Di Herone Alessandrino De gli automati, overo machine se moventi, libri due, tradotti dal greco da Bernardino Baldi abbate di Guastalla

Autore: HERON ALEXANDRINUS (fl. 2nd cent.)-BALDI, Bernardino (1553-1617)

Tipografo: Girolamo Porro

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 1589

4to (205x143 mm). 47 leaves. Collation: A-M4. Lacking the final blank leaf. Engraved title page and 22 illustrations in text, of which 11 are engravings (6 full page) and 11 woodcuts. Woodcut initials and head- and tailpieces. At l. 19th-century half calf with lettering piece on spine (joints repaired). Some light marginal foxing, but a very good copy.


Rare first edition of Baldi's translation into Italian of Hero of Alexandria's Automata, a treatise on self-propelled machines which enable wonders in banquets and in theatrical contexts by mechanical or pneumatical means, like automatic opening or closing of temple doors, statues that pour wine and milk, etc.

The edition also includes the Discorso di chi traduce sopra le macchine se moventi (l. A4r) and the Annotationi del S. Bernardino Baldi d'Urbino, abbate di Guastalla, sopra le machine se mouenti di Herone (l. L2r) (cf. G. Micheli, La traduzione degli “Automata” di Herone, in: “Bernardino Baldi (1553-1617) studioso rinascimentale”, E. Nenci, ed., Milan, 2005, pp. 247-267).

Bernardino Baldi was born at Urbino from a noble family originally from Perugia. He first studied medicine and later philosophy at Padua. In Urbino he devoted himself to mathematics under Federico Commandino and Guidobaldo del Monte. In 1580 he was invited to the court of Mantua by Ferrante Gonzaga, who in 1585 secured him the post of abbot of Guastalla. Baldi then took the orders, and thereafter gave much attention to ecclesiastical scholarship. He visited Rome and was made ‘Protonotarius Apostolicus'. In 1609 he resigned his abbacy to enter the service of the Duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria della Rovere, as historian and biographer, a post he held until his death. Baldi was also responsible for several public works in the duchy of Ferrara, including the Baccanello Bridge at Guastalla, and the Church of Santa Chiara at Urbino. Besides that, he was a poet and prose stylist of remarkable ability, a historian of architecture, an orientalist, and an expert in twelve languages, including Persian and Arabic. However, his most significant achievements were made in the field of mathematics and physics: his commentary on the Mechanica of Aristotle was the most important work of its kind to appear up to that time, and his Vite dei Matematici stands as the first large scale history of mathematics (cf. G. Zaccagnini, Bernardino Baldi nella vita e nelle opere, Pistoia, 1908, passim; see also P.L. Rose, The Italian Renaissance Mathematics, Genève, 1975, pp. 243-279; and A. Serrai, Bernardino Baldi. La vita, le opere, la biblioteca, Milano, 2002, pp. 17-158).


Adams, A-368; Riccardi, I, 67; Olschki, 5756.