Caspar Walter's "Architectura Hydraulica" (1765)

Title page (Source: Eisenbibliothek, EM/Bt 104 fol.)

The history of water supply in Europe is often thought to peak in the Roman era, typified by its magnificent aqueducts, with the next peak coming only in the 19th and 20th centuries, when modern infrastructures were introduced. Between these peaks, there is a long and dark valley. However, even in this "dark age" sophisticated water supply facilities did exist that were planned with a high level of technical expertise, as exemplified in Caspar Walter's book "Architectura Hydraulica", published in Augsburg in 1765. The Iron Library has now acquired a copy of this book.

Pump and crankshaft (Source: Eisenbibliothek, EM/Bt 104 fol.)Pump and crankshaft (Source: Eisenbibliothek, EM/Bt 104 fol.)

Following in his father's footsteps, Caspar Walter (1701-1769) first learned the trade of carpenter and became a master craftsman in 1736. He had entered the service of the city of Augsburg in 1728 and was initially responsible for operating a water tower. From 1741 to 1768 he was the city's "fountain master" and as such responsible for the entire water supply infrastructure, which included everything from waterworks to pipes and public fountains. His knowledge was not restricted to maintenance and expansion of the waterworks within Augsburg's city walls – Walter published numerous monographs on technical aspects of engineering and water supply that made his name known well beyond the confines of Augsburg.

Water towers in Augsburg (Source: S. Kerpf/Stadt Augsburg)Water towers in Augsburg (Source: S. Kerpf/Stadt Augsburg)

Owing to their ingenious construction and technical sophistication, the waterworks in Augsburg were a famous attraction – a real "hot spot" for visitors to the city. Caspar Walter set himself the goal of further improving the machines. His "Architectura Hydraulica", published in 1765, consists of two parts. In the first part he describes various machines designed to use watermills and windmills to drive machines for waterworks. In the second part Walter explains the different types of pumps, the construction of water towers, the making of pipes and the installation of fountains. The book is not "fiction": he backs up his extensive explanations and descriptions with illustrative copper plates. In his introduction to the first part Walter wrote:

Waterworks and water tower (Source: Eisenbibliothek, EM/Bt 104 fol.)Waterworks und water tower (Source: Eisenbibliothek, EM/Bt 104 fol.)

"It is an indisputable truth that the hydraulic art of causing water to move and elevating it to great heights for all manner of purposes constitutes a significant portion of human endeavors so that, through art and science, it may be raised to even an greater degree of perfection. Should this work, which represents the little talent given me by G-d based on 36 years of experience in theory and practice ... contribute something and be beneficial to my fellow men, I shall be delighted ..."