The treatises of Hero of Alexandria (mid-1st century CE) on pneumatics and automata were hugely popular in the Byzantine and early modern eras. Manuscripts of Hero’s works were frequently accompanied by detailed diagrams of the inventions being described. On occasion, these works would be accompanied by military treatises, as in Burney 108, which includes the Tactica of Aelian (2nd century CE) and an excerpt from the Tactica of Leo VI the Wise (886–912).
The manuscript was written in northern Italy, possibly in Venice, by the same scribe who was responsible for Burney 102 and 103, all of which were originally bound together. It came to England in 1789, when it was sold in London at the auction of the library of Maffeo Pinelli (d. 1785) of Venice. It was bought at this sale by Charles Marsh (1735–1812), F.S.A., and at the sale of Marsh’s books in 1816 it was acquired by Charles Burney (1757–1817), the bibliophile whose vast collection of manuscripts, theatrical ephemera and newspapers was acquired by the British Museum from Burney’s son in 1818.
- Article by:
- Ian Ruffell
A fascinating group of manuscripts from the 15th and 16th centuries preserve a range of ancient and Byzantine works on mechanics. Here, Ian Ruffell gives an introduction to the discipline of Greek mechanical writing.