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De la Pirotechnia is considered to be the first printed book on metallurgy to have been published in Europe. It was written in Italian and first published in Venice in 1540. The author was Vannoccio Biringuccio, a citizen of Siena, Italy, who died before it was published.[1] Further editions were published in 1550, 1558, 1559, and 1678, with a (sloppy) French translation by Jacques Vincent being published in 1556, 1572, and 1627.[2] Parts were translated into Latin (by Georgius Agricola), English (Richard Eden; Peter Whitehorn) and Spanish (Bernardo Perez de Vargas) at various times in the 1550s and 1560s, generally without acknowledgement.[3] The second book on metallurgy, De re metallica, was written in Latin by Georgius Agricola, and published in 1556.

The pirotechnia of Vannoccio Biringuccio
De la pirotechnia 1540 Title Page AQ1 (1).jpg
Title page, De la pirotechnia, 1540, Science History Museum
AuthorVannoccio Biringuccio
Original titleDe la pirotechnia
TranslatorCyril Stanley Smith, Martha Teach Gnudi
Published1540 (original)
1942 (in English) The American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers
Media typepaperback
669 20
LC ClassTN144 .B4513 1990
Followed by1959 edition 

Both De la pirotechnia and De re metallica were translated into English in the 20th century. The translation of Pirotechnia was by Cyril Stanley Smith, a senior chemist on the Manhattan Project, and Martha Teach Gnudi. Both books were illustrated with extensive, beautiful woodcuts.

The majority of the work is devoted to the more technical aspects of metalworking (such as the mining, assaying and smelting of ores), but Biringuccio also provides insights into the humanistic philosophy of the Italian Renaissance.[4] Alchemy is also discussed.[5]


  1. ^ "All About Glass | Corning Museum of Glass". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  2. ^ The Pirotechnia of Vannoccio Biringuccio, translated from the Italian with an introduction and notes by Cyril Stanley Smith & Martha Teach Gnudi, New York: The American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, 1942, pp. xxi, 458-460.
  3. ^ The Pirotechnia, Smith/Gnudi translation, pp. xvii, xxi-xxiii, 461. Eden was an exception, crediting "Vannuccius Biringuczius in his booke cauled Pyrotechnia."
  4. ^ "All About Glass | Corning Museum of Glass". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  5. ^ "All About Glass | Corning Museum of Glass". Retrieved 2018-07-13.
  • Vannoccio Biringuccio (1959) [1540]. De la pirotechnia. Dover books on earth sciences: Dover Classics of Science and Mathematics. Translated by Cyril Stanley Smith; Martha Teach Gnudi. Courier Dover Publications. p. 477. ISBN 9780486261348.