- Beyond Agricola: The Multiple Origins of European Knowledge in Adam Schall von Bell’s Chinese Mining and Metallurgy Handbook Kunyu Gezhi (1640)
|Jounal :||Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology|
|Author :||Alexander Jost|
In 2015, a previously unknown manuscript was discovered in the Nanjing Library. It contained a Chinese mining and metallurgy handbook, and was identified as a copy of the Kunyu gezhi 坤輿格致, known as the lost Chinese translation of Georgius Agricola’s (1494–1555) De re metallica (1556) by Jesuit Adam Schall von Bell (1592–1666). A closer look at the text, however, reveals that, besides parts of Agricola’s book, content by at least four other European authors was included: Vannoccio Biringuccio (1480–1539), Modestinus Fachs (?–before 1595), Lazarus Ercker (1528/30–1594), and José de Acosta (1539/40–1599/1600). This study demonstrates how their books became available in China, why they were selected as sources for the Kunyu gezhi, and how they were eventually used and incorporated. From this, it becomes apparent that Schall and his collaborators spared no effort to conduct this ambitious knowledge transfer project, and to present European technology at its best to the emperor.