The most important medieval treatise on statics (1565)


Opusculum de ponderositate. Nicolai Tartaleæ studio correctum novisque figuris auctum.

Published: Venice, Curzio Troiano Navò

Date: 1565

4to (219 × 152 mm), ff. 20, [4, final blank]; engraved title with woodcut device (including lion rampant); woodcut initials and head- and tail-pieces; numerous diagrams; dampstaining to upper edges of front wrapper and initial leaves; stitched in early carta rustica, some staining, with ink and pencil inscription to front, including a pencil-drawn circle with interior lenses; else good.

Also see René Dugas, A history of mechanics, pp. 38-46, 95-96; Pierre Duhem, Les origines de la statique I, pp. 98-208; Morris Kline, Mathematical thought from ancient to modern times, pp. 211-212, 263-264; E. A. Moddy and M. Clagett, The medieval science of weights; and for a bibliography, Ron B. Thomson, 'Jordanus de Nemore: Opera', Medieval Studies, 38 (1976): 97-144 (at 98-107). Adams J 326; Riccardi I/2, 507, 10.

Editio princeps of the Liber Jordani de ratione ponderis, together with Niccolò Tartaglia's description of his experiments on specific weights, the first experimental tables of specific gravity of materials. Jordanus de Nemore (d. c. 1237), sometimes called Jordanus Nemorarius, was an essentially anonymous writer, who composed a number of treatises on mathematical topics, including mechanics and statics (treated here), the 'algorismi', algebra, geometry, and stereographic projection, as well as pure and applied arithmetic. In his work on weights (mechanics), Jordanus 'proved most helpful' in the medieval revision of Aristotle's theory of force and movement, in which he stated 'that a body can move only under one type of force at a time [since] if two were acting, one would destroy the other.' (Kline, p. 212) Jordanus 'showed that the force under which a body thrown straight out moved at any instant could be resolved into two components, natural gravity acting downward and a "violent" horizontal force of projection. This idea was taken up by da Vinci, Stevin, Galileo, and Descartes.' (ibid.) 'Jordanus advanced statics by combining the dynamical and philosophical approach of Aristotelian physics with the mathematical physics of Archimedes. He derived rigorous proofs within a mathematical format based on Archimedian statics and Euclidean geometry. Jordanus's treatises gave rise to an extensive commentary literature from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. With the advent of printing, Jordanus's ideas were widely disseminated and influenced leading scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centirues, including Galileo Galilei … For the high level and range of his mathematical and mechanical ideas and proofs, Jordanus de Nemore had no equal in the Latin Middle Ages,' (Thomas F. Glick, Steven J. Livesey and Faith Wallis, Medieval science, technology and medicine: an encyclopedia, p. 294) 'Niccolò Tartaglia (ca. 1500-1557) considered Jordanus the founder of the science of weights, which he held to be a recognized branch of mathematics. His own work on mechanics published in 1546 [Quesiti et inventioni diversi] drew on at least three medieval treatises but differed from all of them. he did, however, leave an edited copy of the De ratione ponderis to his printer [Curzio Troiano] who published it in 1565 giving Jordanus as its author. 'Tartaglia belonged to a group of early Renaissance mathematicians (which also included Leonardo da Vinci, 1442-1519, and Girolamo Cardano, 1501-1576) who felt that this medieval tradition and the rigorous Archimedean statics were compatible.' (Ron B. Thomson, Jordanus de Nemore and the mathematics of astrolabes, pp. 5-6) Curzio Troiano Navò belonged to a family of printers who between 1537 and 1599 operated in Venice producing around thirty known works, of which the most famous is the first edition of Francesco Berni's Rime (1540). In the same year as Jordanus's Opusculum, Navò also published Archimedes' De insidentibus aquae, Euclid's Megarense philosopho and Alessandro Piccolomini's In mechanicas quaestiones Aristotelis, this last, together with De insidentibus, employing the same woodcut device on the title page as the present work (Navò's works otherwise often bearing a simpler lion rampant device).


Carta rustica