditches or 
pits, and others throw the roots of trees, shrubs, and grass out of the ditches 
or pits with seven-pronged wooden forks. When the torrent has run down, 
they remove with shovels the uncleansed tin-stone or particles of metal which 
have settled in the ditches or pits, and cleanse it. 

The eighth method is also employed in the regions which the Lusitanians 
hold in their power and sway, and is not dissimilar to the last. They drive 


a groat number of deep ditclu's in rows in the gullies, slopes, and hollows of 
the mountiiins. Into these ditches the water, whether flowing down from 
snow melted by the heat of the sun or from rain, collects and carries together 
with earth and sand, sometimes tin-stone, or, in the case of the Lusitanians, 
the particles of gold loosened from veins and stringers. As soon as the 
waters of the torrent have all run away, the miners throw the material out 
of the ditches with iron shovels, and wash it in a common sluice box. 

A— Gully. B — Ditch. C — Torrent. D — Sluice box employed by the 

The Poles wash the impure lead from venae dilatatae in a trough ten 
feet long, three feet wide, and one and one-quarter feet deep. It is mixed 
with moist earth and is covered by a wet and sandy clay, and so 
first of all the clay, and afterward the ore, is dug out. The ore is carried 
to a stream or river, and thrown into a trough into which water is admitted 
by a Uttle launder, and the washer standing at the lower end of the trough 
drags the ore out with a narrow and nearly pointed hoe, whose wooden handle 
is nearly ten feet long. It is washed over agcdn once or twice in the same 
way and thus made pure. Afterward when it has been dried in the sun 


they throw it into a copper sieve, and separate the very small pieces which 
pass through the sieve from the larger ones ; of these the former are smelted 
in a faggot pile and the latter in the furnace. Of such a number then are 
the methods of washing. 

A — Trough. B — Launder. C — Hoe. D — Sieve. 

One method of burning is principally employed, and two of roasting. 
The black tin is burned by a hot fire in a furnace similar to an oven^^ ; it 
is burned if it is a dark -blue colour, or if pyrites and the stone from which 
iron is made are mixed with it, for the dark blue colour if not burnt, consumes 
the tin. If pyrites and the other stone are not volatihsed into fumes in a 
furnace of this kind, the tin which is made from the tin-stone is impure. 
The tin-stone is thrown either into the back part of the furnace, or into one 
side of it ; but in the former case the wood is placed in front, in the latter 
case alongside, in such a manner, however, that neither firebrands nor 
coals may fall upon the tin-stone itself or touch it. The fuel is manipulated 
by a poker made of wood. The tin-stone is now stirred with a rake with two 

'^From a metallurgical point of view all of these operations are roasting. Even 
to-day, however, the expression " burning " tin is in use in some parts of Cornwall, and in 
former times it was general. 



teeth, and now again levelled down with a hoe, both of which are made of iron. 
The very fine tin-stone requires to be burned less than that of moderate size, 
and this again less than that of the largest size. While the tin-stone is being 
thus burned, it frequently happens that some of the material runs together. 

A — Furnace. B — Its mouth. C — Poker. D — Rake with two teeth. E — Hoe. 

The burned tin-stone should then be washed again on the strake, for in this 
way the material which has been run together is carried away by the water 
into the cross-trough, where it is gathered up and worked over, and again 
washed on the strake. By this method the metal is separated from that 
which is devoid of metal. 

Cakes from pyrites, or cadmia, or cupriferous stones, are roasted in quad- 
rangular pits, of which the front and top are open, and these pits are generally 
twelve feet long, eight feet wide, and three feet deep. The cakes of melted 
pyrites are usually roasted twice over, and those of cadmia once. These latter 
are first rolled in mud moistened with vinegar, to prevent the fire from con- 
suming too much of the copper with the bitumen, or sulphur, or orpiment, or 
realgar. The cakes of pyrites are first roasted in a slow fire and afterward in 
a fierce one, and in both cases, during the whole following night, water is let in. 



in order that, if there is in the cakes any alum or vitriol or saltpetre capable 
of injuring the metals, although it rarely does injure them, the water may 
remove it and make the cakes soft. The solidified juices are nearly all 
harmful to the metal, when cakes or ore of this kind are smelted. The cakes 
which are to be roasted are placed on wood piled up in the form of a crate, 
and this pile is fired^^. 

-Wood. C — Cakes 


The cakes which are made of copper smelted from schist are first thrown 
upon the ground and broken, and then placed in the furnace on bundles of 
faggots, and these are Ughted. These cakes are generally roasted seven 
times and occasionally nine times. While this is being done, if they are 

^^There can be no doubt that these are mattes, as will develop in Chapter ix. The 
German term in the Glossary for panes ex pyrite is stein, the same as the modern German 
for matte. Orpiment and realgar are the yellow and red arsenical sulphides. The cadmia 
was no doubt the cobalt-arsenic minerals (see note on p. 112). The "solidified juices" were 
generally anything that could be expelled short of smelting, i.e., roasted off or leached out, 
as shown in note 4, p. i ; they embrace the sulphates, salts, sulphur, bitumen, and 
arsenical sulphides, etc. For further information on leaching out the sulphates, alum, etc., 
see note 10, p. 564. 



bituminous, then the bitumen bums and can be smelled. These furnaces have 
a structure hke the structure of the furnaces in which ore is smelted, except 
that they are open in front ; they are six feet high and four feet wide. As 
for this kind of furnace, three of them are required for one of those in which 
the cakes are melted. First of all they are roasted in the first furnace, then 
when they are cooled, they are transferred into the second furnace and again 
roasted ; later they are carried to the third, and afterward back to the first, 
and this order is preserved until they have been roasted seven or nine times. 

A — Cakes. B — Bundles of faggots. C — Furnaces. 



INCE I have written of the varied work of pre- 
paring the ores, I will now write of the various 
methods of smelting them. Although those who 
burn, roast and calcine^ the ore, take from it some- 
thing which is mixed or combined with the metals ; 
and those who crush it with stamps take away much ; 
and those who wash, screen and sort it, take away 
still more ; yet they cannot remove all which con- 
ceals the metal from the eye and renders it crude 
and unformed. Wherefore smelting is necessary, for by this means earths, 
solidified juices, and stones are separated from the metals so that they 
obtain their proper colour and become pure, and may be of great use to 
mankind in many ways. When the ore is smelted, those things which 
were mixed with the metal before it was melted are driven forth, because 
the metal is perfected by fire in this manner. Since metalliferous ores 
differ greatly amongst themselves, first as to the metals which they con- 
tain, then as to the quantity of the metal which is in them, and then by 
the fact that some are rapidly melted by fire and others slowly, there are, 
therefore, many methods of smelting. Constant practice has taught the 

^The history of the fusion of ores and of metals is the history of individual processes, 
and such information as we have been able to discover upon the individual methods previous 
to Agricola we give on the pages where such processes are discussed. In general the records 
of the beginnings of metallurgy are so nebular that, if one wishes to shirk the task, he can 
adopt the explanation of William Pryce one hundred and fifty years ago : " It is very 
" probable that the nature and use of Metals were not revealed to Adam in his state of 
" innocence : the toil and labour necessary to procure and use those implements of the iron 
" age could not be known, till they made part of the curse incurred by his fall : ' In the sweat 
" ' of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground ; in sorrow shalt thou 
" ' eat of it all the days of thy life ' (Genesis). That they were very early discovered, 
" however, is manifest from the Mosaick account of Tubal Cain, who was the first instructor 
" of every artificer in Brass [sic] and Iron " (Mineralogia Cornubiensis, p. 2). 

It is conceivable that gold could be found in large enough pieces to have had general 
use in pre-historic times, without fusion ; but copper, which was also in use, must have been 
smelted, and therefore we must assume a considerable development of human knowledge on 
the subject prior to any human record. Such incidental mention as exists after record 
begins does not, of course, extend to the beginning of any particular branch of the art — in 
fact, special arts obviously existed long before such mention, and down to the complete 
survey of the state of the art bj' Agricola our dates are necessarily " prior to " some first 
mention in literature, or " prior to " the known period of existing remains of metallur- 
gical operations. The scant Egyptian records, the Scriptures, and the Shoo King give a little 
insight prior to 1000 B.C. The more extensive Greek literature of about the 5th to the 3rd 
centuries B.C., together with the remains of Greek mines, furnish another datum point of view, 
and the Roman and Greek writers at the beginning of the Christian era give a still larger view. 
After them our next step is to the Monk Theophilus and the Alchemists, from the 12th to the 
14th centuries. Finally, the awakening of learning at the end of the 15th and the beginning 
of the i6th centuries, enables us for the first time to see practically all that was known. The 
wealth of literature which exists subsequent to this latter time makes history thereafter a 
matter of some precision, but it is not included in this undertaking. Considering the great 
part that the metals have played in civilization, it is astonishing what a minute amount of 
information is available on metallurgy. Either the ancient metallurgists were secretive 
as to their art, or the ancient authors despised such common things, or, as is equally probable, 
the very partial preservation of ancient literature, by painful transcription over a score of 
centuries, served only for those works of more general interest. In any event, if all the direct 
or indirect material on metallurgy prior to the 15th century were compiled, it would not fill 
40 pages such as these. 

"See footnote 2, p. 267, on verbs used for roasting. 



smelters by which of these methods they can obtain the most metal from 
any one ore. Moreover, while sometimes there are many methods of 
smelting the same ore, by which an equal weight of metal is melted out, yet 
one is done at a greater cost and labour than the others. Ore is either melted 
with a furnace or without one ; if smelted with a furnace the tap-hole is either 
temporarily closed or always open, and if smelted without a furnace, it is done 
either in pots or in trenches. But in order to make this matter clearer, I will 
describe each in detail, beginning with the buildings and the furnaces. 

It may be of service to give a tabular summary indicating approximately the time 
when evidence of particular operations appear on the historical horizon : 

Gold washed from alluvial 

Copper reduced from ores by smelting . . 

Bitumen mined and used. . 

Tin reduced from ores by smelting 

Bronze made 

Iron reduced from ores by smelting 

Soda mined and used 

Gold reduced from ores by concentration 

Silver reduced from ores by smelting 

Lead reduced from ores by smelting 

Prior to recorded civilization 

Prior to recorded civilization 

Prior to recorded civilization 

Prior to 3500 B.C. 

Prior to 3500 B.C. 

Prior to 3500 B.C. 

Prior to 3500 B.C. 

Prior to 2500 B.C. 

Prior to 2000 B.C. 

Prior to 2000 B.C. (perhaps prior 

to 3500 B.C.) 
Prior to 2000 B.C. 
Prior to 1500 B.C. 
Prior to 1000 B.C. 
Prior to 500 B.C. 
Prior to 500 B.C. 
Prior to 500 B.C. 
Prior to 400 B.C. 
Prior to 300 B.C. 

Silver parted from lead by cupellation . . 

Bellows used in furnaces . . 

Steel produced 

Base metals separated from ores by water concentration 

Gold refined by cupellation 

Sulphide ores smelted for lead 

Mercury reduced from ores by. .(?) 

White-lead made with vinegar 

Touchstone known for determining gold and silver 

Quicksilver reduced from ore by distillation 

Silver parted from gold by cementation with salt 

Brass made by cementation of copper and calamine . . 

Zinc oxides obtained from furnace fumes by construc- 
tion of dust chambers 

Antimony reduced from ores by smelting (accidental) 

Gold recovered by amalgamation 

Refining of copper by repeated fusion . . 

Sulphide ores smelted for copper 

Vitriol (blue and green) made 

Alum made 

Copper refined by oxidation and poling 

Gold parted from copper by cupelling with lead 

Gold parted from silver by fusion with sulphur 

Manufacture of nitric acid and aqua regia 

Gold parted from silver by nitric acid . . 

Gold parted from silver with antimony sulphide 

Gold parted from copper with sulphur. . 

Silver parted from iron with antimony sulphide 

First text book on assaying 

Silver recovered from ores by amalgamation . . 

Separation of silver from copper by liquation. . 

Cobalt and manganese used for pigments 

Roasting copper ores prior to smelting. . 

Stamp-mill used 

Bismuth reduced from ore 

Zinc reduced from ore (accidental) 
Further, we believe it desirable to sketch at the outset the development of metallurgical 
appliances as a whole, leaving the details to special footnotes ; otherwise a comprehensive 
view of the development of such devices is difficult to grasp. 

We can outline the character of metallurgical appliances at various periods in a 
few words. It is possible to set up a description of the imaginary beginning of the 

Prior to 300 B.C. 
Prior to Christian Era 
Prior to „ 

Prior to „ 

Prior to „ 

Prior to ,, 

Prior to 
Prior to ,, 

Prior to ,, 

Prior to ,, 

Prior to „ 

Prior to 1200 A.D. 
Prior to 1200 A.D. 
Prior to 1200 A.D. 
Prior to 1400 A.D. 
Prior to 1400 A.D. 
Prior to 1500 A.D. 
Prior to 1500 A.D. 
Prior to 1500 A.D. 
Prior to 1500 A.D. 
Prior to 1500 A.D. 
Prior to 1540 A.D. 
Prior to 1540 A.D. 
Prior to 1550 A.D. 
Prior to 1550 A.D. 
Prior to 1550 A.D. 
Prior to 1550 A.D. 

BOOK IX. 355 

A wall which will be called the "second wall " is constructed of brick 
or stone, two feet and as many palms thick, in order that it may be strong 
enough to bear the weight. It is built fifteen feet high, and its length depends 
on the number of furnaces which are put in the works ; there are usually 
six furnaces, rarely more, and often less. There are three furnace walls, a 
back one which is against the " second " wall, and two side ones, of which I 
will speak later. These should be made of natural stone, as this is more 
serviceable than burnt bricks, because bricks soon become defective and 
crumble away, when the smelter or his deputy chips off the accretions which 
adhere to the walls when the ore is smelted. Natural stone resists injury 
by the fire and lasts a long time, especially that which is soft and devoid 
of cracks ; but, on the contrary, that which is hard and has many cracks 
is burst asunder by the fire and destroyed. For this reason, furnaces which 
are made of the latter are easily weakened by the fire, and when the accretions 
are chipped off they crumble to pieces. The front furnace wall should be 
made of brick, and there should be in the lower part a mouth three palms 
wide and one and a half feet high, when the hearth is completed. A hole 
slanting upward, three palms long, is made through the back furnace wall, at 
the height of a cubit, before the hearth has been prepared ; through this 
hole and a hole one foot long in the " second " wall — as the back of this wall 
has an arch — is inserted a pipe of iron or bronze, in which are fixed the nozzles 

" bronze age " prior to recorded civilization, starting with the savage who accidentally 
built a fire on top of some easily reducible ore, and discovered metal in the ashes, etc. ; but 
as this method has been pursued times out of number to no particular purpose, we wiU 
confine ourselves to a summary of such facts as we can assemble. " Founders' hoards " 
of the bronze age are scattered over Western Europe, and indicate that smelting was done 
in shallow pits with charcoal. With the Egyptians we find occasional inscriptions showing 
small furnaces with forced draught, in early cases with a blow-pipe, but later — about 1500 
B.C. — with bellows also. The crucible was apparently used by the Egyptians in secondary 
melting, such remains at Mt. Sinai probably dating before 2000 B.C. With the advent of the 
Prophets, and the first Greek literature — gth to 7th century B.C.— we find frequent references 
to bellows. The remains of smelting appliances at Mt. Laurion (500-300 B.C.) do not indicate 
much advance over the primitive hearth ; however, at this locality we do find evidence of 
the ability to separate minerals by specific gravity, by washing crushed ore over inclined 
surfaces with a sort of huddle attachment. Stone grinding-mills were used to crush ore from 
the earhest times of Mt. Laurion down to the Middle Ages. About the beginning of the 
Christian era the writings of Diodorus, Strabo, Dioscorides, and Phny indicate considerable 
advance in appliances. Strabo describes high stacks to carry off lead fumes ; Dioscorides 
explains a furnace with a dust-chamber to catch pompholyx (zinc oxide) ; Pliny refers to the 
upper and lower crucibles (a forehearth) and to the pillars and arches of the furnaces. From 
all of their descriptions we may conclude that the furnaces had then reached some size, and 
were, of course, equipped with bellows. At this time sulphide copper and lead ores were 
smelted ; but as to fluxes, except lead for silver, and lead and soda for gold, we have practically 
no mention. Charcoal was the universal fuel for smelting down to the i8th century. Both 
Dioscorides and Pliny describe a distillation apparatus used to recover quicksilver. A formid- 
able list of mineral products and metal alloys in use, indicate in themselves considerable 
apparatus, of the details of which we have no indication ; in the main these products were 
lead sulphide, sulphate, and oxide (red-lead and litharge) ; zinc oxide ; iron sulphide, oxide 
and sulphate ; arsenic and antimony sulphides ; mercury sulphide, sulphur, bitumen, soda, 
alum and potash, ; and of the alloys, bronze, brass, pewter, electrum and steel. 

From this period to the period of the awakening of learning our only light is an 
occasional gleam from Theophilus and the Alchemists. The former gave a more detailed 
description of metallurgical appliances than had been done before, but there is little vital 
change apparent from the apparatus of Roman times. The Alchemists gave a great stimulus 
to industrial chemistry in the discovery of the mineral acids, and described distillation apparatus 
of approximately modern form. 

The next period — the Renaissance — is one in which our descriptions are for the first 
time satisfactory, and a discussion would be but a review of De Re Metallica. 

356 BOOK IX. 

of the bellows. The whole of the front furnace wall is not more than five feet 
high, so that the ore may be conveniently put into the furnace, together with 
those things which the master needs for his work of smelting. Both the side 
walls of the furnace are six feet high, and the back one seven feet, and they 
are three palms thick. The interior of the furnace is five palms wide, six 
palms and a digit long, the width being measured by the space which lies 
between the two side walls, and the length by the space between the front and 
the back walls ; however, the upper part of the furnace widens out somewhat. 

There are two doors in the second wall if there are six furnaces, one 
of the doors being between the second and third furnaces and the other 
between the fourth and fifth furnaces. They are a cubit wide and six feet 
high, in order that the smelters may not have mishaps in coming and going. 
It is necessary to have a door to the right of the first furnace, and similarly 
one to the left of the last, whether the wall is longer or not. The second 
wall is carried further when the rooms for the cupellation furnaces, or any 
other building, adjoin the rooms for the blast furnaces, these buildings being 
only divided by a partition. The smelter, and the ones who attend to the 
first and the last furnaces, if they wish to look at the bellows or to do anything 
else, go out through the doors at the end of the wall, and the other people go 
through the other doors, which are the common ones. The furnaces are placed 
at a distance of six feet from one another, in order that the smelters and their 
assistants may more easily sustain the fierceness of the heat. Inasmuch as 
the interior of each furnace is five palms wide and each is six feet distant 
from the other, and inasmuch as there is a space of four feet three palms at 
the right side of the first furnace and as much at the left side of the last 
furnace, and there are to be six furnaces in one building, then it is necessary 
to make the second wall fifty-two feet long ; because the total of the widths 
of all of the furnaces is seven and a half feet, the total of the spaces between 
the furnaces is thirty feet, the space on the outer sides of the first and last 
furnaces is nine feet and two palms, and the thickness of the two transverse 
walls is five feet, which make a total measurement of fifty-two feet.^ 

Outside each furnace hearth there is a small pit full of powder which is 
compressed by ramming, and in this manner is made the forehearth which 
receives the metal flowing from the furnaces. Of this I wiU speak later. 

Buried about a cubit under the forehearth and the hearth of the furnace 
is a transverse water-tank, three feet long, three palms wide and a cubit deep. 
It is made of stone or brick, with a stone cover, for if it were not covered, the 
heat would draw the moisture from below and the vapour might be blown 
into the hearth of the furnace as well as into the forehearth, and would 
dampen the blast. The moisture would vitiate the blast, and part of the 
metal would be absorbed and part would be mixed with the slags, and in 
this manner the melting would be greatly damaged. From each water-tank 
is built a waUed vent, to the same depth as the tank, but six digits wide ; 

^Agricola has here either forgotten to take into account his three-palm-thick furnace 
walls, which will make the length of this long wall sixty-one feet, or else he has included this 
foot and a half in each case in the six-foot distance between the furnaces, so that the actual 
clear space is only four and a half feet between the furnace with four feet on the ends. 



A — Furnaces. B— Forehe^rths. 



this vent slopes upward, and sooner or later penetrates through to the other 
side of the wall, against which the furnace is built. At the end of this vent 
there is an opening where the steam, into which the water has been converted, 
is exhausted through a copper or iron tube or pipe. This method of making 
the tank and the vent is much the best. Another kind has a similar vent 
but a different tank, for it does not lie transversely under the forehearth, 
but lengthwise ; it is two feet and a palm long, and a foot and three palms 
wide, and a foot and a palm deep. This method of making tanks is not 
condemned by us, as is the construction of those tanks without a vent ; 
the latter, which have no opening into the air through which the vapour may 
discharge freely, are indeed to be condemned. 

A — Furnaces. B — Forehearth. C — Door. D — Water tank. E — Stone which 
COVERS IT. F — Material of the vent walls. G — Stone which covers it. H — Pipe 
exhaling the vapour. 

Fifteen feet behind the second wall is constructed the first wall, thirteen 
feet high. In both of these are fixed roof beams*, which are a foot wide and 

*The paucity of terms in Latin for describing structural members, and the consequent 
repetition of " beam " (irabs), " timber " {tignum), " billet " (tigilhim), " pole " (asser), 
with such modifications as small, large, and transverse, and with long explanatory clauses 
showing their location, renders the original very difficult to follow. We have, therefore, 
introduced such terms as " posts," " tie-beams," " sweeps," " levers," " rafters," " sUls," 
" moulding," " braces," " cleats," " supports," etc., as the context demands. 



360 BOOK IX. 

thick, and nineteen feet and a palm long ; these are placed three feet distant 
from one another. As the second wall is two feet higher than the first wall, 
recesses are cut in the back of it two feet high, one foot wide, and a palm deep, 
and in these recesses, as it were in mortises, are placed one end of each of 
the beams. Into these ends are mortised the bottoms of just as many posts ; 
these posts are twenty-four feet high, three palms wide and thick, and from 
the tops of the posts the same number of rafters stretch downward to the 
ends of the beams superimposed on the first wall ; the upper ends of the 
rafters are mortised into the posts and the lower ends are mortised into the 
ends of the beams laid on the first wall ; the rafters support the roof, 
which consists of burnt tiles. Each separate rafter is propped up by a 
separate timber, which is a cross-beam, and is joined to its post. Planks 
close together are affixed to the posts above the furnaces ; these planks are 
about two digits thick and a palm wide, and they, together with the wicker 
work interposed between the timbers, are covered with lute so that there may 
be no risk of fire to the timbers and wicker-work. In this practical manner 
is constructed the back part of the works, which contains the bellows, their 
frames, the mechanism for compressing the bellows, and the instrument for 
distending them, of all of which I will speak hereafter. 

In front of the furnaces is constructed the third long waU and likewise 
the fourth. Both are nine feet high, but of the same length and thickness as 
the other two, the fourth being nine feet distant from the third ; the 
third is twenty-one and a half feet from the second. At a distance of 
twelve feet from the second wall, four posts seven and a half feet high, a cubit 
wide and thick, are set upon rock laid underneath. Into the tops of the 
posts the roof beam is mortised ; this roof beam is two feet and as many 
palms longer than the distance between the second and the fifth transverse 
walls, in order that its ends may rest on the transverse walls. If there should 
not be so long a beam at hand, two are substituted for it. As the length of 
the long beam is as above, and as the posts are equidistant, it is necessary 
that the posts should be a distance of nine feet, one palm, two and two-fifths 
digits from each other, and the end ones this distance from the transverse 
walls. On this longitudinal beam and to the third and fourth walls are fixed 
twelve secondary beams twenty-four feet long, one foot wide, three palms 
thick, and distant from each other three feet, one palm, and two digits. In 
these secondary beams, where they rest on the longitudinal beams, are mortised 
the ends of the same number of rafters as there are posts which stand on the 
second wall. The ends of the rafters do not reach to the tops of the posts, 
but are two feet away from them, that through this opening, which is like 
the open part of a forge, the furnaces can emit their fumes. In order that 
the rafters should not fall down, they are supported partly by iron rods, 
which extend from each rafter to the opposite post, and partly supported 
by a few tie-beams, which in the same manner extend from some rafters to 
the posts opposite, and give them stability. To these tie-beams, as well as 
to the rafters which face the posts, a number of boards, about two digits thick 
and a palm wide, are fixed at a distance of a palm from each other, and are 



covered with lute so that they do not catch fire. In the secondary beams, 
where they are laid on the fourth wall, are mortised the lower ends of the 
same number of rafters as those in a set of rafters^ opposite them. From 
the third long wall these rafters are joined and tied to the ends of the opposite 
rafters, so that they may not slip, and besides they are strengthened with 
substructures which are made of cross and oblique timbers. The rafters 
support the roof. 

<" '2 '8 *4 > J^ 4«. 48 y4«l 






















1 ' 












I . . I . . ; . . I . • I 
i^' ^ fti 18 a 4 

The four long walls : A — First. B — Second. C — Third. D — Fourth. The 


I — Fifth. K — Sixth. L — Seventh, or middle. 


H — Fourth. 

In this manner the front part of the building is made, and is divided into 
three parts ; the first part is twelve feet wide and is under the hood, which 
consists of two walls, one vertical and one incUned. The second part is the 
same number of feet wide and is for the reception of the ore to be smelted, 
the fluxes, the charcoal, and other things which are needed by the smelter. 
The third part is nine feet wide and contains two separate rooms of equal 
size, in one of which is the assay furnace, while the other contains the metal 
to be melted in the cupeUation furnaces. It is thus necessary that in the 

'This set of rafters appears to start from the longitudinal beam. 

362 BOOK IX. 

building there should be, besides the four long walls, seven transverse walls, 
of which the first is constructed from the upper end of the first long wall to 
the upper end of the second long wall ; the second proceeds from the end 
of this to the end of the third long wall ; the third Ukewise from this end of 
the last extends to the end of the fourth long wall ; the fourth leads from 
the lower end of the first long wall to the lower end of the second long wall ; 
the fifth extends from the end of this to the end of the third long wall ; the 
sixth extends from this last end to the end of the fourth long wall ; the 
seventh divides into two parts the space between the third and fourth long 

To return to the back part of the building, in which, as I said, are the 
bellows^, their frames, the machinery for compressing them, and the instru- 
ment for distending them. Each bellows consists of a body and a head. 
The body is composed of two " boards," two bows, and two hides. The 
upper board is a palm thick, five feet and three palms long, and two and a half 
feet wide at the back part, where each of the sides is a little curved, and it is 
a cubit wide at the front part near the head. The whole of the body of the 
bellows tapers toward the head. That which we now caU the " board " 
consists of two pieces of pine, joined and glued together, and of two strips of 
linden wood which bind the edges of the board, these being seven digits 
wide at the back, and in front near the head of the bellows one and a half 
digits wide. These strips are glued to the boards, so that there shall be less 
damage from the iron nails driven through the hide. There are some people 
who do not surround the boards with strips, but use boards only, which 
are very thick. The upper board has an aperture and a handle ; the 
aperture is in the middle of the board and is one foot three palms distant 
from where the board joins the head of the bellows, and is six digits long and 
four wide. The hd for this aperture is two palms and a digit long and wide, 
and three digits thick ; toward the back of the lid is a little notch cut 
into the surface so that it may be caught by the hand ; a groove is cut out 
of the top of the front and sides, so that it may engage in mouldings a palm 
wide and three digits thick, which are also cut out in a similar manner under 
the edges. Now, when the hd is drawn forward the hole is closed, and 
when drawn back it is opened ; the smelter opens the aperture a little so that 
the air may escape from the bellows through it, if he fears the hides might be 
burst when the beUows are too vigorously and quickly inflated ; he, however, 
closes the aperture if the hides are ruptured and the air escapes. Others 
perforate the upper board with two or three round holes in the same place as 
the rectangular one, and they insert plugs in them which they draw out 

'Devices for creating an air current must be of very old invention, for it is impossible 
to conceive of anything but the crudest melting of a few simple ores without some forced 
draft. Wilkinson (The Ancient Egyptians, ii, p. 316) gives a copy of an illustration of 
a foot-bellows from a tomb of the time of Thothmes in. (1500 B.C.). The rest of the world 
therefore, probably obtained them from the Egyptians. They are mentioned frequently in 
the Bible, the most pointed reference to metallurgical purposes being Jeremiah (vi, 29) : 
" The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed in the fire ; the founder melteth in vain ; for 
" the wicked are not plucked away." Strabo (vii, 3) states that Ephorus ascribed the 
invention of bellows to Anacharsis — a Thracian prince of about 600 B.C. 

BOOK IX. 363 

when it is necessary. The wooden handle is seven palms long, or even longer, 
in order that it may e.xtend outside ; one-half of this handle, two palms 
wide and one thick, is glued to the end of the board and fastened with pegs 
covered with glue ; the other half projects beyond the board, and is rounded 
and seven digits thick. Besides this, to the handle and to the board is fixed 
a cleat two feet long, as many palms wide and one palm thick, and to the under 
side of the same board, at a distance of three pahns from the end, is fixed 
another cleat two feet long, in order that the board may sustain the force 
of distension and compression ; these two cleats are glued to the board, and 
are fastened to it with pegs covered with glue. 

The lower bellows-board, hke the upper, is made of two pieces of pine 
and of two strips of hnden wood, all glued together ; it is of the same width 
and thickness as the upper board, but is a cubit longer, this extension being 
part of the head of which I have more to say a httle later. This lower bellows- 
board has an air-hole and an iron ring. The air-hole is about a cubit distant 
from the posterior end, and it is midway between the sides of the bellows- 
board, and is a foot long and three palms wide ; it is divided into equal 
parts by a small rib which forms part of the board, and is not cut from it ; 
this rib is a palm long and one-third of a digit wide. The flap of the dr- 
hole is a foot and three digits long, three palms and as many digits wide ; 
it is a thin board covered with goat skin, the hairy part of which is turned 
toward the ground. There is fixed to one end of the flap, with small iron 
nails, one-half of a doubled piece of leather a palm wide and as long as the 
flap is wide ; the other half of the leather, which is behind the flap, is twice 
perforated, as is also the bellows-board, and these perforations are seven 
digits apart. Passing through these a string is tied on the under side of the 
board ; and thus the flap when tied to the board does not fail away. In this 
manner are made the flap and the air-hole, so when the beUows are distended 
the flap opens, when compressed it closes. At a distance of about a foot 
beyond the air-hole a sUghtly eUiptical iron ring, two pahns long and one 
wide, is fastened by means of an iron staple to the under part of the bellows- 
board ; it is at a distance of three pahns from the back of the bellows. In 
order that the lower beUows-board may remain stationary, a wooden bolt is 
driven into the ring, after it penetrates through the hole in the transverse 
supporting plank which forms part of the frame for the bellows. There are 
some who dispense with the ring and fasten the beUows-board to the frame 
with two iron screws something like nails. 

The bows are placed between the two boards and are of the same length 
as the upper board. They are both made of four pieces of linden wood three 
digits thick, of which the two long ones are seven digits wide at the back and 
two and a half at the front ; the third piece, which is at the back, is two 
palms wide. The ends of the bows are a httle more than a digit thick, and are 
mortised to the long pieces, and both having been bored through, wooden 
pegs covered vnth glue are fixed in the holes ; they are thus joined and glued 
to the long pieces. Each of the ends is bowed {arcuatur) to meet the end of 
the long part of the bow, whence its name " bow " originated. The fourth 

364 BOOK IX. 

piece keeps the ends of the bow distended, and is placed a cubit distant from 
the head of the bellows ; the ends of this piece are mortised into the ends 
of the bow and are joined and glued to them ; its length without the tenons 
is a foot, and its width a palm and two digits. There are, besides, two other 
very small pieces glued to the head of the bellows and to the lower board, 
and fastened to them by wooden pegs covered with glue, and they are three 
palms and two digits long, one palm high, and a digit thick, one half being 
shghtly cut away. These pieces keep the ends of the bow away from the 
hole in the beUows-head, for if they were not there, the ends, forced inward 
by the great and frequent movement, would be broken. 

The leather is of ox-hide or horse-hide, but that of the ox is far preferable 
to that of the horse. Each of these hides, for there are two, is three and a 
half feet wide where they are joined at the back part of the bellows. A 
long leathern thong is laid along each of the beUows-boards and each of the 
bows, and fastened by T-shaped iron nails five digits long ; each of the 
horns of the nails is two and a half digits long and half a digit wide. The 
hide is attached to the bellows-boards by means of these nails, so that a horn 
of one nail almost touches the horn of the next ; but it is different with the 
bows, for the hide is fastened to the back piece of the bow by only two nails, 
and to the two long pieces by four nails. In this practical manner they put 
ten nails in one bow and the same number in the other. Sometimes when the 
smelter is afraid that the vigorouf motion of the bellows may puU or tear 
the hide from the bows, he also fastens it with httle strips of pine by means of 
another kind of nail, but these strips cannot be fastened to the back pieces of 
the bow, because these are somewhat bent. Some people do not fix the 
hide to the bellows-boards and bows by iron nails, but by iron screws, 
screwed at the same time through strips laid over the hide. This method 
of fastening the hide is less used than the other, although th