Agricola, Georgius, De re metallica, 1912/1950

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There are three objectives in translation of works
of this character: to give a faithful, literal trans-
lation of the author's statements; to give these
in a manner which will interest the reader; and to
preserve, so far as is possible, the style of the
original text.
The task has been doubly difficult
in this work because, in using Latin, the author
availed himself of a medium which had ceased to
expand a thousand years before his subject had in
many particulars come into being; in consequence he was in difficulties
with a large number of ideas for which there were no corresponding
words in the vocabulary at his command, and instead of adopting into the
text his native German terms, he coined several hundred Latin expressions
to answer his needs.
It is upon this rock that most former attempts at
translation have been wrecked.
Except for a very small number, we
believe we have been able to discover the intended meaning of such
expressions from a study of the context, assisted by a very incomplete
glossary prepared by the author himself, and by an exhaustive investigation
into the literature of these subjects during the sixteenth and seventeenth
That discovery in this particular has been only gradual and
obtained after much labour, may be indicated by the fact that the entire
text has been re-typewritten three times since the original, and some
parts more often; and further, that the printer's proof has been thrice revised.
We have found some English equivalent, more or less satisfactory, for
practically all such terms, except those of weights, the varieties of veins,
and a few minerals.
In the matter of weights we have introduced the
original Latin, because it is impossible to give true equivalents and avoid the
fractions of reduction; and further, as explained in the Appendix on Weights it
is impossible to say in many cases what scale the Author had in mind.
English nomenclature to be adopted has given great difficulty, for various
reasons; among them, that many methods and processes described have
never been practised in English-speaking mining communities, and so had no
representatives in our vocabulary, and we considered the introduction of
German terms undesirable; other methods and processes have become
obsolete and their descriptive terms with them, yet we wished to avoid
the introduction of obsolete or unusual English; but of the greatest
importance of all has been the necessity to avoid rigorously such modern
technical terms as would imply a greater scientific understanding than the
period possessed.

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