Le diverse et artificiose machine

Ramelli Agostino, 1588

Agostino Ramelli (1531 – 1600) was born in Masanzana or Ponte della Tresia, two towns just a few kilometers away, but in which doubt remains. He studied mathematics and military architecture, also joining the army of Giovanni Giacomo Medici, with whom he fought in the War of Parma (1551-1552).

After a first period spent with the House of Savoy until 1565, Ramelli moved to France in the service of Henry III. At the court of Henry, Ramelli had the opportunity to consolidate his position as engineer of the king (ingénieur du roi) and then deepened his studies and decided to publish his research and his projects. The latter were collected in a single volume entitled Le diverse et artificiose machine del capitano Agostino Ramelli dedicated to the Christian King (Al Re Christianissimo) and published in French and Italian languages, being printed in Paris in 1588.

The work (which belongs to the genre "theatre of machines") exercised a strong influence on the development of mechanics for at least 200 years after its first publication. It is a text well known to Renaissance technological experts. His Le diverse et artificiose machine contains 195 plates illustrating various mechanical devices, each accompanied by an explanation in Italian and French. In addition to cranes, war machines, and fountains, there are no less than 110 illustrations that exemplify hydraulic machines, such as pumps and water harvesting devices. Therefore, it is correct to point out that the hydraulic is at the heart of the active and passive energy that sets mills in motion and power pumps and gives motion to machine tools and lifting organs.

Tables of these contraptions spread to Europe, and Le diverse et artificiose machine was one of the many machine texts that reached China through Jesuit missionaries in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. A recent English translation was written by M. T. Gnudi in 1976, entitled The various and ingenious machines of Agostino Ramelli (1588).

Ramelli's 1588 treatise Le diverse et artificiose machine is in the National Library of Portugal (BNP). It is also possible to establish that the treatise was previously kept at the Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora (Lisboa).

Editions & translations

  • The first edition of Le diverse et artificiose machine was published in 1588, in Paris. The characteristic of this book is that is written both in Italian and French.

  • In 1976 Martha Teach Gnudi (1908 – 1976) published an English translation from the edition of 1588. She was a historian and translator and worked at the University of California at Los Angeles in addition to getting other assignments.


[1] GNUDI M. T., Agostino Ramelli and Ambroise Bachot, in Technology and Culture, The Johns Hopkins University Press,1974, vol. 15, n. 4, pp. 614-625.

[2] HALL B. S., A Revolving Bookcase by Agostino Ramelli, in Technology and Culture, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970, vol. 11, n. 3, pp. 389-400.

[3] KELLER A., Reviewed Work(s): The Various and Ingenious Machines of Agostino Ramelli by E. S. Ferguson, M. T. Gnudi and Agostino Ramelli: Le Machine (1629) by Giovanni Branca, in Technology and Culture, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978, vol. 19, n. 3, pp. 495-508.