|Guidobaldo del Monte Mechanicorum liber 1969, tr. Stillman Drake|
There are two qualities, Illustrious Prince, that are usually very effective in adding to men's power, namely, utility and nobility. It seems to me that these join in making the subject of mechanics attractive and in rendering it desirable in comparison with all others. For if we measure the nobility of something by its origin (as most people now do), the origin of mechanics is, on one side, geometry and, on the other side, physics. From the union of these two comes the most noble of the arts, mechanics. For if we hold that nobility is related both to the underlying subject matter and to the logical necessity of the arguments (as Aristotle on occasion asserts), we shall doubtless consider [mechanics] I the noblest of all. It not only crowns and perfects geometry (as Paptus attests) but also holds control of the realm of nature. For whatever helps manual workers, builders, carriers, farmers, sailors, and many others (in [apparent] opposition to the laws of nature)-all this is the province of mechanics. And mechanics, since it operates against nature or rather in rivalry with the laws of nature, surely deserves our highest admiration.
Now it is certainly true, and freely admitted by anyone who learned it previously from Aristotle, that all mechanical problems and all mechanical theorems are reducible to the wheel and depend therefore on its principle, which is apprehended no less by the senses than by reason. The wheel is the device that is best adapted to movement, and the more so the larger it is.
In addition to this nobility, [mechanics possesses] the highest utility in matters pertaining to life. And this utility exceeds all other forms of utility obtained from the various arts for the reason that other branches unfolded their usefulness after a long interval of time had elapsed from the birth of the world; but mechanical usefulness was so necessary to men even from the very beginning of the world that, had it been removed, the sun itself would have been removed from the world. For under whatever constraints the life of Adam was passed, though he may have had to ward off the onslaughts from the sky in huts thatched with straw and in narrow hovels and cottages, and by clothing his body, and though he himself may have been concerned only with warding off the rain, snow, wind, sun, and cold-whatever was the case, the situation was all mechanical.
And the case with this subject [mechanics] is not the same [historically] as that of winds which are strongest in the place where they arise, but arrive at a distant point broken and weakened. But rather the [historical] situation is the same as generally occurs with great rivers, which, while they are small where they rise, are continually increased and have a broader bed the farther they are from their source. Thus with the passing of time mechanical power began to distribute equally the labor of plowing by the use of the yoke and to have the plow drawn around the field.
And then mechanical power showed men how, with teams of two and four animals, to move produce, merchandise, and all kinds of cargo- to export from our country to neighboring lands and, again, to import from those lands to our own. Moreover, when things came to be measured not merely by necessity but by their beauty and usefulness, it was thanks to mechanical ingenuity that we could move ships by oars; that with a small rudder at the extremity of the stern we could steer huge triremes; that often with the hands of one individual, rather than with the hands of many workmen, we could now lift heavy stones and beams for our construction workers and architects; and now with a kind of swing-beam we could draw water from wells for gardeners.
By mechanical power, too, are wines, oils, and unguents pressed out by presses used for liquids and forced to give up to the owner whatever liquid they contain. Hence, too, by means of two forces pulling in opposite directions we have divided stout trees and great masses of marble. Hence also in war, in the building of ramparts, in fighting at close quarters, in attacking and defending places, there are almost infinite uses [of mechanics].