Theatrum instrumentorum et machinarum
Publisher Information: Lyon: 1578.
Besson, Jacques (d. 1569?). Theatrum instrumentorum et machinarum. . . cum Franc. Beroaldi figurarum declaratione demonstrativa. Edited by François Béroalde de Verville (1558-1612). Folio. 11 unnumbered leaves. Engraved architectural title-page border and 60 full-page engraved plates following the text, numbered 1-60. The plates are unsigned but were most probably drawn by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau (1510?-post 1584); plates 17, 35, 39 and 51 are copies of the original Androuet plates by René Boyvin (1525?-1580?), signed with his monogram. Lyons: Barth. Vincent, 1578. 365 x 253 mm. Superbly bound in full calf gilt, front and back covers tooled and painted with strapwork in the style of sixteenth-century French painted bindings, by Sean Richards. Small marginal tear in one plate repaired, but a fine copy.
Third(?) edition. Besson’s lavishly illustrated Theatrum instrumentorum et machinarum, one of the first French works on machines and mechanical engineering, was originally published in an edition with no imprint (Orléans, 1569?) under the title Instrumentorum et machinarum. . . liber primus. This first edition was followed by three Lyons editions published in 1578, each augmented with explanatory notes by François Béroalde de Verville (author of the erotic classic Moyen de parvenir) and published by Barthélemy Vincent. Mortimer states that the present edition, distinguished by its Latin text, imprint date in Roman numerals, and four plates copied by Boyvin (see above), is probably the second Vincent edition; see Mortimer, French 16th Century Books, pp. 76-80 for further discussion.
Besson’s Theatrum illustrates an amazing variety of inventions, ranging from war machines to musical instruments to fire-fighting apparatus; the sixty full-page plates, reprinted from the first edition, were most probably designed by the Orléans architect Jacques Androuet du Cerceau. In the present edition, plates 17, 35, 39 and 51 were replaced with copies by René Boyvin (signed with his monogram), but the original plates remained in Vincent’s possession and appeared variously in later editions. As a theoretical work the Theatrum was well received, going through several editions and translations and doing much to popularize mechanical engineering (in the tradition of Leonardo da Vinci) among the scientific dilettantes of France. Besson’s designs could hardly have been practical for his era, however, as they made extensive use of both the screw and the worm-wheel, devices that could not yet be made with enough accuracy to function efficiently. Adams B-838. Mortimer, French 16th Century Books, 58. Norman 227.Book Id: 43709