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Titel: De subtilitate. Libri XXI.
Verlag: Nuremberg, Johann Petreius, 1550
Folio (305 x 199 mm), pp [xxxvi including 1 blank leaf] 371 [1, blank], with woodcut portrait of the author on verso of title, woodcut devices on title and colophon, and several woodcut illustrations in text; text ruled in red throughout, some slight browning, a very good copy in eighteenth-century French mottled sheep, spine gilt with floral tools, red morocco labels. £18,500First edition of Cardano's encyclopaedic survey of the sciences. This 'was the most advanced presentation of physical knowledge up to its time. It contains many remarkable observations and ideas, including Cardano's distinction between the attractive powers of rubbed amber (electric) and the lodestone (magnetic), his pre-evolutionary belief in creation as progressive development, and the premise that natural law was unified and could be known through observation and experiment' (Norman catalogue). This work, 'written in an elliptical and often obscure Latin, contains a little of everything: from cosmology to the construction of machines; from the usefulness of natural sciences to the evil influence of demons; from the laws of mechanics to cryptology. It is a mine of facts, both real and imaginary; of notes on the state of the sciences; of superstition, technology, alchemy, and various branches of the occult. The similarities between the scientific opinions expressed by Cardano . and those of Leonardo da Vinci, at that time unpublished, have led some historians, particularly Pierre Duhem, to suppose that Cardano had used Leonardo's manuscript notes. Be that as it may, Cardano must always be credited with having introduced new ideas that inspired new investigations' (DSB).Cardano defines metals as solids that can be melted and, once melted, will harden upon cooling. He distinguishes two sorts of air, 'one being destructive of inanimate objects and supportive of animate ones, and the second being destructive of animate objects and supportive of inanimate ones' (Parkinson). 'In mechanics, Cardano was a fervent admirer of Archimedes. He studied the lever and inclined plane in new ways and described many mechanical devices, among them "Cardano's suspension". Cardano followed a middle road between the partisans of the theory of impetus and the supporters of the Aristotelian theory, who attributed the movement of projectiles to pushing by the air. Notable is his observation that the trajectory described by a projectile is not rectilinear at the center, but is a line "which imitates the form of a parabola". Cardano's chief claim to fame, however, was his affirmation of the impossibility of perpetual motion, except in heavenly bodies.'Cardano's contributions to hydrodynamics are important: counter to contemporary belief, he observed that in a conduit of running water, the water does not rise to the level from which it started, but to a lower level that becomes lower as the length of the conduit increases. He also refuted the Aristotelian "abhorrence of a vacuum", holding that the phenomena attributed to this abhorrence can be explained by the force of rarefaction. Cardano investigated the measurement of the capacity of streams and stated that the capacity is proportional to the area of the cross section and the velocity' (DSB).Cardano's De subtilitate inspired J. C. Scaliger's Exotericarum exercitationum (Paris 1557), 'the most savage book review in the bitter annals of literary invective. Julius Caesar Scaliger, another vain and articulate natural philosopher of Italian origins, devoted more than 900 quarto pages to refuting one of Cardano's books, On Subtlety, and promised to return to the subject at still greater length. Though Scaliger died without producing more than a fragment of this promised polemic, his Exercitationes became a standard work in university curriculums; perhaps the only book review ever known to undergo transformation into a textbook' (Grafton, Cardano's Cosmos, p 4).Adams C668; Dibner 139; Norman 401; Parkinson pp. 41-42. Buchnummer des Verkäufers 3573
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