Prodromo, overo, saggio di alcune inventioni nuove premesso all’arte maestra. Brescia: Rizzardi, 1670. [With:] Magisterium naturæ et artis: opus physico-mathematicum P. Francisci Tertii de Lanis Societatis Iesu Brixiensis; in quo occultiora naturalis philosophiæ principia manifestantur, et multiplici tum experimentorum, tum demonstrationum serie comprobantur; ac demum tam antiqua pene omnia artis inuenta, quam multa noua ab ipso authore excogitata in lucem proferuntur.

[Vols. I & II:] Brescia; [Vol. III:] Parma: Brescia: G. M. Riccardi; H. Rosati, 1684-86; 1692.

First editions of two important works from the library of the distinguished Riccati family of mathematicians and physicists. The Prodromo, Lana’s most famous work, contains his design for an air-ship kept aloft by means of evacuated copper spheres, “the earliest concept of flight based on aerostatic principles” (Dibner). The Prodromo was intended as a ‘portico’ to the Magisterium Naturae, a massive and important encyclopaedia of natural philosophy. Appearing only three years after the Accademia del Cimento’s Saggi di naturali esperienze, the Prodromo describes “the earliest concept of flight based on aerostatic principles” (Dibner). “[Lana] determined by experiment that a vessel may be made lighter by reducing the air density within it, and proposed to build a ‘flying boat’ suspended from four large spheres of thin copper, from which all or part of the air would be evacuated to achieve buoyancy. Although the theory behind his reasoning was sound, Lana’s design was unworkable, for, as Hooke, Leibniz, Borelli and other scientists pointed out, the copper spheres would not be able to withstand the enormous amount of atmospheric pressure” (Norman). Lana was also the first to suggest heat as a method of reducing air density, a technique successfully employed by the Montgolfier brothers in the construction of their balloon. The Magisterium Naturae describes a myriad of topics, experiments and machines: “it would require an explanatory volume to give an idea of this work” (Libri Catalogue). Some of the subjects covered include hydraulics, elasticity, problems of motion and percussion, alchemical and chemical experiments, distillation, the vacuum, sound and acoustics, electricity and magnetism, meteorology, the pendulum, and perpetual motion. “In a word, he assembled an encyclopedia, [which includes] the most extensive and valuable account of electricity published in the seventeenth century” (Heilbron, p. 190). Thorndike (VII, p. 611-613) gives an account of “the more occult principles of natural philosophy, experimentation and demonstration” which the work contains. In section 46 of vol. II of the Magisterium Naturae, Lana corrected the air-ship design in his Prodromo, admitting that spheres of diameter 38m would be required, which would be impracticable, and suggests using lighter material such as glass or wood to make a toy model of the air-ship to demonstrate the validity of the idea. The Magisterium was originally planned to contain nine volumes but Lana Terzi lived to see only the first two published; the third and final volume was published posthumously. The Magisterium naturae received long and flattering reviews in Germany (Acta Eruditorum, 1685, 31-7; 1688, 35-9; 1693, 45-50).

Provenance: The Riccati family (bookplate). Franceso Lana Terzi (1631-87) entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome on 11 November, 1647, and studied philosophy and theology at the Roman College. “While in Rome [Gaspar] Schott had helped instruct Lana, who completed his theology at the Collegio Romano in the early fifties, when [Athenasius] Kircher started to arrange the museum and Paolo Casati held the chair of mathematics there. Lana did not fail to profit from so favorable a conjunction of luminaries. He studied independently with Kircher, and, with fellow student Daniel Bartoli, assisted in the experiments of Casati. He mastered natural philosophy, but without great satisfaction, for he found its branches to be differently, even contradictorily, treated. At the conclusion of his studies, if his later testimony be credited, he decided to try to establish a complete and consistent approach to the subject, firmly based on experiment. 

“The fulfillment of this design, made doubly difficult by the demands of the ordinary itinerant professorship, required almost forty years. Lana began, as was usual, by teaching humanities, probably at the Jesuit College in Terni. From there he moved to his home town, Brescia, and to philosophy, which he taught for three years and improved with experiments on the barometer; and thence to Ferrara, to [Niccolò] Cabeo’s old chair of mathematics at the University. Some years later he was again in Brescia determining the declination, and then in Bologna assisting (as had Cabeo) in [Giovanni Battista] Riccioli’s measurements of gravitational acceleration; and again in Ferrara, writing long letters, mainly on sound, to Bartoli. He retired to Brescia, where he founded a short-lived academy of mathematicians and natural philosophers called Philo-exotici, and devoted himself to completing his great work. The first volume of Magisterium naturae et artis left the press in 1684; the third, which was not intended as the last, followed posthumously eight years later.

“The Magisterium was announced in 1670 in a Prodromo, today remembered for its description of a balloon-like aircraft … The Prodromo contains proposals ingenious and impracticable, like the airship; others only impracticable, like a method of transmitting messages where neither vocal nor visible signals will do; and others both practicable and valuable, like improved techniques for writing for the blind and hints for the manufacture of lenses. Similar devices and inventions enliven the Magisterium, where a typical section begins with experiments, follows with principles and causes, and ends with an account of diverting, useful and instructive contrivances. Some sections, including electricity, lack the applications, but all are illustrated by experiment; for the experiments, and not their explanations, constitute the uniform approach to natural philosophy that Lana strove to attain. The design and completion of these experiments was a gigantic task. The effort involved in the Prodromo alone so fatigued and sickened its author that he set his great project aside. The Physics of [Honoré] Fabri, also intended as a uniform treatment, rekindled his ardor and ambition. Other duties, lack of assistance, and that peculiar clerical disorder, the reconciliation of the ‘immodest expense’ of the undertaking with a vow of religious poverty, conspired to delay his progress, and in the end prevented him from bringing to completion his Great Guide to Nature and the Arts” (Heilbron, pp. 189-190).

“The long Latin title emphasizes the more occult properties of natural philosophy, experimentation and demonstration, ‘almost all the inventions of the ancients and many new ones thought out by the author himself.’ The second and third volumes in 25 books discuss as many varieties of motions of natural bodies, manifest and occult, namely: 1, the penetration of corpuscles through pores; 2, the motion of transpiration through the pores of the body or concerning the effluvia of bodies; 3, the motion of the internal parts of any body; 4, liquefaction and concretion or coagulation, where are treated fluidity and consistency; 5, compression and pressure of bodies; 6, elasticity; 7, tension; 8, rarefaction and condensation; 9, tremor of bodies; 10, sound; 11, adherence of parts and resistance to discontinuity; 12, mixture, ready or difficult; 13, configuration or site; 14, assimilation; 15, excitation and fermentation; 16, maturation and crudescence; 17, corruption and putrefaction; 18, coagulation (again?), where, too, of concretion (again?), properly called and incrassation; 19, precipitation; 20, dissolution; 21, fixation and volatilization, alkali and acid; 22, electric attraction (as by amber); 23, magnetic movements; 24, sympathy and antipathy; 25, gravity and levity” (Thorndike VII, p. 611).

“Lana’s treatment of electricity is no discredit to his method. He announced new electrics, which, following the example of the Accademia del Cimento, he compared in strength to those already established. He tested and amended the results of all previous investigators; he described delicate new experiments; and he presented fairly the theories that divided electricians. In a word, he assembled an encyclopedia, the most extensive and valuable account of electricity published in the seventeenth century …

“Lana’s discussion of theory proceeds like Cabeo’s. First comes the now standard ‘proof’ that electricity cannot be a sympathetic quality. Next, a string of syllogisms with the Aristotelian premises, ‘all true action of bodies consists in local motion,’ ‘no body can move itself to local motion,’ and ‘the mover must be contiguous or immediately applied to the moved,' yields the electrical effluvium which, however, cannot be the whole story, were it as sticky as [William] Gilbert pretended. No gluey emanation, according to Lana, could cart chaff back to the electric against the opposing force of fresh effluvia. Some other agency, to wit the atmosphere, must cooperate. Like Cabeo, Lana uses the supposed absence of ‘repulsion’ − his word − to infer the intervention of the air.•Lana goes a step beyond Schott by associating the action of effluvia on the air with their adhesive property. He considers electrics to be ‘igneo-sulphureous’ bodies whose emanations expand the near air by heat; at any weakening or cooling of the stream of effluvia the denser air beyond must rush in …

“Lana’s double-duty effluvia, which expand air and fix chaff, gave a complete and plausible account of electrical phenomena in keeping with received physics. The theory had a long life: it was primarily in Lana’s persuasive form that Schott’s compromise dominated German theory in the first decades of the eighteenth century” (Heilbron, pp. 190-92).

“The first volume of [Magisterium] describes Lana’s theory of dynamics and opposes the Copernican system (tract. iii, p. 409). The second volume, including chemistry, speaks of the transformation of rubies, sapphires, etc., into diamonds by means of steel filings (perhaps by heat-treatment removing the colour), the production of mercury from air (Bk. ii, p. 75), and concentrating alcohol by passing the vapour through pig’s bladder, when the phlegm is retained (Bk. i, c. 2, p. 32; this is a process mentioned by Libavius, etc., and depends on selective absorption). All sorts of tricks and wonders are described, such as sticking a needle into an arm or leg without pain (Bk. ii, p. 35). The production of water from air is amplified from [Prodromo] and Lana is often quoted for this (it depended on the condensation of moisture from air on a cold vessel).

“The solidification of a mixture of concentrated solutions of calcium chloride and potassium carbonate (from precipitation of calcium carbonate), described by Lana in 1686, was known as the ‘chemical miracle’; he ascribed it to Dr. Hieronymus Alegri of Verona. Lana thought some hexangular crystals found in a meadow, said to be generated from dew, were nitre (saltpeter), which he extracted from the soil, since nitre is ‘the natural coagulum of water’” (Partington II, p. 334).

Norman 1272; Dibner, Heralds 176; Riccardi II 12 (‘rara e pregiato opera’); Ashworth, Jesuit Science 41; Galland, p. 107 (cryptography). II. Caillet 6093; De Backer-Sommervogel IV, col. 1442-1443; Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th centuries, 1979; Riccardi II 13 (‘importantissima opera’); Scott Collection 143; Sommervogel IV, 1442; Wheeler Gift 197.

[Prodromo:] Folio (335 x 213 mm), pp. [viii], 252, with 20 engraved plates, all but two printed in pairs. [Magisterium:] Three vols., folio (345 x 237 mm), pp. [xvi], 526 with 24 folding engraved plates; [xxxiv], 512, [18] with 20 folding engraved plates; [viii], 24, 571 with 13 folding engraved plates (a few tears caused by paper flaws, confined to the margins but with one in the text (no loss)). Eighteenth-century half-calf. A fine set.

Item #5640

Price: $55,000.00