Legacy of the Foundry World: Vannoccio Biringuccio

by Ralf Gerke-Cantow

Vannoccio Biringuccio is considered by some as the father of the foundry industry. His ten-volume book 'De la Pirotechnia' is the first printed account of proper foundry practice.

Biringuccio was born in Siena and baptized on October 20, 1480; consequently, he may have been born on the same day or the day before, which is not precisely known today. After an apprenticeship in the iron mines, Biringuccio took over the management of the silver mines at Avanzaberg, which allowed him to undertake two study trips to Germany that had a great influence on his later work.

Vannoccio Biringuccio as depicted in the Specola Museum in Florence.

He wrote his famous book probably in 1534-1535 and partly based on German sources. The first edition was published posthumously in Venice in 1540. Spanish, French and Latin translations followed, and the German edition was given the title 'Die zehn Bücher von der Feuerwerkskunst'. This was the first book since antiquity that did not deal primarily with the art of war.

Photo of the Italian edition of "De la Pirotechnia" volume seven.

Biringuccio, as a practical craftsman, presented all the technical processes very graphically and used his native language in order to address not only scholars. It was the first book ever written on metallurgy and remained the unsurpassed standard work on the topic for over two centuries. It also offered the first detailed account of flame furnaces and the hardening of antimony, the first mention of the increase in weight when lead is calcined, the first description of the change in color when steel is hardened (which only Robert Boyle later refined), and the first mention of manganese under this modern name.

Just as Vannoccio Biringuccio at the beginning of the early modern era collected knowledge, made connections and thus contributed to the evolution of the foundry trade, we at Visiometa try to combine this good old knowledge with cutting-edge technology and the possibilities of the digital age in order to make a relevant contribution to the future of our industry.

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