A Rare Study of Fossils & Minerals in the Caves and Mountains of Italy

Piccoli, Gregorio, del Faggiol (1680-1755)

Ragguaglio di una grotta, ove sono molte ossa di belve diluviane nei monti veronesi: e dei luoghi in quei contorni; e strati di peitra, tra i quali stanno i corni Ammoni; e ove si ritrovano altre produzioni maritime impietrite, e come in dissegno si dimostra. Con rifflessioni sopra queste materie.

Verona: Fratelli Merlo, 1739


Quarto: 23.5 x 18 cm. [8], 42 pp. *4, A-D4, E4 +1 (With an added engraved plate.)


Bound in modern boards. An excellent copy, crisp and fresh. The title page is printed in red and black and has an engraved vignette of the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The folding engraved plate, actually three plates pasted together, comprises a map of the mountains investigated by Picolli, a stratigraphic diagram, and images of the planets. This “topographic map of the Italian Dolomites correlated with a sort of stratigraphic column…is maybe the oldest figure of this kind.”(Bressan, Deciphering the Layers of Earth, Scientific American online)

This is the sole edition of “A Description of a cave in the mountains of Verona, and Surrounding places, where many bones of beasts from the deluge can be observed, as well as strata of rock within which are found ammonites and other maritime petrifactions. ” In this study, the engineer and cartographer Gregorio Piccoli describes a cave to the east of Cerè in the Piedmont, about 22 miles northeast of Turin. The cave communicates, by means of a narrow passage, with a much larger and deeper grotto. The ceiling of the larger cave is composed of a gritty, reddish stone. In the sandy, horizontal strata can be seen fossilized bones, deer horns, skulls and teeth, one of which seems to Piccoli to be of a boar.

Piccoli goes on to describe locations within a much broader region, from the Tirol in the north to Ferrara in the south, where the richest fossil deposits are to be found. The finds include crabs, ‘asterie’ (star stones), madrepore (corals), ‘pietre siriace’ (possibly pheracite), ammonites, & echinoderms, all of which are found in surprising quantities in the limestone formations in the mountains of Alfaedo and Erbezzo in the Veneto. (See Brochi, Conchiologia fossile subapennina, Vol I, xxxiv).

"Rare. A comparison of a grotto or cave where many fossilized bones of wild animals had been recovered. The location was located near Verona. The author compared them to the bones of living animals. There is also information concerning astronomical descriptions, and speculation on the systems of the worlds." (Curtis Schuh's Biobibliography of Mineralogy)

The third part of the text comprises a detailed discussion of astronomy, including the movements of the planets, the model of the solar system, and the yearly appearance of the aurora borealis and other atmospheric phenomena.

Riccardi I/2, 268, 1; See also, Curi, E., “La colonna stratigrafi ca di don Gregorio Piccoli (1680-1755)”, in Annuario Storico della Valpolicella, (2000-2001)