Enlarged 2nd German edition of Nicols’ seminal »Lapidary«, the first book on gemstones in English, 1734


Thomas Nicols: Beschreibung der Steine, sowol Edel als Gemeine. With 3 woodcut vignettes. Culmbach: 1734.

Thomas Nicols: Thomas Nicols, Professoren der hohen Schule zu Cambridge in Engeland, Beschreibung der Steine, sowol Edel als Gemeine. Darinnen derer Gestalt, Kräffte, Tugenden, Medicin, Eigenschaften, Preiß und Werth auf das Deutsche gezeiget wird. Samt beygesetzten Warnungen sich für derer Verfälschung wohl zu hüten wegen seiner Fürtrefflichkeit aus dem Engelischen ins Teutsche übersetzt durch Johann Langen. With 3 woodcut vignettes. Culmbach: Friederich Elias Dietzel für Nathaniel Lumscher 1734.

12mo. 16, 274 [14] pp. Letterpress on thin laid paper, bound in contemporary half vellum prize with hand written calligraphic title and numbering on spine and joints, as well as marbled boards.

Enlarged 2nd German edition of the first book on gemstones in English language.

Contents, Editions: »A Lapidary or, the History of Precious Stones«, a seminal reference work for jewellers of it's times and a book also of importance for the development of geological science, had first been published by the Cambridge editor Thomas Buck in 1652. A first German edition had appeared in 1675, published in Hamburg by Naumann & Wolff. Nicols' treatise is described as „ ... the first English work on precious stones, which [probably for the mystic elements which it contains] proved highly popular, and was translated into several European languages...“ (Copinger).

The author lists 89 precious stones in just as many chapters, but also reports about fossils including amber, as well as corals, pearls etc. For each stone he provides information about the forms, appearance, properties (including alleged magical, mystical and medical claims), origins, etymological meaning of names, classification, uses and notes about market value. The book puts a particular focus on practical aspects related to jewellery, such as enhancing stones with reflective foils or dyestuffs, hardening softer stones, and the related subjects of adulteration.

Present second German language edition is substantially enlarged with 32 pages, containing a comprehensive index of terms, a preface and several additional explanatory notes within the text.

Provenance: Fly leaf recto with a pen and ink remark „Ignatii Widman“ (18th ct.) and an additional owner's remark with pencil dated 1932. – Condition: Bottom part of vellum spine skilfully renewed, boards occasionally worn, otherwise well preserved copy. – Rarity: Though well represented in institutions the German editions of »A Lapidary» from 1675 and 1734 are particularly hard to find in trade.

Reference: Catalogue of printed books in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library IV, p. 236; Copinger, W.A. Supplement to Hain’s Repertorium bibliographicum I, no. 4819 (for the 1st German edition of 1675); Duveen, D.I. Bibliotheca alchemica et chemica, p. 432; Sinkankas, J. Gemology, no. 4758; Young, J. Bibliotheca chemica II, p. 138.