Over 400 plates: the ultimate reference of Enlightenment mechanical engineering

Leupold, Jacob. Theatrum machinarum.

Leipzig, Christoph Zunkel for the author and Johann Friedrich Gleditsch's son, 1724-1727.

Folio (256 x 377 mm). 8 volumes (of 10) bound in 4. With 442 engraved plates, some folding; titles and half-titles printed in red and black. Contemporary speckled calf ruled in gilt and with the gilt armorial supralibros of Franz Ferdinand von Sprinzenstein.


One of the first encyclopedias of technology, and the most complete and the most extensively illustrated work on mechanical engineering hitherto published, with detailed discussions of hydraulic engineering, weights and measures, the art of gold and silver assaying and analysis, mathematical instruments and scientific devices such as the barometer, thermometer, and Leupold's own, ingenious calculating machine (plate IX in the "Theatrum arithmetico-geometricum"), and more. Plate III in "Theatrum arithmetico-geometricum" even includes an apparently original and undamaged volvelle (with rag paper fibers and laid lines of the moving parts of the volvelle matching that of the original paper of the plate beneath), an incredibly delicate and uncommon survival.

Jacob Leupold (1674-1727) was director of mines to the Elector of Saxony and the author of a number of works on mechanics and engineering. Each volume of his "Theatrum machinarum" is complete in itself. The volumes are more often found separately than together, and, indeed, Ferguson stated that he had never seen a complete set.

This extensive and uniformly bound set contains the first editions of Leupold's "Theatrum machinarum hydrotechnicarum" (1724); "Theatrum machinarum hydrotechnicarum" Tomus I [-II] (1724-1725); "Theatrum machinarum generale" (1724); "Theatrum machinarium, oder, Schau-Platz der Heb-Zeuge" (1725); "Theatrum arithmetico-geometricum" (1727); "Theatrum staticum universale" pars I [-IV] (1726); and "Theatrum pontificiale" (1726).

The present set is in very fresh condition and remarkably complete: only the "Theatrum machinarum molarium" (1735) and Joachim Ernst Scheffler's "Theatri machinarum supplementum" (1739) are not present. The "Theatrum staticum universale", pars I [-IV] (1726), is the true first edition, identifiable by the imprint statement: "Zufinden" instead of "Zu finden" on the title-page.


These volumes were bound for Count Franz Ferdinand von Sprinzenstein (1671-1728) and remained in the family until sold as lot 138 in the auction of the Graf Sprinzenstein Library, held by Gilhofer and Ranschburg in Lucerne in 1937.


Vol. I: (20), 240, (4) pp. + 71 plates. (Bound with) Vol. II: (12), 184, (4) pp. + 51 plates.

Vol. III: (14), 172, (2) pp. + 53 plates. (Bound with) Vol. IV: (20), 165, (3) pp. + 54 plates.

Vol. V: (16), 162 (but: 164), (4) pp. + 56 plates. (Bound with) Vol. VI: (12), 332, (4) pp. + 57 plates.

Vol. VII: (16), 153, (5), pp. + 57 plates. (Bound with) Vol. VIII: (12), 200 (misnumbered as 300), (4) pp. + 43 plates, plate no. III including a volvelle.


Gentle rubbing to bindings; a very sound and attractive set.


Ferguson, Bibliography of the History of Technology, pp. 45f, Wolf, History of Science in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 657f. Berlin Catalogue 1786, 1787, 1788. Not in Roberts & Trent.