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Monday 25 March 2024

Jacques Androuet du Cerceau’s etching & engraving, “Plate 34: Horse-Power Mechanism for Moving/Cutting Stone”, 1569

Jacques Androuet du Cerceau (c1520–1586), René Boyvin (1525–1598) and workshop printmakers

“Plate 34: Horse-Power Mechanism for Moving/Cutting Stone” (descriptive title only with apologies for errors), 1569, a lifetime impression from the first edition (signified by the inscribed Latin text—later editions have the text on the verso of the preceding page [see]) published in 1578 in Lyon in Jacques Besson (c1540–c1576) and François Béroalde de Verville’s (1556–1626), ”Theatrum instrumentorum et machinarum Iacobi Bessoni Delphinatis, mathematici ingeniosissimi".

Etching with engraving on laid paper trimmed with a narrow margin around the platemark and backed with a support sheet.

Size: (sheet) 20.5 x 32 cm; (plate) 19.5 x 31.4 cm; (image borderline) 19 x 30.9 cm.

Numbered and lettered in plate at upper edge: (right) “34”; (centre) “ARTIFICIVM NOVVM AC COMPENDIOSVM, IN QVO ROTA AD EA SDEM PARTES/ CONV[E]RSA, VLTRÓ CITRÓQUE TRABEM DVCIT, ET REDVCIT, VT TELA/ ELABORETVR INSTAR AD VNDVLATI SERICI–” (translation with apologies for errors) “A new and comprehensive artificial technique, in which the wheel is turned to the same parts, and leads the beam back and forth, and reduces it, so that the web is elaborate like waved silk–”.

The Curator of the British Museum offers the following insights regarding the plates in this publication: “… 'Theatrum Instrumentorum et machinarum', a treatise written by Jacques Besson, illustrated by 60 plates (engraved by various artists including Androuet du Cerceau), and allegedly firstly published in Orléans in 1569, though it is also referred as a book firstly published in 1578 in Lyon.

This very popular work was republished several times, in Geneva (1594 and 1626), in Spain (1602) and in Nuremberg (1595)” (

Of curious interest to me is the introduction of plants into this explanatory diagram. Arguably this may suggest that the artist was providing an underground context of roots and vegetative matter. Alternatively, perhaps the plants shown growing on the stone block are to advance the notion of vanitas in terms of nature “waiting” for man’s work to be abandoned. I also understand that at the time there was interest in connections between the worlds of what lay underground and above and the plants—especially the focus on their roots—may reflect this concern. Of course, these thoughts are only my speculations and the true reason for showing plants may be simply that the artist liked plants.

Condition: a strong lifetime impression showing no sign of wear to the printing plate, trimmed with a small margin around the image borderline and laid onto a sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. The lower left and right edges are stained, otherwise, the sheet is in a good condition with no tears, holes, folds or abrasions.

I am selling this rare lifetime impression (c.1569/78) showing a Renaissance period proposal by Jacques Besson for moving a large block of stone (e.g., marble) back and forth to cut it by a mechanism powered by a horse for the total cost of AU$253 (currently US$165.42/EUR152.55/GBP130.85 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world, but not (of course) any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries.

If you are interested in purchasing this amazing illustration from what is arguably the first published compendium of machine inventions—and certainly the most influential! —please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

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