4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Art and Science, Medicine, Technology Timeline


2,800,000 BCE – 8,000 BCE

Neanderthals Produce the World's Earliest Jewelry, From Eagle Talons Circa 130,000 BCE

On March 11, 2015 anthropologist Davorka Radovcic, a curator at the Croatian Natural History Museum in Zagreb, and colleagues published research indicating the production of the world's earliest jewelry from eagle talons by Neanderthals about 130,000 years ago, long before modern humans appeared in Europe. The evidence came from eagle bones discovered at the Krapina site where in 1899 archaeologist and paleontologist Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger found over eight hundred fossil remains belonging to Neanderthals on a hill called Hušnjakovo

This video was produced without sound:

Davorka Radovčić, Ankica Oros Sršen, Jakov Radovčić, David W. Frayer, "Evidence for Neandertal Jewelry: Modified White-Tailed Eagle Claws at Krapina," PLOS One, March 11, 2015. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119802

"ABSTRACT: We describe eight, mostly complete white-tailed eagle (Haliaëtus [Haliaeetusalbicilla) talons from the Krapina Neandertal site in present-day Croatia, dating to approximately 130 kyrs ago. Four talons bear multiple, edge-smoothed cut marks; eight show polishing facets and/or abrasion. Three of the largest talons have small notches at roughly the same place along the plantar surface, interrupting the proximal margin of the talon blade. These features suggest they were part of a jewelry assemblage, --- the manipulations a consequence of mounting the talons in a necklace or bracelet. An associated phalanx articulates with one of the talons and has numerous cut marks, some of which are smoothed. These white-tailed eagle bones, discovered more than 100 years ago, all derive from a single level at Krapina and represent more talons than found in the entire European Mousterian period. Presence of eight talons indicates that the Krapina Neandertals acquired and curated eagle talons for some kind of symbolic purpose. Some have argued that Neandertals lacked symbolic ability or copied this behavior from modern humans. These remains clearly show that the Krapina Neandertals made jewelry well before the appearance of modern humans in Europe, extending ornament production and symbolic activity early into the European Mousterian." 

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Pre-Historic Art Created by Children at the Cave of a Hundred Mammoths, Rouffignac Circa 11,000 BCE

Flutings at Rouffignac.  Both children and adults created cave art known as finger flutings in the French caverns of Rouffignac roughly 13,000 years ago. Credit: Jessica Cooney / Leslie van Gelder. (Click on image to view larger.)

In 2006 Kevin Sharpe and Leslie van Gelder published "Evidence for Cave Marking by Paleolithic Children," Antiquity  (2006)  80:310, 937-947.  In this paper they presented evidence that the numerous finger flutings in Chamber A1 of Rouffignac Cave within the French commune of Rouffignac-Saint-Cernin-de-Reilhac in the Dordogne département were made by very young children, 2-5 years old.

"A wall in Gargas Cave, France, shows a baby’s hand held by that of an adult while color is blown over them. Footprints of youngsters have been immortalized into the floors of Pech Merle, Chauvet, Tuc d’Audoubert, and Niaux caves. All these sites also contain prehistoric art. Children were present in the caves, but did they actually produce art or at least deliberately create any of the markings (the corpus of which is called ‘art’ within quotation marks, to recognize the unanswered question as to whether it should count as art)? Whatever the minor impressions of Paleolithic children in caves, this image is often forgotten in favour of the popular image from the Charles R. Knight type of picture that shows the proverbial cave man painting beautiful images of animals – with women and children only looking on. 

"Some specialists of prehistoric parietal ‘art’ believe that children did participate in its creation. Bednarik argues that juveniles were responsible for some of the finger flutings (the lines that human fingers leave when drawn over a soft surface) made in caves in southern Australia at least 30,000 years ago (Bednarik 1986a; 1986b; 1987-88; 1990). (Paleolithic flutings occur in caves through southern Australia, New Guinea, and southwestern Europe.) As will be pointed out below, however, the case Bednarik makes is more suggestive than definitive, relying on a methodology that requires further refinement with forensics.  

"This report introduces a reliable methodology with which to ascertain children’s authorship of flutings, and then provides the results of a study using this. Unlike Bednarik’s, and Sharpe and Van Gelder’s (2004) earlier publications on the subject, definitive evidence is presented that children did indeed create prehistoric ‘art,’ in particular that young children fluted in Rouffignac Cave in the Dordogne, France. This conclusion leads to further questions and insight into the activities carried on in the fluted chamber. . . .


"Young children aged 2-5 made many of the flutings in the fluted subchamber of Chamber A1 in Rouffignac Cave. This is the first demonstrated case of young children creating Paleolithic parietal ‘art.’  

"Given that this can be ascertained with a high degree of probability based on the physical evidence of the flutings, further matters present themselves for research and other informtion may be learned about the fluters. For instance, an aspect of Chamber A1 to notice is the height of the ceiling above the floor. The ceiling flutings are now in places just reachable by a man of 1.8 m. stretching up. It is unreasonable to think that young children marked unaided at such heights, yet the fluting size in some such places is small. Was the height of the ceiling above the floor at the time of fluting much the same as now? If so, or if the height were greater than now, the children would have had to have been held up to flute. In what direction did the children face when held aloft? Were the children acting as ‘paint brushes’ for those holding them up? Were the people holding up the children moving in some prescribed manner, such as in a dance? If so, could their feet and body movements be reconstructed from the flutings?  

"Why did those holding up the children to flute do this? The youngsters could have fluted where they could reach and the holders (if older people) could have marked, not only these sections, but also sections where the youngsters could not reach. Here, however, they raised the children up to flute (and in some alcoves added their own flutings). Further, the low sections of the ceilings that young children could comfortably flute by themselves usually show few or no flutings. //While the archaeologist ought not to approach flutings with strident ideas as to what they mean, the flutings’ illusive meaning should not deter an examination of them. They can offer a rich source of information about the behaviors of the fluters – flutings tell about the fingers and hands that made them and these tell about the people – and the archaeologist ought to look in depth at the flutings as physical objects. Only then can questions be posed that the lines themselves might answer or that experimentation might elucidate. Such investigations logically come before subjective-interpretative and meaning-seeking approaches to flutings and may help support or disprove the various hypotheses as to their connotation or lay a solid foundation for seeking meaning.  

"Similar methodologies are being applied to other flutings in Rouffignac and elsewhere, relating information not only about the ages of the fluters, but also about such data as the fluters’ genders and the number of individuals involved. At least three other forms of flutings besides the Mirian Form exist in Rouffignac (Sharpe and Van Gelder To Appear) and work continues on them in Rouffignac and Gargas caves, to see if it is possible to elucidate further the behaviors and individuals behind their manufacture" (http://www.ksharpe.com/word/AR86.htm, accessed 12-17-2011).

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8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Nebra Sky Disk 1,600 BCE

The Nebra Sky Disk. (View Larger)

The Nebra Sky Disk, attributed to a site near Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, is a bronze disk about 30 cm in diameter, with a blue-green patina inlaid with gold symbols which have generally been interpreted as a sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars, including a cluster interpreted as the Pleiades. The disk is associated with Bronze Age Unetice Culture.

"Two golden arcs along the sides, making the angle between the solstices, were added later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom surrounded with multiple strokes (of uncertain meaning, variously interpreted as a Solar Barge with numerous oars, as the Milky Way or as a rainbow)" (Wikipedia article on Nebra sky disk, accessed 11-04-2010).

When it appeared on the antiquities market in 2001 the disk was widely suspected to be a forgery. Scientific research summarized in the Wikipedia article provided evidence for its authenticity that was widely accepted in 2010.

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300 BCE – 30 CE

The Portland Vase: Classical Connoisseurship, Influence, Destruction & Conservation 30 BCE – 25 CE

The Portland Vase. Shown is the first of two scenes. (View Larger)

A Roman cameo glass vase, the Portland Vase, created between 30 BCE and 25 CE, and known since the Renaissance, served as an inspiration to many glass and porcelain makers from about the beginning of the 18th century onwards. It is about 25 centimeters high and 56 in circumference, made of violet-blue glass, and surrounded with a single continuous white glass cameo depicting seven figures of humans and gods. "On the bottom was a cameo glass disc, also in blue and white, showing a head, presumed to be of Paris or Priam on the basis of the Phrygian cap it wears. This roundel clearly does not belong to the vase, and has been displayed separately since 1845. It may have been added to mend a break in antiquity or after, or the result of a conversion from an original amphora form (paralleled by a similar blue-glass cameo vessel from Pompeii) - it was definitely attached to the bottom from at least 1826."

"The meaning of the images on the vase is unclear and controversial. Interpretations of the portrayals have included that of a marine setting (due to the presence of a ketos or sea-snake), and of a marriage theme/context (i.e. as a wedding gift). Many scholars (even Charles Towneley) have concluded that the figures do not fit into a single iconographic set."

"Cameo-glass vessels were probably all made within about two generations as experiments when the blowing technique (discovered in about 50 BC) was still in its infancy. Recent research has shown that the Portland vase, like the majority of cameo-glass vessels, was made by the dip-overlay method, whereby an elongated bubble of glass was partially dipped into a crucible (fire-resistant container) of white glass, before the two were blown together. After cooling the white layer was cut away to form the design."

"The work towards making a 19th century copy proved to be incredibly painstaking, and based on this it is believed that the Portland Vase must have taken its original artisan no less than two years to produce. The cutting was probably performed by a skilled gem-cutter. It is believed that the cutter may have been Dioskourides, as gems cut by him of a similar period and signed by him."

Traditionally the vase was believed to have been discovered by Fabrizio Lazzaro in the sepulchre of the Emperor Alexander Severus, at Monte del Grano near Rome, and excavated some time around 1582.

The first documented reference to the vase is a 1601 letter from the French scholar Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc to the painter Peter Paul Rubens, where it is recorded as in the collection of Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte in Italy. It then passed to the Barberini family collection (which also included sculptures such as the Barberini Faun and Barberini Apollo) where it remained for some two hundred years, being one of the treasures of Maffeo Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII.

In 1778 Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador in Naples, purchased it from James Byres. "Byres, a Scottish art dealer, had acquired it after it was sold by Donna Cornelia Barberini-Colonna, Princess of Palestrina. She had inherited the vase from the Barberini family. Hamilton brought it to England on his next leave, after the death of his first wife, Catherine. In 1784, with the assistance of his niece, Mary, he arranged a private sale to Margaret Cavendish-Harley, widow of William Bentinck, 2nd Duke of Portland and so dowager Duchess of Portland. She passed it to her son William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland in 1786.

"The 3rd Duke loaned the original vase to Josiah Wedgwood (see below) and then to the British Museum for safe-keeping, at which point it was dubbed the "Portland Vase". It was deposited there permanently by the fourth Duke in 1810, after a friend of his broke its base. The original Roman vase has remained in the British Museum ever since 1810, apart from three years (1929-32) when William Cavendish-Bentinck, 6th Duke of Portland put it up for sale at Christie's. It failed to reach its reserve. It was purchased by the Museum from William Cavendish-Bentinck, 7th Duke of Portland in 1945 with the aid of a bequest from James Rose Vallentin. . . .

"The 3rd Duke lent the vase to Josiah Wedgwood, who had already had it described to him as 'the finest production of Art that has been brought to England and seems to be the very apex of perfection to which you are endeavouring' by the sculptor John Flaxman. Wedgwood devoted four years of painstaking trials at duplicating the vase - not in glass but in jasperware. He had problems with his copies ranging from cracking and blistering (clearly visible on the example at the Victoria and Albert Museum) to the reliefs 'lifting' during the firing, and in 1786 he feared that he could never apply the Jasper relief thinly enough to match the glass original's subtlety and delicacy. He finally managed to perfect it in 1790, with the issue of the "first-edition" of copies (with some of this edition, including the V&A one, copying the cameo's delicacy by a combination of undercutting and shading the reliefs in grey), and it marks his last major achievement.

"Wedgwood put the first edition on private show between April and May 1790, with that exhibition proving so popular that visitor numbers had to be restricted by only printing 1900 tickets, before going on show in his public London showrooms. (One ticket to the private exhibition, illustrated by Samuel Alkin and printed with 'Admission to see Mr Wedgwood's copy of The Portland Vase, Greek Street, Soho, between 12 o'clock and 5', was bound into the Wedgwood catalogue on view in the Victoria and Albert Museum's British Galleries.) As well as the V&A copy (said to have come from the collection of Wedgwood's grandson, the naturalist Charles Darwin), others are held at the Fitzwilliam Museum (this is the copy sent by Wedgwood to Erasmus Darwin which his descendants loaned to the Museum in 1963 and later sold to them) and the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum.

"The Vase also inspired a 19th century competition to duplicate its cameo-work in glass, with Benjamin Richardson offering a £1000 prize to anyone who could achieve that feat. Taking three years, glass maker Philip Pargeter made a copy and John Northwood engraved it, to win the prize. This copy is in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

Vandalism and Reconstruction

"On February 7, 1845, the vase was shattered by William Lloyd, who drunkenly threw a nearby sculpture on top of the case smashing both it and the vase. The vase was pieced together with fair success, though the restorer was unable to replace all of the pieces and thirty-seven small fragments were lost. It appears they had been put into a box and forgotten. In 1948, the keeper Bernard Ashmole received thirty-seven fragments in a box from Mr. Croker of Putney, who did not know what they were. In 1845 Mr. Doubleday, the first restorer, did not know where these fragments went. A colleague had taken these to Mr. Gabb, a box maker, who was asked to make a box with thirty seven compartments, one for each fragment. The colleague died, the box was never collected, Gabb died and his executrix Miss Revees asked Croker to ask the museum if they could identify them. The Duke's descendants finally sold the vase to the museum in 1945.

"By 1948, the restoration appeared aged and it was decided to restore the vase again, but the restorer was only successful in replacing three fragments. The adhesive from this weakened, by 1986 the joints rattled when the vase was gently tapped. The third and current reconstruction took place in 1987, when a new generation of conservators assessed the vase's condition during its appearance as the focal piece of an international exhibition of Roman glass and, at the conclusion of the exhibition, it was decided to go ahead with reconstruction and stabilisation. The treatment had scholarly attention and press coverage. The vase was photographed and drawn to record the position of fragments before dismantling; the BBC filmed the conservation process. All previous adhesives had failed, so to find one that would last, conservation scientists at the museum tested many adhesives for long term stability. Finally, an epoxy resin with excellent ageing properties was chosen. Reassembly of the vase was made more difficult as the edges of some fragments were found to have been filed down during the restorations. Nevertheless, all of the fragments were replaced except for a few small splinters. Areas that were still missing were gap-filled with a blue or white resin.

"The newly conserved Portland Vase was returned to display. Little sign of the original damage is visible and except for light cleaning, the vase should not require major conservation work for many years." (Wikipedia article on Portland Vase, accessed 11-10-2009)

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30 CE – 500 CE

The Earliest Egyptian Printed Cloth Circa 350 CE

The earliest Egyptian printed cloth dates from the 4th century.

"In his Natural History, Pliny states that this technique [printing on textiles] was particularly utilized in Egypt. Printed material is only represented by fabrics of the fourth century at the earliest and continues until the Arab period.  In those days, there were great textile centers such as Alexandria, Panopolis, Oxyrhynchus, Tinnis [Tennis] and Damietta, but regrettably we know this only from texts, because any trace of weaving shops and their fragile wooden looms has vanished.  However, by studying the fabrics themselves, scholars are often able to derive their origins. 

"Actually, only two groups of fabrics have been dated with any certainty. One group was a pair of medallions and a band of flax and purple wool coming from a tomb in Hwara in the Fayoum Oasis, which were found together with a coin dated to 340 AD. These medallions are adorned in a manner that is virtually identical with that of painted Egyptian shrouds of the Roman period and fabrics discovered in Syria. Next to the body of Aurelius Colluthus, in his tomb at Antinoe, were discovered sales contracts and his will, all written in Greek between 454 and 456 AD. He was wrapped in a large tapestry with an upper tier showing two busts under arcades supported by two large columns. A geometrical network with florets and leaves covers the space between the columns, which is a composition very similar to the decorations in paintings and mosaics of the same period" (http://touregypt.net/featurestories/fabrics.htm, accessed 01-29-2010).

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500 CE – 600

Probably the Most Beautiful of the Earliest Surviving Scientific Codices Circa 512

An illustration of illustration of the species 'Akoniton napellus,' folio 67v. (View Larger)

The oldest surviving copy of Pedanius Dioscorides's treatise on medical botany and pharmacology, De materia medica, is an illuminated Byzantine manuscript produced about 512 CE. Dioscorides, a Greek military physician who served in the Roman army of the emperor Nero, wrote De materia medica in the first century CE. The Anicia Juliana codex also contains the earliest illustrated treatise on ornithology. It is one of the earliest surviving relatively complete codices of a scientific or medical text, one of the earliest relatively complete illustrated codices on any medical or scientific subject, and arguably the most beautiful of the earliest surviving scientific codices. It also contains what are probably the earliest surviving portraits of scientists or physicians in a manuscript.

The manuscript was produced for the Byzantine princess Anicia Juliana, the daughter of Flavius Anicius Olybrius, who had been emperor of the western empire in 472 CE. "The frontispiece of the manuscript, the first donor portrait in the history of manuscript illumination, features her depiction, flanked by the personifications of Magnanimity and Prudence, with an allegory of the "Gratitude of the Arts" prostrate in front of her. The encircling inscription proclaims Juliana as a great patron of art" (Wikipedia article on Anicia Juliana, accessed 11-22-2008).

For this and other commissions Juliana may be considered the first non-reigning patron of the arts in recorded history.

"Splendid though the figures in the Codex Vindobonensis are, they reveal a naturalism so alien to contemporary Byzantine art that it is obvious that they were not drawn from nature but derived from originals of a much earlier date—as early, at least, as the second century AD. They vary, however, very much in quality and are clearly not all by the same hand, possibly not even all after the work of a single artist. In the text accompaying eleven of them there is association with the writings of Krateuas. All these figures are admirable, and clearly by the same hand; it must therefore seem certain that they, at all events, are derived from drawings by Krateuas himself" (Blunt & Raphael, The Illustrated Herbal [1979] 17).

The story of the manuscript's survival is relatively well documented:

"Presented in appreciation for her patronage in the construction of a district church in Constantinople, the parchment codex comprises 491 folios (or almost a thousand pages) and almost four hundred color illustrations, each occupying a full page facing a description of the plant's pharmacological properties. . . .

"In the Anicia codex, the chapter entries of De Materia Medica have been rearranged, the plants alphabetized and their descriptions augmented with observations from Galen and Crateuas (Krateuas), whose own herbal probably had been illustrated. Five supplemental texts also were appended, including paraphrases of the Theriaca and Alexipharmaca of Nicander and the Ornithiaca of Dionysius of Philadelphia (first century AD), which describes more than forty Mediterranean birds, including one sea bird shown with its wings both folded and open" (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/materiamedica.html, accessed 11-22-2008)

From the time of its creation "Nearly nine centuries were to pass before we have further knowledge of the whereabouts of the codex. Then we learn that in 1406 it was being rebound by a certain John Chortasmenos for Nathanael, a monk and physician in the Prodromos Monastery in Constantinople, where seveteen years later it was seen by a Sicilian traveler named Aurispa. After the Muslim conquest of the city in 1453 the codex fell into the hands of the Turks, and Turkish and Arabic names were then added to the Greek. A century later it was in the possession of a Jew named Hamon, body physician to Suleiman the Magnificent, and it was presumably either by Hamon or by his son, who inherited it, that Hebrew names were also added" (Blunt & Raphael, op. cit., 15).

"Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, ambassador of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I to the Ottoman court of Süleyman, attempted to purchase the Anicia codex in 1562 but could not afford the asking price. As he relates at the end of his Turkish Letters (IV, p.243),

"One treasure I left behind in Constantinople, a manuscript of Dioscorides, extremely ancient and written in majuscules, with drawings of the plants and containing also, if I am not mistaken, some fragments of Crateuas and a small treatise on birds. It belongs to a Jew, the son of Hamon, who, while he was still alive, was physician to Soleiman. I should like to have bought it, but the price frightened me; for a hundred ducats was named, a sum which would suit the Emperor's purse better than mine. I shall not cease to urge the Emperor to ransom so noble an author from such slavery. The manuscript, owing to its age, is in a bad state, being externally so worm-eaten that scarcely any one, if he saw if lying in the road, would bother to pick it up.

"In 1569 Emperor Maximilian II did acquire the Anicia codex for the imperial library in Vienna, now the Austrian National Library (Österreichische Nationalbibliothek), where it is designated Codex Vindobonensis Med. Gr. 1. (from Vindobona, the Latin name for Vienna) or, more simply, the Vienna Dioscorides." (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/aconite/materiamedica.html, accessed 11-22-2008)

(This entry was last revised on 05-03-2014.)

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600 – 700

The Naples Dioscorides Circa 625

Folio 90v of the Naples Dioscurides, a description of the Mandrake. (View Larger)

The Naples Dioscorides (Codex neapolitanus Ms. Ex Vindob. Gr. 1 Salerno) preserved in the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli, is an early seventh century Greek herbal based on the De Materia Medica of the first-century Greek military physician Dioscorides (Dioscurides) containing descriptions of plants and  their medicinal uses. Until the early 18th century the manuscript was preserved in the Augustine monastery of San Giovanni a Carbonara in Naples. In 1718, the Habsburgs plundered it for the Viennese Court Library.  At the conclusion of the peace negotiations after World War I, in 1919, the codex returned to the Biblioteca Nazionale in Naples.

"Unlike De Materia Medica, the text is arranged alphabetically by plant. The codex derives independently from the same model as the Vienna Dioscurides, composed ca. 512 for a Byzantine princess, but differs from it significantly: though the illustrations follow the same infered model, they are rendered more naturalistically in the Naples Dioscurides. Additionally, in the Naples manuscript, the illustrations occupy the top half of each folio, rather than being full page miniatures as in the Vienna Dioscurides. The plant descriptions are recorded below the illustration in two or three columns. The style of Greek script used in the manuscript indicates that it was probably written in Byzantine-ruled southern Italy, where ancient Greek cultural traditions remained strong, although it is not known exactly where it was produced. Marginal notes indicate that the manuscript had contact with the medical school at Salerno in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries" (Wikipedia article on Naples Dioscurides, accessed 02-03-2009).

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The Earliest Known Star Atlas 649 – 684

A depiction of a constellation from the Dunhuang Chinese Sky. (View Larger)

(View Larger)

The Dunhuang Chinese Sky, a set of sky maps drawn on a roll of thin paper, displaying the full sky visible from the Northern hemisphere, included in the medieval Chinese manuscript (Or. 8210/S.3326) preserved in the British Library, is the oldest known star atlas. It was discovered in 1907 by the archaeologist Aurel Stein in the Mogao Caves, also known as The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, in Dunhuang, a town on the northern Silk Road, in Gansu province, China.  The earliest later star atlases in China date from the eleventh century.

The Dunhuang star atlas, drawn in two inks on fine paper and remarkably well preserved,  represents more than 1300 individual stars in the total sky as could be seen with the naked eye from the Chinese imperial observatory along with an explanatory text. It displays the sky "as in the most modern charts with twelve hour-angle maps, plus a North polar region."

"It was discovered by the British-nationalised but Hungarian-born archaeologist Aurel Stein in 1907 among the pile of at least 40,000 manuscripts enclosed in the so-called Library Cave (Cave 17) in the Mogao ensemble, also known as the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ near Dunhuang (Gansu). The Mogao caves are a set of several hundred Buddhist temples cut into a cliff and heavily decorated with statues and murals. The site was active from about +3602 to the end of the Mongol period. In about +1000, one cave was apparently sealed (Rong Xinjiang, 1999) to preserve a collection of precious manuscripts and some printed material including the world’s earliest dated complete printed book . The sealed cave was rediscovered by accident and re-opened only a few years before the arrival of Stein in 1907. He was therefore the first European visitor to see the hidden library" (Bonnet-Bidaud, Praderie & Whitfield, The Dunhuang Chinese Sky: A Comprehensive Study of the Oldest Known Star Atlas [2004] 2).

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800 – 900

A Studio for Royal Mayan Scribes in the Ninth Century Circa 825

In 2011 a small painted room was excavated at the extensive ancient Maya ruins of Xultun in the Petén lowlands of northeastern Guatemala, dating to the early 9th century CE. The walls and ceiling of the room were painted with several human figures, and scientists concluded that the room was a studio for royal scribes with "a taste for art and a devotion to the heavens as the source of calculations for the ancient culture’s elaborate calendars." Two walls also displayed a large number of delicate black, red, and incised hieroglyphs. Many of these hieroglyphs, written on the walls like we might write on a blackboard, howed astronomical computations, including at least two tables concerning the movement of the Moon, and perhaps Mars and Venus. Calculations of this type were central to Mayan astrology and rituals, in which astronomy was driven by religion. These writings, which are the earliest writing preserved in the Western hemisphere, may shed light on tables preserved in the Dresden Codex which dates from the 11th century.

"David Stuart, professor of Mesoamerican art and writing at the University of Texas at Austin, who deciphered the glyphs, said, 'This is tremendously exciting,' noting that the columns of numbers interspersed with glyphs inside circles was 'the kind of thing that only appears in one place — the Dresden Codex.'  

"Some of the columns of numbers, for example, are topped by the profile of a lunar deity and represent multiples of 177 or 178, numbers that the archaeologists said were important in ancient Maya astronomy. Eclipse tables in the Dresden Codex are based on sequences of multiples of such numbers. Some texts 'defy translation right now,' he said, and some writing is barely legible even with infrared imagery and other enhancements" (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/science/archaeologists-unearth-ancient-maya-calendar-writing.html?hp, accessed 05-10-2012).

William A. Saturno, David Stuart, Anthony F. Aveni, Franco Rossi, "Ancient Maya Astronomical Tables from Xultun, Guatemala," Science  11 May 2012: Vol. 336 no. 6082 pp. 714-717 DOI: 10.1126/science.1221444

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1000 – 1100

Construction of the First Camera Obscura 1012 – 1021

A Qatarian postage stamp portraying Ibn al-Haitham. (View Larger)  <p>Persian scientist Abu Ali Al-Hasan <a href=,

Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham  (أبو علي، الحسن بن الحسن بن الهيثم‎), frequently referred to as Ibn al-Haytham (Arabic: ابن الهيثم, known in the west as Alhazen, built the first camera obscura or pinhole camera—significant in the history of optics, photography, and the history of art.

In his Book of Optics, written in Cairo between 1012 and 1021, Ibn al-Haytham used the term “Al-Bayt al-Muthlim", translated into English as "dark room."

"In the experiment he undertook, in order to establish that light travels in time and with speed, he says: 'If the hole was covered with a curtain and the curtain was taken off, the light traveling from the hole to the opposite wall will consume time.' He reiterated the same experience when he established that light travels in straight lines. A revealing experiment introduced the camera obscura in studies of the half-moon shape of the sun's image during eclipses which he observed on the wall opposite a small hole made in the window shutters. In his famous essay 'On the form of the Eclipse' (Maqalah-fi-Surat-al-Kosuf) he commented on his observation 'The image of the sun at the time of the eclipse, unless it is total, demonstrates that when its light passes through a narrow, round hole and is cast on a plane opposite to the hole it takes on the form of a moon-sickle'.

"In his experiment of the sun light he extended his observation of the penetration of light through the pinhole to conclude that when the sun light reaches and penetrates the hole it makes a conic shape at the points meeting at the pinhole, forming later another conic shape reverse to the first one on the opposite wall in the dark room. This happens when sun light diverges from point “ﺍ” until it reaches an aperture and is projected through it onto a screen at the luminous spot. Since the distance between the aperture and the screen is insignificant in comparison to the distance between the aperture and the sun, the divergence of sunlight after going through the aperture should be insignificant. In other words, should be about equal to. However, it is observed to be much greater when the paths of the rays which form the extremities of are retraced in the reverse direction, it is found that they meet at a point outside the aperture and then diverge again toward the sun as illustrated in figure 1. This an early accurate description of the Camera Obscura phenomenon."

"In 13th-century England Roger Bacon described the use of a camera obscura for the safe observation of solar eclipses. Its potential as a drawing aid may have been familiar to artists by as early as the 15th century; Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519 AD) described camera obscura in Codex Atlanticus. . . .

"The Dutch Masters, such as Johannes Vermeer, who were hired as painters in the 17th century, were known for their magnificent attention to detail. It has been widely speculated that they made use of such a camera, but the extent of their use by artists at this period remains a matter of considerable controversy, recently revived by the Hockney-Falco thesis. The term "camera obscura" was first used by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler in 1604.

"Early models were large; comprising either a whole darkened room or a tent (as employed by Johannes Kepler). By the 18th century, following developments by Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, more easily portable models became available. These were extensively used by amateur artists while on their travels, but they were also employed by professionals, including Paul Sandby, Canaletto and Joshua Reynolds, whose camera (disguised as a book) is now in the Science Museum (London). Such cameras were later adapted by Louis Daguerre and William Fox Talbot for creating the first photographs" (Wikipedia article on Camera obscura, accessed 04-24-2009).

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1100 – 1200

A Graphic Portrayal of 12th Century Life in Italy and Sicily 1196

The Coronation of Henry IV of Liber ad honorem Augusi sive de rebus Siculis, folio 105r of MS. 120 II, Berne Municipal Library. (View Larger)


In 1196 Peter of Eboli (Petrus Eburensis, Petrus de Ebulo), monk and court poet to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, wrote Liber ad honorem Augusti sive de rebus Siculis ("Book in honour of the Emperor, or on Sicilian affairs"; also called Carmen de motibus Siculis, "Poem on the Sicilian revolt"). This illustrated narrative he wrote in Latin elegiac couplets probably in Palermo. The presentation copy, ordered by chancelor Konrad of Querfurt, is now MS. 120 II of the Berne Municipal Library.

The manuscript

"tells the story of Tancred of Lecce's attempt to take control of Sicily, an attempt thwarted by the successful military campaign of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. Composed in honour of Henry VI and intended for presentation to him, the poem, distributed into three books, the last one being an encomiom [encomium] of Henry VI, and 52 continuously numbered particulae, is written in a mannered and sophisticated style. It is often mocking and extremely biased (see for example part. 4; 7-9; 25f. and the illustrations), but, once allowance has been made for this, is a useful and detailed historical source. It contains much information about Constanze of Sicily, the wife of Henry VI (part. 20ff.), and the birth of her son Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (part. 43).

"At every page opening a column of Latin text is faced by a full page illustration with brief captions. This beautiful volume gives a rich picture of 12th century life in Italy and Sicily; it may be compared with the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. The fierce caricatures of Tancred, who is depicted as almost ape-like in stature and features, match the propagandistic bias of the text" (Wikipedia article on Liber ad honorem Augusti, accessed 07-25-2009).

"Female nurses existed in Salerno from ancient times. Of this we have evident proof from two miniatures in a manuscript of the Carmen in honorem Augusti of Peter of Eboli in the municipal library of Berne . . . . In the first miniature we have a representation of Count Richard of Acerra lying wounded on the walls of a town he has been defending; we can see the doctor trying to extract an arrow which has pierced the jaw while two nurses carry medicaments and dressings. . . In the second an illustration of the death of William II is given; a nurse by the bed is trying to cool the heated air of the sick room by waving a fan" (Capparoni, "Magistri Salernitani Nondum Cogniti". A Contribution to the History of the Medical School of Salerno [1923] 17, frontispiece, and plate II).

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1200 – 1300

The Suanpan Circa 1200

A scence from the long scroll 'Along the River During Qing Ming Festival,' in which a fifteen column saunpan is visible next to the account book and doctor's prescriptions. (View Larger)

A version of the abacus appeared in China, called suanpan in Chinese. On each rod this abacus had 2 beads on the upper deck and 5 on the lower deck.

The suanpan style of abacus is also referred to as a 2/5 abacus. The 2/5 style survived unchanged until about 1850, at which time the 1/5 (one bead on the top deck and five beads on the bottom deck) abacus appeared.

♦ "In the famous long scroll Along the River During Qing Ming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145) [a native of Dongwu (present Zhucheng, Shandong)] during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), a 15 column suanpan is clearly seen lying beside an account book and doctor's prescriptions on the counter of an apothecary.

"The similarity of the Roman abacus to the Chinese one suggests that one could have inspired the other, as there is some evidence of a trade relationship between the Roman Empire and China. However, no direct connection can be demonstrated, and the similarity of the abaci may be coincidental, both ultimately arising from counting with five fingers per hand. Where the Roman model and Chinese model (like most modern Japanese) has 4 plus 1 bead per decimal place, the old version of the Chinese suanpan has 5 plus 2, allowing less challenging arithmetic algorithms, and also allowing use with a hexadecimal numeral system. Instead of running on wires as in the Chinese and Japanese models, the beads of Roman model run in grooves, presumably making arithmetic calculations much slower.

"Another possible source of the suanpan is Chinese counting rods, which operated with a decimal system but lacked the concept of a zero as a place holder. The zero was probably introduced to the Chinese in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) when travel in the Indian Ocean and the Middle East would have provided direct contact with India and Islam allowing them to acquire the concept of zero and the decimal point from Indian and Islamic merchants and mathematicians."

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The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt Circa 1230

Villard's schematic illustration of a perpetual-motion machine. Folio 1 of Fr.19093 preserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale. (View Larger)

The portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt, preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (MS Fr. 19093), consists of 33 sheets of parchment containing about 250 drawings.

Villard's portfolio ". . . appears to be a model-book, with a wide range of religious and secular figures suitable for sculpture, and architectural plans, elevations and details, ecclesiastical objects and mechanical devices, with copious annotations. Other subjects such as animals and human figures also appear.

"Among the devices Villard sketched is a perpetual-motion machine, a mill-driven saw, a number of automata, one of which depicts a simple escapement mechanism, the first known in the west, lifting devices, war engines as well as a number of anatomical, architectural and geometric sketches for portraiture and architecture.

"Villard apparently traveled through many of the cathedral building-sites in 13th century France and recorded in his sketchbook in great detail work in construction. Of particular interest are drawings of the Laon cathedral bell towers and the Reims cathedral nave being built, which provide a valuable clue for building techniques of High Gothic architecture" (Wikipedia article on Villard de Honnecourt, accessed 08-20-2009).

"Who Villard was, and what he did, must be postulated from his drawings and the textual addenda to them on 26 of the 66 surfaces of the 33 leaves remaining in his portfolio. In these sometimes enigmatic inscriptions Villard gave his name twice (Wilars dehonecort [fol. 1v]; Vilars dehoncort [fol. 15r]), but said nothing of his occupation and claimed not a single artistic creation or monument of any type. He addressed his portfolio, which he termed a 'book,' to no one in particular, saying (fol. 1v) that it contained 'sound advice on the techniques of masonry and on the devices of carpentry . . . and the techniques of representation, its features as the discipline of geometry commands and instructs it.' . . . .

"During a period of perhaps five to fifteen years, Villard made sketches of things he found interesting. At some unknown time in his life, he decided to make his drawings available to an unspecified audience. He arranged them in the sequence he wished, and then inscribed certain of them, or had them inscribed. These inscriptions are all by one professional scribal hand, and fit around the drawings with some care. The language is the basically the Picard dialect of Old French, with some Central French forms rather than Picard forms used consistently, for example, ces and ceus rather than ches and cheus. Occasionally, the different dialects exist side by side: on fol. 32r both the Picard chapieles and Central French capieles, 'chapels,' are found. The inscriptions vary in nature, some being explanations (e.g., fol. 6r: "Of such appearance was the sepulchre of a Saracen I saw one time"), others being instructions (e.g., fol. 30r: 'If you wish to make the strong device one calls a trebuchet, pay attention here').

"The Villard portfolio was rediscovered and first published in the mid-19th century during the height of the Gothic Revival movement in France and England. For this reason, Villard's architectural drawings, which comprise only about 16% of the total, attracted the greatest attention. This led writers to conclude that he was an architect, an assumption based on a fundamental error: the practical, stereotomical formulas on fols.20r and 20v were taken as proof that Villard was a trained mason, and it was not discovered until 1901 that these drawings and their inscriptions are by a later hand.

"Since the 1970s there has been growing suspicion that Villard was not an architect or mason. It has been proposed that he may have been 'a lodge clerk with a flair for drawing' or that his training may have been in metalworking rather than in masonry. The question is not yet resolved, but it may no longer be automatically assumed that he was a mason. It may be that Villard was not a professional craftsman of any type, but simply an inquisitive layman who had an opportunity to travel widely and took the seemingly unusual step of recording some of the things he saw during his travels" (Carl F. Barnes, Jr., "Villard de Honecourt," MacMillian Dictionary of Art, 32 (1996),  569-571).

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1300 – 1400

The Earliest Depiction of Eyeglasses in a Painted Work of Art 1352

The first depiction of spectacles in art: a portrait of Cardinal Hugo of Provence at his writing desk, painted by Tommaso de Mondena in fresco in the Basilica San Nicolo in Treviso, Italy. (View Larger)

"The earliest depiction of spectacles [eyeglasses] in a painted work of art occurs in a series of frescoes dated 1352 by Tommaso da Modena in the Chapter House of the Seminario attached to the Basilica San Nicolo in Treviso, north of Venice. Cardinal Hugo of Provence [Hugh de St. Cher] is shown at his writing desk wearing a pair of rivet spectacles that appear to stay in place on the nose without additional support. The Cardinal actually died in the 1260s and could never have worn spectacles! Across the room Cardinal Nicholas of Rouen is depicted using a monocular lens in the style of later quizzing glasses. The artist has even tried to represent the physical effort of straining to see the book through the lens. The men depicted in this series of paintings are Dominicans (like Fra Rivalto), members of a dynamic monastic order founded in 1217 and regarded as 'the carrier of the sciences'. It is notable that visual aids are portrayed as devices for the use of literate men as well as aesthetes - they had, after all, commissioned this important work of early Renaissance art" (London College of Optometrists web page on the Invention of Spectacles, accessed 06-22-2009).

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One of the Most Beautiful Medieval Atlases 1375

In 1375 the Catalan Atlas (Atles català), an exquisitely beautiful cosmography, perpetual calendar, and thematic representation of the known world, was produced by the Majorcan cartographic school. Creation of the atlas has been attributed to Cresques Abraham (Abraham Cresques), a Jewish cartographer from Palma, Majorca (Mallorca).

"The Catalan Atlas originally consisted of six vellum leaves folded down the middle, painted in various colors including gold and silver. The leaves are now cut in half. Each half-leaf is mounted on one side of five wooden panels. The first half of the first leaf and the second half of the last leaf are mounted on the inner boards of a brown leather binding. Each measures approximately 65 × 50 cm. The overall size is therefore 65 × 300 cm.

"The first two leaves contain texts in Catalan language covering cosmography, astronomy, and astrology. These texts are accompanied by illustrations. The texts and illustration emphasize the Earth's spherical shape and the state of the known world. They also provide information to sailors on tides and how to tell time at night.

"The four remaining leaves make up the actual map, which is divided into two principal parts. The map shows illustrations of many cities, whose political allegiances are symbolized by a flag. Christian cities are marked with a cross, other cities with a dome. Wavy blue vertical lines are used to symbolize oceans. Place names of important ports are transcribed in red, while others are indicated in black.

"Unlike many other nautical charts, the Catalan Atlas is read with the north at the bottom. As a result of this the maps are oriented from left to right, from the Far East to the Atlantic" (Wikipedia article on Catalan Atlas, accessed 01-11-2013).

Since the 14th century reign of Charles V of France the Catalan atlas has been preserved in the Bibliothèque royale de France (now the Bibliothèque nationale de France.)

An authoritative reference is The Creques Project of Gabriel Llompart and Jaume Riera, accessed 10-11-2013).

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1400 – 1450

The First 15th Century Illustrated Treatise on Technology 1402 – 1405

This drawing, from Kyeser's 'Bellifortis,' depicts Alexander the Great holding a rocket. The legend of Alexander was a personal facination for Kyeser. (View Larger)

German physician and military engineer Konrad Kyeser wrote Bellifortis, an illustrated book on mechanical machinery, weapons, instruments, and techniques for attack and defense, mainly of towns.

Though he originally conceived the work for King Wenceslaus, Kyeser dedicated the finished book to Rupert III of Germany. Bellifortis summarized material from classical writers on military technology, including Vegetius' De re militari and Frontinus' anecdotal stratagems or Strategemata, emphasizing poliorcetics, or the art of siege warfare, but treating magic as a supplement to the military arts.

"Konrad Kyeser wrote his treatise between 1402 and 1405 when he was exiled from Prague to his hometown of Eichstätt. Many of the illustrations for the book were made by German illuminators who were sent to Eichstatt after their own ousting from the Prague scriptorium. The work, which was not printed until 1967, survived in a single original presentation manuscript on parchment at University of Göttingen, bearing the date 1405, and in numerous copies, excerpts and amplifications, both of the text and of the illustrations, made in German lands" (Wikipedia article on Bellifortis, accessed 10-31-2010).

The catalogue of the Niedersächische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen lists various facsimiles and editions of Bellifortis

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Technological Manuscripts by the Sienese Archimedes 1419 – 1449

Between 1419 and 1449 Italian administrator, artist and engineer Mariano di Jacopo detto il Taccola of Siena, sometimes called the "Sienese Archimedes," published the illustrated technological treatises De ingeneis and De machinis. These manuscripts were widely studied and copied by artists and engineers during the Renaissance, but never seem to have gained the attention of printers, and were not published in print until the 20th century. Taccola’s original manuscripts, the style of which was more sophisticated than that of their manuscript copies, were rediscovered and identified in the state libraries of Munich and Florence in the 1960s, leading to revival of interest in Tacola and publication of facsimile editions of his manuscripts.

"Taccola left behind two treatises, the first being De ingeneis (Concerning engines), work on its four books starting as early as 1419. Having been completed in 1433, Taccola continued to amend drawings and annotations to De ingeneis until about 1449. In the same year, Taccola published his second manuscript, De machinis (Concerning machines), in which he restated many of the devices from the long development process of his first treatise. 

"Drawn with black ink on paper and accompanied by hand-written annotations, Taccola depicts in his work a multitude of 'ingenious devices' in hydraulic engineering, milling, construction and war machinery. Taccola’s drawings show him to be a man of transition: While his subject matter is already that of later Renaissance artist-engineers, his method of representation still owes much to medieval manuscript illustration. Notably, with perspective coming and going in his drawings, Taccola seemed to remain largely unaware of the ongoing revolution in perspective painting. This is the more curious, since he is the only man known to have interviewed the 'father of linear perspectivity' himself, Filippo Brunelleschi. Despite these graphic inconsistencies, Taccola’s style has been described as being forceful, authentic and usually to be relied upon to capture the essential" (Wikipedia article on Taccola, accessed 01-27-2012).

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One of the Earliest Surviving Italian Manuscripts on Technology and War Machines Circa 1420

Folio 2r of Bellicorum instrumentorum liber, showing an 'Oriental siege machine.' (View Larger)

The Bellicorum instrumentorum liber, cum figuris et fictitys litoris conscriptus, written and drawn by the Italian engineer, self-styled magus, and physician to the Venetian army in Brescia, Giovanni Fontana, may be the earliest extant illustrated Italian manuscript on technology and war machines.

Fontana accompanied each of his roughly 140 illustrations of siege engines, fountains and pumps, lifting and transporting machines, defensive towers, dredges, combination locks, battering rams, a "rocket-powered" craft, the first ever depiction of the magic lantern, scaling ladders, alchemical furnaces, clockwork, robotic automata, and measuring instruments with a caption that was partially encoded with a substitute cypher system.

♦ You can view a digital facsimile of Fontana's manuscript at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek website at this link: http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0001/bsb00013084/images/index.html?id=00013084&fip=, accessed 01-16-2010).

Another manuscript by Fontana, preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Nouvelles Acquisitions Latin 635), entitled Secretum de thesauro experimentorum ymaginationis hominum, concerned mnemonic devices and memory: 

"The entire manuscript, excepting the table of contents, title and concluding formula is in cipher; this consists  almost entirely of straight lines and circles. Abbreviation marks are  placed under the script. . . .

"where one sees several projects of combiantorial machines, concentric disks, cylinders, rolls that allow the permutation of isolated elements of writing (letters or words): and engineer's realization of the Lullian dream. However the connection between the theater in the first book and the devices of the second is not one of mere juxtaposition: the Secretum is actually a treatise of mnemotechnics, or, as Battisti put it, "the blueprint for a compact database of the mind (http://www.voynich.net/Arch/2002/09/msg00136.html, accessed 01-16-2010).

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Description of Textile Printing and Manuscript Illumination as Well as Painting July 31, 1437

Il Libro dell Arte, often translated as "The Craftsman's Handbook," by Italian painter Cennino d' Andrea Cennini of Colle Val d'Elsa, Tuscany

"is a "how to" on Renaissance art. It contains information on pigments, brushes, panel painting, the art of fresco, and techniques and tricks, including detailed instructions for underdrawing, underpainting and overpainting in egg tempera. Cennini also provides an early, if somewhat crude, discussion of painting in oils. His discussion of oil painting was important for dispelling the myth, propagated by Giorgio Vasari and Karel Van Mander, that oil painting was invented by Jan van Eyck (although Theophilus (Roger of Helmerhausen) clearly gives instructions for oil-based painting in his treatise, On Divers Arts, written in 1125)" (Wikipedia article on Cennino Cennini, accessed 01-26-2012).

Cennini's handbook includes a description of methods used by Europeans for textile printing.  The work was first published in print in Italian by Tambroni (Rome, 1821) from a codex dated July 31, 1437 discovered in the Vatican Library by the Italian cardinal and humanist Angelo Mai. It was first translated into English by Mrs. Merrifield and published (London, 1844) as A Treatise on Painting. . . .containing practical directions for painting in Fresco, Secco, Oil, and Distmper with the art of Gilding and Illuminating Manuscripts adopted by the Old Italian Masters. The first English translation contained an elaborately chromolithographed and gilt frontispiece emulating the design of medieval manuscripts.

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The First English Patent for an Invention 1449

Henry VI. (View Larger)

Henry VI of England granted the earliest known English patent for invention to Flemish-born John of Utynam through an open letter marked with the King's Great Seal called a Letter Patent.

The patent gave John a 20-year monopoly for a method of making stained glass that had not previously been known in England,  for creating the stained glass windows of Eton College.

Though English patent system is the world's oldest continuously operating system of patents, the first English patent was not the oldest patent, as Venice was granting patents to glass makers in the 1420s.

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1450 – 1500

"De re militari", the First Printed Book on Technology with the First Woodcuts on a Scientific or Technological Subject 1472

This edition of Roberto Valturio's 'De re militari' contains the first woodcuts on a scientific subject, used not for artistic embellishment but for diagraming and explanation. (View Larger)

In 1472 printer Johannes Nicolai de Verona issued from Verona, Italy, the first printed edition of Roberto Valturio's (Valturius's) De re militari, a work which first circulated in manuscript circa 1455-1460. Some of the extant manuscripts appear to have been copied from the printed edition, reflecting the interplay between printed book and manuscript production in the first decades of printing. As Valturio lived until 1475, his De re militari has also been called the first printed book by a living author. It vies for that title with Paolo Bagellardo's De infantium aegritudinibus et remediis issued from Padua also in 1472.

Valturio's work was the first book printed in Verona, the second Italian book printed with illustrations, and the first book printed with woodcuts by Italian artists. Depending on how the counts are made, the book contains at least 90 woodcuts, though because some of the images are composite it is possible to arrive at a higher count. The images were printed in blank spaces left on the page, presumably after the text was printed, using a thinner ink. Some pages in the edition remain blank.

". . . the illustrations are the first true Italian book illustrations, probably after designs by Matteo de Pasti, the medallist and pupil of Alberti. They were preceeded in Italy only by a blockbook [cf. Essling 1] and the 1467 Rome edition of Torquemada which contains a series of rather crude woodcuts probably designed under German influence” (Printing and the Mind of Man No. 10).

From the scientific standpoint  Valturio's work was first printed book on technology, with the first scientific or technological illustrations— in this case woodcuts of war machines. In Prints and Visual Communication (1953; 32) William Ivins pointed out that these woodcuts were the first dated set of book illustrations made for "informational" rather than decorative or religious purposes.

The images in Valturio's book . . ."the majority of which are in Book X, consist of representations of weapons, war chariots, siege engines, canons, flags, water floats, bridges and pontoons and much else. . . . They depend on a tradition of military illustration, which extends from the late Roman Empire, the best-known text being the De rebus bellicis of the 4th century, to Byzantine and Western medieval texts. The text of the De rebus bellicis was rediscovered in an illustrated manuscript of 9th- or 10th-century date in the library of the Cathedral of Speyer, and it was copied for the book collector and humanist Bishop of Padua, Pietro Donato, during the Council of Basel in 1436. These illustrations, in one or another of the various copies made of them, are likely to have been among the sources for the illustrations in the Valturio text. Two other relevant texts concerning military equipment, both illustrated, are those by Konrad Kyeser of Eichstätt, written shortly after 1400, and Mariano Taccola of Siena, known in various versions dating from c. 1427 to 1449“ (Alexander [ed.] The Painted Page. Italian Renaissance Book Illumination 1450-1550 [1994] No. 63). Alexander describes an illustrates a manuscript written circa 1475-80, of Valturio (Munich, Bayerisch Staatsbibliothek, CLM 23467) which, "is a direct copy of the printed edition. The illustrations also are clearly copied from the woodcuts."

Valturio's work may frequently be confused with the Epitoma rei militaris (also referred to as De re militari) by the late 4th century-early 5th century Roman writer Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, the first edition of which was published in print in Utrecht, probably one or two years after the first edition of Valturio's work, in 1473 or 1474.

"A secretary to Pope Eugene IV, then adviser to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, humanist Roberto Valturio is chiefly known for his treatise on warfare, De re militari, of 1455. The work celebrates the military prowess of Malatesta, who sent copies to Mathias Corvinus, Francesco Sforza, Sultan Mohammed II, and perhaps also King Louis XI of France and Lorenzo de Medici. The illustrations are probably the work of Matteo de Pasti, who built the church of San Francesco in Rimini on the model prescribed by Leon Battista Alberti. Matteo also often drew inspiration from the treatises of Guido da Vigevano, Conrad Kyeser, and Taccola" (website of the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence, where you can also watch a brief video about Valturio in Italian, accessed 01-15-2009).

ISTC no. iv00088000. In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1472 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

On February 13, 1483 printer Boninus de Boninis, de Ragusia of Verona issued a second edition of Valturio's De re militari in Latin (ISTC no. iv00089000), followed 4 days later by his Opera dell' arte militare, translated into Italian by Paolo Ramusio on February 17, 1483 (ISTC no. iv00090000).  The Italian translation is the first illustrated book on technology published in a vernacular.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1483 edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 172 (citing an incomplete copy of the first edition). 

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Leonardo Builds a Programmable Mechanical Automaton 1478

In 1478, while under the patronage of the Medici, Leonardo da Vinci designed a programmable, mechanical automaton.

Leonardo's drawing for this invention was misunderstood until 1975 when Leonardo scholar Carlo Pedretti recognized that Leonardo's so-called automobile in the Codex Atlanticus is an automaton. The automaton  featured front wheel drive and rack and pinion control.

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Leonardo's Anatomical Drawings Circa 1485 – 1516

During three or four periods in his life Leonardo da Vinci made over 750 anatomical drawings of all the principal organs of the human body. He also produced some drawings of animal anatomy to contrast it with its human counterparts. Leonardo began recording the results of his private dissections in Milan around 1485. These primarily concerned the organs of the senses, especially the eye, a subject that would have been of special concern to an artist. In 1499 Leonardo returned to Florence where he appears to have access to bodies from the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. In a note from about 1505 Leonardo stated that he had dissected at least ten bodies.

During a second period of anatomical work in Milan there is evidence that Leonardo might have collaborated with a young anatomist Marcantonio della Torre (Marc Antonio della Torre), who taught at the Pavia medical school. It is possible that Leonardo intended to produce an illustrated anatomical textbook with della Torre; however this project would have been cut short by Torre’s death from the plague in 1511. The drawings from Leonardo’s second anatomical period in Milan concentrated on the anatomical basis of movement—what might also be called bio-engineering—typically recording the anatomy from various different perspectives.

In his final Italian period, in Rome from 1513 to 1516, Leonardo had access to the Hospital of the Santo Spirito, where he continued to study anatomy, paying particular attention to the heart. Eventually, responding to complaints from another artist, the Pope excluded Leonardo from the hospital, and ended Leonardo’s anatomical studies.

Like the rest of his drawings and notebooks on a wide variety of science and invention, Leonardo seems to have prepared these drawings for his private use—not publication. His habit of recording his notes in mirror-writing shows that contrary to having his ideas disseminated, he wanted to prevent his notes being read by others. Though the anatomical drawings and their interrelated notes record numerous discoveries, we have no documentation that Leonardo allowed any anatomist, except possibly della Torre, to view them. We do know, however, that Albrecht Dürer viewed some of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings on one of his Italian journeys, as he copied one of Leonardo’s illustrations of the upper limb in his Dresden Sketchbook, the basis for Dürer’s treatise on human proportion (1528). In addition it is probable that Leonardo’s contemporary, the anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, may have seen some of Leonardo’s drawings since Berengario appears to have incorporated into three of the woodcuts of the Isagoge Breves Leonardo’s innovation of showing views of anatomical parts from different perspectives.

After Leonardo’s death his anatomical drawings passed through many hands. They disappeared completely for a century or more until the later part of the eighteenth century when they were discovered in England in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle by the physician, connoisseur, and collector William Hunter (1718-83). Hunter wrote to Albrecht Haller about the drawings, and published a note about them in his last, posthumous book on the history of anatomy: Two Introductory Lectures, Delivered by William Hunter, To his Last Course of Anatomical Lectures . . . . (1784) . However, for the most part the drawings remained unknown to scholars.

Until the advent of sophisticated photographic facsimile techniques at the turn of the twentieth century Leonardo’s anatomical notebooks, with their mutually dependent text and illustrations, could not be accurately reproduced. Thus appreciation of Leonardo’s contributions to anatomy and physiology is primarily a 20th-century phenomenon. The immense task of editing Leonardo’s anatomical notebooks was originally undertaken by G. Piumati, who prepared both literal and critical transcriptions of Leonardo’s text, and Mathias-Duval, professor of anatomy at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts and the Parisian Faculty of Medicine, who provided a French translation as well as a scholarly introduction. Sabachnikoff, who sponsored this project, planned to publish all of the Windsor Castle anatomical drawings in this fashion, but was not able to complete his plan, issuing only reproductions of 61 sheets in Fogli A and Fogli B in 1898 and 1901. A decade later the remaining anatomical drawings (approximately 700) were edited and published by Norwegian scholars under the auspices of the Anatomical Institute of the University of Christiania (University of Oslo) in an edition limited to 250 sets as Quaderni d'anatomia, I-VI; Fogli della Royal Library di Windsor, pubblicati da C.L. Vangensten, A.Fonahn, H.Hopstock. 6 volumes, Christiania, J.Dybwad, 1911-1916. The plates were reproduced in color, with numbered keys on transparent overlays, and Leonardo’s Italian text was transcribed along with translations in both English and German.  Later Kenneth D. Keele and Carlo Pedretti re-edited and republished the entire  collection of Leonardo's anatomical drawings as Corpus of the Anatomical Studies in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle. This was issued in a magnificent edition by Johnson Reprint Corporation of New York in 1980.

Keele,  Leonardo da Vinci’s Elements of the Science of Man (1983). Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body (1992) ch. 4.

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Ketham's "Fasciculus medicinae", the First Medical Book with Anatomical Illustrations July 26, 1491

On July 26, 1491 Venetian printers Giovanni and Gregorio Gregoriis, de Forlivio,  completed the first printed edition of Fasciculus medicinae under the authorship of Johannes de Ketham. This collection of short medical treatises, some dating as far back as the thirteenth century, circulated widely in manuscript prior to printing. The printers may have attributed authorship of the collection to the former owner of the manuscript they printed: Johannes von Kirchheim, a professor of medicine in Vienna circa 1460. "Ketham" is a plausible Italian corruption of "Kirchheim."

The first edition of "Ketham" was the first printed medical book to have anatomical illustrations of any kind. It was followed by an Italian translation issued by the same printers in Venice 1493/94, which added Mondino's Anathomia to the collection. For this Italian edition, all but one of the illustrations were redrawn and four new outline wood-engravings added, showing scenes of medical practice in fifteenth-century Venice. The dramatically improved and more realistic illustrations, which were reproduced in the numerous later editions, are by an unknown artist, probably from the school of Giovanni Bellini.

In the woodcuts prepared for the Italian edition we see the first evidence of the transition from medieval to modern anatomical illustration. In the 1491 edition, the woodcut of the female viscera—like those of the Zodiac Man, Bloodletting Man, Wound-Man, etc.—was derived from the traditional non-representational squatting figure found in medieval medical manuscripts. However, the illustrations for the Italian edition "included an entirely redesigned figure showing female anatomy. . . . The scholastic figure from 1491 must have irritated the eyes of the artistic Venetians to such a degree that they immediately abandoned it. After this the female figure actually sits in an armchair, so that the traditional [squatting] position corresponds to a real situation" (Herrlinger, History of Anatomical Illustration, 66). 

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomical Illustration (1920) 115-122.  Herrlinger  28-29; 65-66. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 363.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1211 (1495 edition). ISTC no. ik00013000.

In November 2013 a a digital facsimile was available from Harvard University Libraries at this link

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Probably the Earliest European Depiction of Native Americans 1494

In May 2013 art restorers at the Vatican completed the cleaning of a 15th century fresco by Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio (Pintoricchio), entitled The Resurrection. After centuries of dirt and grime had been removed from the fresco commissioned by Pope Alexander VI, behind the depiction of the open tomb above which Christ had risen, a small depiction of native men wearing feather headresses and dancing became visible. One of the natives in the fresco appears to have a mohawk hairstyle.

The depiction of Native Americans in the painting, which is believed to have been completed in 1494, corresponds to Christopher Columbus's account of being greeted in the nude world by dancing nude men painted black or red. In March 1493 Columbus returned to Spain from his first voyage to the New World, and news of his experiences rapidly spread throughout Europe. 

Prior to the discovery of the Pinturicchio image it was believed that the earliest surviving European depictions of Native Americans were those painted in the later 16th century by the British artist John White, governor of Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island. White's paintings are preserved in the print room of the British Museum.

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1500 – 1550

Newly Discovered: The Earliest Surviving Globe Showing the New World Circa 1504

On August 19, 2013 The Portolan, the journal of the Washington Map Society, published in its issue 87 an article by Stefaan Missinne describing "A New Discovered Early Sixteenth-Century Globe Engraved on an Ostrich Egg. The Earliest Surviving Globe Showing the New World."

"The previously-unknown globe, which is about the size of a grapefruit, was made from the lower halves of two ostrich eggs, and dates from the very early 1500s. Until now, it was thought that the oldest globe to show the New World was the 'Lenox Globe' at the New York Public Library, but the author presents evidence that this Renaissance ostrich egg globe was actually used to cast the copper Lenox globe, putting its date c. 1504. The globe reflects the knowledge gleaned by Christopher Columbus and other very early European explorers including Amerigo Vespucci after whom America was named. The author points to Florence Italy as where the globe was made, and offers evidence that the engraver was influenced by or worked in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci.

"Tom Sander, Editor of The Portolan, who has personally inspected the globe, noted that 'This is a major discovery, and we are pleased to be the vehicle for its announcement. We undertook a very extensive peer review process to vet the article, which itself was based on more than a year of scientific and documentary research.' The author, S. Missinne, PhD. is an independent Belgian research scholar who has published on the subject of ancient globes made from different materials such as ivory. He said, 'When I heard of this globe, I was initially skeptical about its date, origin, geography and provenance, but I had to find out for myself. After all no one had known of it, and discoveries of this type are extremely rare. I was excited to look into it further, and the more I did so, and the more research that we did, the clearer it became that we had a major find.' The globe was purchased in 2012 at the London Map Fair from a dealer who said it had been in an 'important European collection' for many decades. The current owner made it available to the author for his research, which included scientific testing of the globe itself, computer tomography testing, and carbon dating, assessment of the ink used to color its engraved surface, and close geographical, cartographic, and historical analysis. More than 100 leading scholars and experts were consulted worldwide and are cited in the article’s acknowledgements, and gratitude was expressed to the New York Public Library for its helpful assistance.

"The globe contains ships of different types, monsters, intertwining waves, a shipwrecked sailor, and 71 place names, and one sentence , “HIC SVNT DRACONES” (Here are the Dragons). Only 7 of the names are in the Western Hemisphere. No names are shown for North America, which is represented as a group of scattered islands; three names are shown in South America (Mundus Novus or “New World”, Terra de Brazil, and Terra Sanctae Crucis, or”Land of the Holy Cross”). For many countries and territories in the world, (e.g. Japan, Brazil, Arabia) this is the oldest known engraved depiction on a globe. A full list of place names on the globe is included in the article, along with several illustrations."

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Fra Giovanni Giocondo Issues the First Illustrated Edition of Vitruvius May 22, 1511

 The first printed edition of 'De Architectura,' originally written by Roman architect Marcus Virtuvius Pollio, was printed in Venice in 1511 and contained 136 woodcut illustrations and diagrams.  (View Larger)

On May 22, 1511 Veronese architect, antiquary, archaeologist, and classical scholar, Fra Giovanni Giocondo published the first illustrated edition of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De architectura in Venice at the press of Giovanni Tacuino. The edition contained 136 woodcut text illustrations, woodcut initials and a woodcut title-border. The title-border, a continuous design in four parts incorporating dolphins, leaves and flowers, may be the original of one of the most influential and widely copied pieces of printed ornamentation in the 16th century. Geofroy Tory copied the border (without the shading) to use on his 1525 Horace, and variations of the floreated dolphin design appear in books from all the major European centers of printing.

This fourth printed edition, the first to be illustrated with more than diagrams, was prepared by Fra Giovanni Giocondo, the Veronese architect who took over the construction of St. Peter's in Rome after Donato Bramante's death. The illustrations probably date from around the time of printing, as those that might have accompanied Vitruvius's original text on papyrus rolls or early parchment codices had been lost for centuries.

Mortimer, Harvard College Library, Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, Italian 16th Century Books (1974) No. 543. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 2157.

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Giacomo Berengario da Carpi Issues the First Work Since the Time of Galen to Show Original Anatomical Information Based upon Personal Investigation & Observation 1521

In 1521 Italian physician Giacomo Berengario da Carpi (Jacobus Berengarius Carpensis, Jacopo Barigazzi, Giacomo Berengario da Carpi or simply Carpus) published Commentaria cu[m] amplissimis additionibus super anatomia Mu[n]dini. . . in Bologna. This thick quarto of over 1000 pages included 21 full-page woodcut text illustrations plus an architectural title-border, which included an image of a dissection scene.

Berengario was the first anatomist to publish illustrated treatises on anatomy based on his own dissections. His Commentaria on the fourteenth-century Anatomia of Mondino was the first work since the time of Galen to display any considerable amount of original anatomical information based upon personal investigation and observation. The woodcut illustrations of muscle men posed before a landscape background in this work, while crude and lacking in detail in comparison to those in Vesalius's Fabrica (1543), represent the model on which Vesalius based his series of larger and more scientifically portrayed muscle men, and the title page of Berengario's work, with its small illustration of a dissection scene in the lower margin, may have suggested to Vesalius the idea for the dramatic and famous frontispiece to the Fabrica. Vesalius also borrowed from Berengario the concept of having particular anatomical figures perform specific actions, and repeated Berengario's trick of showing a skeleton holding a skull in each hand as a means of illustrating three separate views of the skull in one woodcut.

An art collector and patron who, according to Vasari, once accepted a Raphael painting of St. John in the Desert as a fee for medical attendance, it is probable that Berengario saw some of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings, as Leonardo’s artistic techniques of depicting anatomical parts from different perspectives were incorporated in some of his woodcuts. It is also likely that Berengario would have hired a fine artist to prepare the woodcuts for his books. Some of the woodcuts have been attributed to the Italian Mannerist painter and sculptor Amico Aspertini.

The Commentaria's scientific contributions include the first reference to the vermiform appendix and the first good account of the thymus. Its descriptions of the male and female reproductive organs, the process of reproduction and the fetus were more extensive than any earlier account, and Berengario was the first to call attention to the greater proportional capacity of the female pelvis to the male pelvis.

For the attribution to Aspertini see Cazort, Kornell, Roberts, The Ingenious Machine of Nature: Four Centuries of Art and Anatomy (1996) 38-39. Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration [1920] 137-139. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 187.

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Cesare Cesariano & Colleagues Interpret Roman Architecture in the Artistic Language of the Renaissance July 15, 1521

Detail of Title Page of De Architectura Libri Dece.  Please click on the image to see the full page.

Detail of page from De Architectura Libri Dece.  Please click on the image to see the full page. 

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

Architect and architectural theorist Cesare Cesariano, humanist Benedetto Giovio and and Bono Mauro da Bergamo edited the first edition in Italian of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio's De Architectura Libri Decem, the printing of which was completed on July 15, 1521 in Como, Italy at the press of Gottardo da Ponte. This was the first translation of Vitruvius into a modern language. The translation and commentary were largely the work of Cesare Cesariano, a pupil of Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci; however, the address to the reader on leaf Z8r by Gallo and Aloisio Pirovano states that Cesariano left the work unfinished, and that it was completed by Giovio and Mauro. The edition may have been 1300 copies.

"Vitruvius' technical language is fraught with difficulties. Leone Battista Alberti was of the mind that the Latins thought Vitruvius was writing Greek and the Greeks, Latin. The impenetrable Latin and the lack of illustrations gave freedom to the Renaissance designers, who were able to interpret antique architecture in their own image, all' antica. Cesariano's Vitruvius gives us a clear picture of the Renaissance perception of the architecture of Classical Antiquity. Indeed the spirit of Milan's Late Gothic Duomo can be recognized in some of Cesariano's woodcuts. Among his illustrations is an attempt at rendering Vitruvius' precepts on the ideally proportioned man, successfully rendered by Leonardo, but attempted by many 15th century theorists" (Wikipedia article on Cesare Cesariano, accessed 01-21-2009).

This edition is known for its striking illustrations: "Some subjects follow the 1511 edition, but the execution is highly original and the illustration is much more detailed than that provided by Tacuino. . . . Blocks have black backgrounds and strong black lines. Aloisio Pirovano's `Oratio' to the people of Milan on leaf [-]8r refers to the collaboration of `molti excelle[n]ti pictori.' On leaves B6r, B7r, B7v are full-page plans and elevations of Milan cathedral. Cesariano's introduction of a gothic building into a classical text, apparently the first such illustration of gothic architecture, is typical of his individual approach to Vitruvius. . . . The influence of Leonardo on these illustrations has been generally noted" (Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, 16th Century Italian Books, no. 544).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2158.

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Berengario da Carpi Issues a Condensation of his Commentary on Mondino 1522

Detail of recto 32 of Berengario da Carpi's Isagoge breves perlucide ac uberime in anatomia humani corporis.  Please click on image to view entire page.

Detail of title page of Berengario da Carpi's Commentaria, from which the Isagoge was condensed. Please click on image to view entire page.

One year after publishing his Commentary on Mondino, Giacomo Berengario da Carpi issued Isagoge breves perlucide ac uberime in anatomia humani corporis. . . . from Bologna. Consisting of about 150 pages, but with most of the same woodcuts, the Isagoge is a condensation of the much larger and more expensive Commentaria (1521) intended as a manual for his students, and as a replacement for his obsolete 1514 edition of Mondino's Anathomia. It has the same arrangement of contents as the Commentaria, and includes some additional anatomical observations, such as the report of a fused kidney with horseshoe configuration seen at a public dissection in 1521, and a description of the valves of the heart.

One year later Berengario issued a revised and expanded second edition of his Isagoge, containing three more anatomical woodcuts, as well as some revisions to the illustrations that had appeared in the first edition; these alterations and additions emphasized the anatomy of the heart and brain, and included the first published view of the cerebral ventricles from an actual dissection. The architectural title-border was first used in Berengario's Commentaria (1521); here, it has been altered to read "Maria" instead of "Leo P.X.," and Berengario's surname "Carpus" appears both in the architrave and the vignette. The shield has also been altered to read "YHS."

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 136-142. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 188, 189.

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Albrecht Dürer Expounds the Aesthetic Anatomy of Human Proportion 1528

A few months after his death, Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion by German artist Albrecht Dürer was published in Nuremberg in 1528. This work, written, illustrated and designed by Dürer, with woodcuts on virtually every page, was the first book to discuss the problems of comparative and differential anthropometry. In his study of the subject Dürer was influenced by the classic aesthetic treatises of Villard de Honnecourt, Vitruvius, Alberti and da Vinci; however, Dürer’s study of the different human physiques—fat, thin, tall, short, baby, child and adult —was entirely original.

Unlike his Italian contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci, who published nothing and obscured his manuscripts through mirror-writing, Dürer lived and worked in the world of printing and engraving. The son of a goldsmith, Durer’s godfather was Anton Koberger, who left goldsmithing to become the leading printer and publisher in Nuremberg. At the age of 15 Dürer was apprenticed to the leading artist in Nuremberg, Michael Wolgemut, whose workshop produced a large quantity of woodcuts. Throughout his career Dürer embraced the latest and best reproduction techniques, and may have derived more income from the sale of engravings and woodcuts than from painting.

Toward the end of his life Dürer wrote and illustrated three treatises which he also designed for the press. These included a treatise on fortification, a treatise on mensuration which introduced to Northern Europe techniques of perspective and mathematical proportion in drawing, painting, architecture and letter forms, which Dürer learned in Italy, and a work on the proportion of the human body. The last work, issued shortly after Dürer’s death, was the first work to discuss the problems of comparative and differential anthropometry. Because Dürer copied one of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings of the upper limb into his Dresden Sketchbook we know that on one of his visits to Italy Dürer must have viewed at least some of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings. However, unlike Leonardo who explored both the surface and the interior of the human body, Dürer appears to have limited his interest in the human figure to the surface.

Dürer held that the essence of true form was the primary mathematical figure (e.g., straight line, circle, curve, conic section) constructed arithmetically or geometrically, and made beautiful by the application of a canon of proportion. However, he was also convinced that beauty of form was a relative and not an absolute quality; thus the purpose of his system of anthropometry was to provide the artist with the means to delineate, on the basis of sheer measurement, all possible types of human figures. The first two books of Dürer's work deal with the proper proportions of fat, medium and thin adult figures, as well as those of infants. The third book discusses the changing of proportions according to mathematical rules, applying these rules to both figures and faces. The fourth book treats of the movement of bodies in space, and is of the greatest mathematical interest, as it presents, for the first time, many new, intricate and difficult considerations of descriptive spatial geometry. The whole work is profusely illustrated with Dürer's woodcut diagrams of figures. Choulant states that these include "the first attempts to represent shades and shadows in wood engraving by means of cross-hatching" (p. 145).

Like the Underweysung der Messung (1525), Dürer dedicated his book on human proportion to his friend, the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer. Pirckheimer provided a preface describing Dürer's debt to the Italians, alluding to Dürer’s visits to Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna, and explaining Dürer’s influence on Italian and European art.

Remarkably about 1500 pages of manuscripts by Dürer survive in Dresden, London, Nuremberg and Berlin. These include the manuscript for Book One of the Four Books on Human Proportion. Its pages number 1-89 and on the first page is written:

"1523 at Nuremberg, this is Albrecht Dürer's first book, written by himself. This book I improved and handed to the printer in 1528. Albrecht Dürer."

The so-called Dresden Sketchbook, with 170 pages of drawings, also includes a large  number of preparatory drawings for the treatise on human proportion. Dürer's Sketchbook was published as The Human Figure by Albrecht Dürer. The Complete Dresden Sketchbook. Edited, with an Introduction, Translations and Commentary by Walter L. Strauss (1972). Panofsky, Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (1943), chapter on "Durer as a Theorist of Art."

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Otto Brunfels & Hans Weiditz Issue the First Accurate, Detailed Woodcuts of Plants Taken Directly from Nature 1530 – 1536

In 1530 and 1532 German botanist and theologian Otto Brunfels published the first two volumes of Herbarum vivae eicones ad nature imitationem, sum[m]a cum diligentia et artificio effigiatae. . . .  in Strassbourg. The third volume was edited by Michael Heer and published in 1536, two years after Brunfels's death.

Unlike earlier herbals, which were llustrated with conventional stylized figures, copied and recopied over the centuries from one manuscript to another, Brunfels's Herbarum was illustrated with detailed, accurate renderings of plants taken directly from nature, most of them showing all portions of the plant (root, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit), and some even going so far as to depict wilted leaves and insect damage. The artist responsible for the illustrations was Hans Weiditz; his contributions were credited in a poem appearing on leaf A4r, making him the first botanical illustrator to be recognized for his work. Comparison of Weiditz's woodcuts with the woodcuts in Leonhard Fuchs's De historia stirpium (1542) show that the artists who worked with Fuchs were strongly influenced by Weiditz's work.

In contrast to its revolutionary images, the text of the Herbarum was an uncritical compendium of quotations from older authorities, primarily concerned with the therapeutic virtues of each plant. Brunfels made no attempt to classify the plants he discussed, but related species often appear in close proximity to one another. He restricted himself to plants indigenous to Strassburg and described over forty new species. At the end of the second volume is a collection of twelve tracts edited by Brunfels, entitled De vera herbarum cognitione appendix. This includes the first published writings of both Hieronymus Bock and Leonhard Fuchs. 

Morton, History of Botanical Science (1981) 124.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 361.

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Johann Dryander & Hans Brosamer Issue the First Significant Book on the Anatomy of the Head 1536 – 1537

 Johann Dryander, one of the first German doctors to perform public disections, published his 'Anatomia Capitis Humani' in 1536, which contained the most extensive study on the human head to date, and the first 'Galenic dissection' of the brain.  (View Larger)

In 1536 German physician, anatomist, mathematician and astronomer Johann Dryander published Anatomia capitis humani. . . . in Marburg. Dryander's work was the first significant book on the anatomy of the head, and one of the earliest anatomical works with illustrations after the author's own dissections. The thin quarto of 14 leaves includes 11 full-page woodcut text illustrations, 5 of which are signed with a monogram consisting of an open pair of compasses (the emblem of the Apostle Thomas) above the letter "G", frequently with the initials "GVB" or "VB" inscribed above. This monogram has been linked to the Basel woodcutter Georg Thomas, and also to the German painter and woodcut engraver Hans Brosamer

Dryander, who studied anatomy at Paris at the same time as Vesalius, produced in his Anatomia capitis one of the most important pre-Vesalian anatomical studies, showing by means of full-page woodcuts how he learned to dissect and display human anatomy. He was one of the first physicians in Germany to perform public dissections, and the text of Anatomia capitis is the printed record of an anatomical demonstration he gave at Marburg. Anatomia capitis was probably published in a small edition, as Dryander intended it to serve as the preliminary to a full-scale anatomy.

This scheme Dryander partially realized the following year when he issued his Anatomia, hoc est corporis humani dissectionis pars prior. That expanded work included 36 leaves and 19 full-age woodcuts, plus a woodcut title border. Eight of the woodcuts (one of which is repeated) are repetitions of illustrations 1-8 in the 1536 Anatomia, with the illustration numbers removed from the blocks. Another 8 woodcuts (one, Universalis figura capitis humani, repeated) are new to this work; 3 of them are signed with the monogrammed compass device used in the 1536 edition. In addition, there are 3 illustrations made up of images rearranged from illustrations 9, 10 and 11 of the 1536 Anatomia. 

Dryander's Anatomiae contained a more extensive anatomy of the human head than his Anatomia capitis and included material on the lungs and heart; it also reprinted the manual for pig dissection, Anatomia porci, traditionally ascribed to Copho (fl. 1110), and excerpts from the Anatomia infantis of Gabriele de Zerbis.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 148-149. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 656-57.

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Leonhard Fuchs, Albrecht Mayer, Heinrich Füllmaurer & Viet Rudolf Speckle Issue the First "Modern" Herbal, with Self-Portraits of the Artists 1542

In 1542 German physician and botanist Leonhard Fuchs published De historia stirpium (On the History of Plants) in Basel at the office of printer Michael Isengrin. Fuchs's herbal was illustrated with full-page woodcut illustrations drawn by Albrecht Meyer, copied onto the blocks by Heinrich Füllmaurer and cut by Veit Rudolf Speckle; the artists' self-portraits appear on the final leaf. 

Describing and illustrating circa 400 native German and 100 foreign plants-- wild and domestic—in alphabetical order, with a discussion of their medical uses, De historia stirpium was probably inspired by the pioneering effort of Otto Brunfels, whose Herbarum vivae imagines had appeared twelve years earlier. "These two works have rightly been ascribed importance in the history of botany, and for two reasons. In the first place they established the requisites of botanical illustration—verisimilitude in form and habit, and accuracy of significant detail. . . . Secondly they provided a corpus of plant species which were identifiable with a considerable degree of certainty by any reasonably careful observer, no matter by what classical or vernacular names they were called. . ." (Morton, History of Botanical Science [1981] 124).

Fuchs's herbal is also remarkable for containing the first glossary of botanical terms, for providing the first depictions of a number of American plants, including pumpkins and maize, and for its generous tribute to the artists Meyer, Füllmaurer and Speckle, whose self-portraits appear on the last leaf.  This tribute to the artists may be unique among sixteenth century scientific works, many of which were illustrated by unidentified artists, or artists identified by name only. It is especially unusual for the name of the artist who transferred the drawings onto the woodblocks to be recorded, let alone for that artist to be portrayed.

The widely known and distinctive plant species Fuchsia, named after Fuchs, was discovered on Santo Domingo in the Caribbean in 1696/97 by the French scientist Dom Charles Plumier, who published the first description of "Fuchsia triphylla, flore coccineo" in 1703. The color fuchsia is also named for Fuchs, describing the purplish-red of the shrub's flowers.

"Fuchs's herbal exists in both hand-colored and uncolored versions. While some colored copies may have been painted by their owners after purchase, as was sometimes done in books of this nature, there is sufficient evidence to show that copies were also colored for the publisher Isingrin, who presumably made use of the artist's original drawings. Such 'original colored' copies possess many features in common—for example, the illustration of the rose has the left shoot bearing white flowers and the right shoot red flowers, and the plum tree shows yellow fruits on the left, blue fruits in the center, and reddish fruits on the right—and it is these features that permit one to distinguish between original colored copies and those colored later by private owners. The coloring in the colored copies issued by the publisher accords well with Fuchs's descriptions in the text, which suggest that Fuchs had some control over the painting" (Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine [1995] no. 17, pp. 66-67).

In 1543 Michael Isengin issued a German translation of De historia stirpium entitled New Kreüterbüch. During Fuchs's lifetime the book underwent thirty-nine editions in Latin, German, French, Spanish and Dutch, in folio and smaller formats. Although the text and woodcuts were technically protected decree of Charles V, as stated on Fuchs's title page, this did not prevent wholesale plagiarism of the blocks during Fuchs's life and long after his death; the woodblocks illustrating the work were reused and copied for over 300 years.

Meyer, Trueblood & Heller, The Great Herbal of Leonhart Fuchs. Volume 1: Commentary. Volume 2: Facsimile. (1999). On pp. 136-141 of vol. 1 the authors provide a history of the re-use or adaptation of Fuchs's images, and a list of works that used them between 1543 and 1862.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 846.

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Andreas Vesalius Produces a Unprecedented Blend of Scientific Exposition, Art and Typography June 1543

 The title page of Andreas Versalius' 'De humani corporis fabrica libri septem,' published in 1543, was a revolutionary work of unmatched scientific and artistic precision.  (View Larger)

In June 1543, at the age of only 29, physician, surgeon, and anatomist Andreas Vesalius of Brussels published De humani corporis fabrica libri septem in Basel. This large and spectacularly produced volume revolutionized the science and teaching of human anatomy, and therefore of medicine in general. Throughout this encyclopedic 400,000 word book on the structure and workings of the human body Vesalius provided a fuller and more detailed description of human anatomy than any of his predecessors, correcting errors in the traditional, and enormously influential anatomical teachings of the Roman physician Galen, which had been obtained from primate rather than human dissection, and arguing that knowledge of human anatomy was to be obtained only from human sources. Even more revolutionary than his criticism of Galen and other medieval authorities was Vesalius's assertion that the dissection of cadavers must be performed by the physician himself—a direct contradiction of the medieval doctrine that dissection was a task to be performed by menials while the physician lectured from the traditional authorities. Only through actual dissection, Vesalius argued, could the physician learn human anatomy in sufficient detail to teach it accurately. This "hands-on" principle remained Vesalius's most lasting contribution to the teaching of anatomy; it is graphically represented in the Fabrica's woodcut title page (the earliest illustration of an anatomical theatre), which shows Vesalius with his right hand plunged into an opened cadaver, conducting an anatomical demonstration. Because it was then legal only to dissect the cadavers of executed criminals, and these cadavers were always in short supply, Vesalius urged physicians to take their own initiative in obtaining material for dissection. The Fabrica contains several amusing and unrepentant anecdotes of how students had robbed graves to obtain cadavers, especially those of women, since female criminals were rarely executed in those days.

The Fabrica also broke new ground in its unprecendented blending of scientific exposition, art and typography. Although earlier anatomical books, such as those by Berengario da Carpi had contained some notable anatomical illustrations, they had never appeared in such number or been executed in such minute precision as in the Fabrica, and they had usually been introduced rather haphazardly with little or no relationship to the text. In contrast, Vesalius sent his woodblocks to the printer with precise instructions as to placement within the text, and with exact marginal references which brought about direct relationship of text to illustrations, or even details within illustrations. The series of historiated initials, in which putti and dwarfed men humorously perform some of the more grisly actions associated with dissection, have been called pictorial footnotes to the text. The book remains the typographic masterpiece of Johannes Oporinus of Basel, one of the most widely learned and iconoclastic of the scholar printers. Another advantage to Vesalius of using Oporinus for this project was that Oporinus had been educated in medicine. Oporinus's success with the Fabrica apparently caused Vesalius to entrust to Oporinus all of his later publications. 

The Fabrica's magnificent title page and the spectacular series of hundreds of anatomical woodcuts (full-page and smaller) spread throughout the book remain the most famous series of anatomical illustrations ever published. Though Vesalius did not credit any specific artist or artists with the images, traditionally the illustrations were attributed to an associate of Titian, the Flemish artist Jan Stephan von Calcar, who drew, and possibly engraved, the three woodcuts of skeletons in Vesalius's first series of anatomical charts, Tabulae anatomicae sex (1538). For a long time an alternative theory was that the Fabrica woodcuts were produced by an unknown artist or artists in Titian's workshop in Venice. We know that Vesalius commissioned the illustrations and supervised their production, and it is also very likely that he personally drew some of the lesser illustrations for the Fabrica, as we know that he made the drawings for the first three of the Tabulae anatomicae sex. Most of the woodblocks for the Fabrica were preserved in Munich until the bombing of Munich in World War II.

In September 2014 my wife and I attended the Vesalius Continuum conference on the Greek island of Zakynthos where Vesalius died on his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The conference was scheduled to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vesalius's birth. At the conference the distinguished historian of art Martin Kemp presented his latest views on the origin and significance of Vesalius's images, describing the book as a visual machine interlocked with a textual machine, and attributing most of the large images to von Calcar, and some of the lesser ones, including the small diagrams, to Vesalius. The famous woodcut title page with its architectural aspects Kemp attributed on a preliminary basis to the Italian painter Giuseppe Porta, who sometimes signed his name as Giuseppe Salviati. Kemp also considered Porta a good candidate for the artist responsible for the historiated initials.

A notable feature of the Fabrica not usually considered is Vesalius's "Index of Notable Subjects and Words" published at the end of the work. Arranged alphabetically by subject, and either by first name or surname somewhat inconsistently, this index to page number and line number on a given page amounts to a detailed outline of what Vesalius considered his significant original contributions. For example, under Galen he indexed to each specific anatomical detail where he disagreed with Galen's writings.

♦ In December 2013 a digital facsimile of the 1543 Fabrica was available from the National Library of Medicine at this link. Another digital facsimile of a copy hand-colored (probably in the seventeenth century) at the University of Basel was available at this link.

From 1998 to 2009 I published the first English translation of De humani corporis fabrica in five volumes, the descriptions of which are available at this link

(This entry was last revised on 09-15-2014.)

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Simultaneously with the "Fabrica" Vesalius Issues a Condensation, or Road-Map, of the Encyclopedic Work June 1543

Shortly after publishing his encyclopedic De humani corporis fabrica libri septem, Andreas Vesalius issued De humani corporis fabrica epitomealso from the press of Johannes Oporinus of Basel. This thin set of 14 unnumbered leaves, each containing images and text, and published in large folio format even larger than the Fabrica, was an outline, or precis, or road-map of essential information contained in the Fabrica, including some different and spectacular larger images. This was the first time that the author of a revolutionary medical or scientific work issued a condensation of his essential information roughly simultaneously with the main publication.

Vesalius suggested that the large sheets of the Epitome might be mounted on the walls of dissection rooms as a guide to dissection. As a result, relatively few sets of the sheets were bound up as books, and only a small portion of the original printing survives.

While the Fabrica was a very expensive encyclopedic work, Vesalius' Epitome, though larger in format, was a much less expensive work that presented essential anatomical information in a concise, comparatively easy to understand manner. It became far more widely published and distributed than the Fabrica. By August 9,1543  Vesalius published a German translation of the Epitome in Basel, and many plagiarisms and adaptations of the Epitome were published in various European countries, in a wide variety of formats, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Because of its much wider publication and distribution, even more than the Fabrica, Vesalius' Epitome was the publication that revolutionized the teaching and study of human anatomy.

The Epitome’s nine anatomical woodcuts are divided into two skeletal, four muscular and two circulatory charts, plus a neurological chart, each drawn with great attention to detail. The skeletal, muscular and one of the circulatory plates are similar, but not identical, to plates found in the Fabrica; the Epitome’s plates are larger, the figures in slightly different attitudes and less space is devoted to background scenery (leaf K1 duplicates the Fabrica’s celebrated thinking skeleton, but with the inscription on the pedestal changed). The remaining circulatory plate and the neurological plate are reproduced, with different text, on the two folding plates found in the Fabrica; the plate on M1 appears on leaf p4 of the Fabrica, and the plate on [N]1 (minus the accompanying organs) appears on the leaf m3. In addition to these nine anatomical plates, there are in the Epitome two stunning woodcuts of a nude male and nude female figure, accompanied by long descriptions of the surface regions of the body; nothing like them appears in the Fabrica. The Epitome’s title-page woodcut and portrait of Vesalius are from the same blocks used in the earlier work.

Most known copies of the Epitome are incomplete. According to the final paragraph of leaf M1, the work was issued in separate sheets and not intended to be bound together. The last two unsigned sheets (Cushing’s [N]1 and [O]1) are especially rare, as they were printed with individual parts of the body to be cut out and assembled into two figures, male and female.

Cushing, Bio-bibliography of Andreas Vesalius (1943) VI B-1.

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Charles Estienne Includes Erotic Images Made Acceptable by their Adaptation for Medical Purposes 1545 – 1546

In 1545 French physician, writer, and translator, Charles Estienne, of the Estienne printing dynasty, published De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres. . . . in Paris. Charles was the younger son of scholar printer Henri I EstienneDe dissectione, one of the most interesting woodcut books of the French Renaissance, was printed at the Estienne Press by his stepfather Simon de Colines, who ran the press from Henri I's death until Charles's brother Robert came of age.

Charles Estienne studied medicine in Paris, completing his training in 1540; in 1535, during his course of anatomical studies under Jacques Dubois  (Jacobus Sylvius), he had Andreas Vesalius as a classmate. At the time the only illustrated manuals of dissection available were the writings of Berengario da Carpi, and the need for an improved, well-illustrated manual must have been obvious to all students of anatomy, particularly the medical student son of one of the world's leading publishers. Estienne did not hesitate to fill this need. The manuscript and illustrations for De dissectione were completed by 1539, and the book was set in type halfway through Book 3 and the last section, when publication was stopped by a lawsuit brought by Étienne de la Rivière, an obscure surgeon and anatomist who had attended lectures at the Paris faculty during 1533-1536, overlapping the time of Estienne's medical study in Paris.

According to historian of surgery and economist, François Quesnay, Estienne may have attempted to plagiarize a manuscript of Étienne de la Rivière which the latter had turned over to him for translation from French into Latin. In the eventual settlement of the lawsuit, Estienne was required to credit Rivière for the various anatomical preparations and for the pictures of the dissections. Had De dissectione been published in 1539, there is no question that it would have stolen much of the thunder from Vesalius's Fabrica: it would have been the first work to show detailed illustrations of dissection in serial progression, the first to discuss and illustrate the total human body, the first to publish instructions on how to mount a skeleton, and the first to set the anatomical figures in a fully developed panoramic landscape, a tradition begun by Berengario da Carpi in his Commentary on Mondino. Nonetheless, Estienne's work still contained numerous original contributions to anatomy, including the first published illustrations of the whole external venous and nervous systems, and descriptions of the morphology and purpose of the "feeding holes" of bones, the tripartate composition of the sternum, the valvulae in the hepatic veins and the scrotal septum. In addition, the work's eight dissections of the brain provide more anatomical detail that had previously appeared.

The anatomical woodcuts in De dissectione have attracted much critical attention due to their wide variation in imagistic quality, the oddly disturbing postures of the figures in Books 2 and 3, the obvious insertion in many blocks (again, in Books 2 and 3) of separately cut pieces for the dissected portions of the anatomy, and the uncertainty surrounding the sources of the images. The presence of inserts in main blocks would suggest that these blocks were originally intended for another purpose, and in fact a link has been established between the gynecological figures in Book 3, with their frankly erotic poses, and the series of prints entitled The Loves of the Gods, engraved by Gian Giacomo Caraglio after drawings by Perino del Vaga and Rosso Fiorentino. It has also been conjectured that the male figures in Book 2 are from blocks cut for an unpublished book of anatomical designs after Rosso Fiorentino's studies of bodies disinterred from the burial grounds at Borgo; however, this speculation remains insufficiently supported by evidence.

Possible explanations of this connection between pornography and anatomy are that the engraver of the female nude woodcuts did not have access to a model, and for the sake of expediency copied the general outlines of the female nudes from "The Loves of the Gods," eliminating the male figures from the erotic illustrations. Another wood engraver, perhaps Rivière, would then have prepared the anatomical insert blocks showing the internal organs. Economic reasons may also have been a factor, as commissioning entirely new woodcuts would certainly have cost more in time and money than adapting existing artwork, and after the enforced delay imposed by Étienne de la Rivière's lawsuit, both time and money may well have been in short supply. A third explanation might have been that the publishers intended to commercialize the anatomy by stressing the erotic overtones, thus appealing to a wider market than strictly physicians. Possibly because of the erotic connection, the work sold unusually well for a anatomical treatise, appearing in French the following year, with publication of an edition of the plates alone, without text, several years later. During a period in which printed erotica was very difficult to come by there would have been considerable demand for erotic images made acceptable by their adaption for medical purposes.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 152-155. Kellett, "Perino del Vaga et les illustrations pour l'anatomie d'Estienne," Aesculape 37 (1955), 74-89. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 728.

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Guido Guidi Issues a Spectacular Book of Renaissance Surgery and Graphic Arts 1545

From the press operated by Pierre Gautier in the Paris castle of Benevenuto Cellini, Italian physician Guido Guidi (Vidius Vidius) issued Chirurgia è graeco in latinum conversa . . . .  The elegantly printed and illustrated small folio included 210 text woodcuts, most probably after drawings by the school of Francesco Salviati (Francesco de'Rossi).

Guidi's Chirurgia was derived from the Nicetas Codex, a tenth-century illustrated Byzantine manuscript of surgical works on the treatment of fractures and luxations by Hippocrates, Galen and Oribasius, discussed circa 900 in this database. In 1542, Guidi presented an illustrated copy of this manuscript, along with the manuscript of his own illustrated Latin translation, to François I of France, whom he served as royal physician from 1542 until the king's death in 1547. These manuscripts are preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Guidi had his Latin translation printed by Pierre Gaultier, a printer residing at the castle of Benvenuto Cellini, where Guidi also lived during the time he spent in Paris. The Chirurgia was the only one of Guidi's works published during his lifetime. The exquisite woodcuts of apparatus adorning Guidi's text are copies of the drawings in Guidi's Latin manuscript, which have been claimed, on the basis of a brief reference in the manuscript, to be the work of the Italian mannerist Francesco Primaticcio. However, for both stylistic and logistical reasons, it is more likely that the drawings were made by the school of Francesco [Rosso] Salviati; see Kellett, cited below. The images themselves have been traced back from the Nicetas Codex to the commentary on the Hippocratic treatise Peri arthron (On the joints) composed in the first century B.C.E. by Apollonius of Kitium

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920)  211-212.  Kellett, "The School of Salviati and the Illustrations to the Chirurgia of Vidius Vidius, 1544," Medical History 2 (1958), 264-268. Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts Part I. French Sixteenth Century Books (1964) no. 542. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 954.

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Thomas Geminus Issues the First Edition of Vesalius Published in England October 1545 – 1553

Belgian engraver, mathematical and surgical instrument maker, Thomas Geminus (Thomas Lambert or Lambrit) published Compendiosa totius anatomie delineatio in London. Geminus's Compendiosa was a slightly abridged version of Vesalius's Epitome illustrated with figures from both the Fabrica and the Epitome re-engraved in copperplate by Geminus. Geminus's work introduced Vesalian anatomy to England, filling an important need by providing a summary view of Vesalius's anatomical discoveries more complete than the Epitome, less bulky and expensive than the Fabrica, and illustrated— via the new medium of copperplate engraving— with a clarity of line impossible even for the highly skilled wood engravers employed by Vesalius. The work was dedicated to Henry VIII, who in 1540 had given assent to an Act uniting Barbers and Surgeons into one Company. In the same year another Act authorized the supply of the cadavers of four executed criminals to the Barber and Surgeons Company for dissection. Geminus undoubtedly intended his book to supply needed information to English surgeons in the spirit of the new legislation. However, Vesalius did not authorize publication of the Compendiosa, and he complained about it bitterly in his China-Root Epistle (1546), so that even though Geminus declared Vesalius's authorship in the headline on leaf A1, the Compendiosa has always been considered the first of the many plagiarisms of Vesalius's anatomical works.

Geminus emigrated to England about 1540, where he practiced the arts of engraving, printing and instrument making. It has also been asserted that Geminus practiced as a surgeon until 1555 when he was examined and penalized by the College of Physicians for practicing without a license. Later in life Geminus was also a printer.

Geminus introduced to the English the use of copperplate engraving for book illustration, a technique he probably brought from his native Belgium.  A few months before the publication of the Compendiosa, Geminus produced the first engraved book illustrations published in England: two small copperplates, also copied from Vesalius, made for Thomas Raynalde's 1545 revision of The Byrth of Mankynde. The Compendiosa, with its forty copperplates, was the second English book illustrated with copperplates, and the first to contain an engraved title-page. Hind called this elaborate and elegant plate the "first engraving of any artistic importance produced in England." 

Encouraged by the success of his Latin edition of Vesalius, Geminus was persuaded, possibly by Vesalius's old roommate John Caius, to prepare a version of the Vesalian plates with English text for the benefit of "unlatined surgeons." As he doubted his proficiency in English, Geminus sought the aid of schoolmaster and dramatist Nicholas Udall, to translate the characterum indices of the Vesalian plates. The English text chosen to accompany the plates was an early translation of the Surgery of Henry de Mondeville, which Thomas Vicary, surgeon to Henry VIII, had used almost word for word in his own Anatomie of the Bodie of Man (1548). The text was rearranged in Geminus's book to follow the traditional order of conducting a dissection, beginning with the viscera and ending with the bones in order to dissect first those parts which would putrefy most rapidly. The English versions of Geminus's Compendiosa are particularly rare. Copies of the first English Compendiosa exist in two versions: the earlier has no date on the engraved title, while the later has the date "1553" in the lower right corner of the framed title on the engraved title-leaf.

Hind, Engraving in England in the Sixteenth & Seventeenth Centuries I (1952) 39-58. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 886.

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1550 – 1600

Juan Valverde de Amusco Issues the First Great Original Spanish Medical Book, Illustrated and Printed in Rome 1556

In 1556 Spanish physician Juan Valverde de Amusco published Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano in Rome at the press of Antonio Salamanca. This was the first great original medical book in Spanish and the most original of the various "plagiarisms" from Vesalius's Fabrica, although Valverde freely acknowledged that he took his illustrations from Vesalius, providing only four entirely new plates in his series of 42 copperplate engravings copied from the Vesalian woodcuts. Valverde also sometimes corrected Vesalius' images, as in his depictions of the muscles of the eyes, nose, and larynx. 

Valverde probably had his book published in Rome rather than in Spain in order to have the illustrations made to standards higher than could be accomplished in Spain at the time. The engraver he chose had come from Spain, and the artist had come from France; both were drawn to Rome to work with Michelangelo. The plates for the book were engraved by the French engraver Nicolas Beatrizet, who engraved under the direction of Michelangelo between 1540 and 1560. Beatrizet probably engraved the plates from drawings by the Spanish artist Gaspar Becerra, a pupil of Michelangelo. Thus, Valverde's medical book may be said to have been illustrated under Michelangelo's influence. One of Valverde's most striking original plates is that of a muscleman holding his own skin in one hand and a knife in the other; this has been compared to Michelangelo's painting of Saint Bartholomew in the Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel.

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Ulisse Aldrovandi's Guide to Ancient Statuary in Rome 1556

A guidebook to the topography and antiquities of Rome, Le antichita de la citta di Roma, first issued in Rome in 1556 by Lucio Mauro, is best-known for its supplementary survey of antique sculpture in the region by the young Ulisse Aldrovandi. This survey, entitled Delle statue antiche che per tutta Roma in diversi luoghi . . . si veggono, which occupies about two-thirds of the volume, was Aldrovandi's first publication. It has been called the first lengthy and detailed guidebook to the antiquities of the city of Rome, and a landmark in the scientific recording and documentation of works of art.

Though primarily remembered for his studies of natural history, Aldrovandi was also classical scholar, well versed in the literature and archaeology of antiquity. His Delle statue antiche is one of the earliest works on statuary and sculpture in general, a topic treated by relatively few treatises, and it has been essential for documenting the sculpture gardens and collections of antiquities that existed in Rome in the mid-16th century, for reconstructing the contents and the appearance of individual collections, and for establishing the provenance and tracing the history of individual statues. 

As the only publication of the Bolognese naturalist to deal with antiquities, Delle statue antiche is an anomaly among Aldrovandi's published works. However, among the great mass of Aldrovandi’s unpublished manuscripts are extensive records of his investigations of ancient art and artefacts, and also of his studies of the habits and customs of daily life in antiquity. This broad knowledge of many aspects of the ancient world is reflected in Aldrovandi's Delle statue antiche. 

Aldrovandi's work on statuary was written in Rome between 1549 and 1550 during an unplanned sojourn. While he was studying medicine in Bologna, in June 1549, Aldrovandi was accused of heresy, as a presumed follower of the anti-Trinitarian beliefs of Camillo Renato. Arrested along with other suspected individuals, Aldrovandi publicly renounced the heretical views, but he was nevertheless transferred to Rome to await a formal review. He remained in Rome, partly in custody, and partly at liberty, for at least eight months until absolved in April 1550. During this time he was befriended by many Roman scholars, and he undertook the investigation of Roman collections of ancient statues. And it was during this sojourn, in 1550, that Aldrovandi, according to his own account, wrote the Delle statue antiche. In it he included every signficant Roman collection of ancient sculpture, including:

"statues, torsos and fragments, but also reliefs and some inscriptions as well as minor antiqutieis in the studios of such connoiseurs as Cardinal Carpi or Gerolomo Garimberto. He frequently gives find spots, and his predispoition to logical order aids in recovering iconographic programs that often governed the installation of antique sculptures in vigne and staue gardens.

"Even without the drawings that seem to have been planned originally, Aldvrovandi's guide to ninety-odd private collections is unqiuely valuable to archaeologists and art historians" (Phyllis Pary Bober, in N.T. de Grummond (ed) An Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology,  I [1996] 31).

In Empire without End, Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, C. 1350-1527 (2010) Kathleen Wren Christian frequently drew upon Aldrovandi's Delle statue antiche as one of her mostly extensively used primary sources.

Gilhofer & Ranchburg, The Sixteenth Century, Part XII, (2013 or 2014) no. 10.

Margaret Daly Davis, Ulisse Aldrovandi: Tutte le statue antiche. . . . Part I. Introduction and Full Text (2009).

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Who Discovered the Pulmonary Circulation? Servetus, Valverde or Columbo? 1559

In 1559. the year of his death. Italian physician and surgeon Realdo Colombo published De re anatomica libri XV in Venice.  Colombo's work is best known for his discovery of the pulmonary or lesser circulation, i.e., the passage of blood from the right cardiac ventricle to the left via the lungs. Although this discovery was first published in Rome in the Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano (1556) by Colombo's friend and former pupil Juan Valverde de Hamusco, the evidence in both Valverde's and Colombo's accounts indicates that the discovery was Colombo's, made through his vivisectional observations of the heart and pulmonary vessels. Colombo's account of the pulmonary circuit was preceded by that in Michael Servetus's Christianismi restitutio, and by the thirteenth-century account of  Ibn al-Nafis. However, because Servetus's Christianismi restitutio (1553) was completely suppressed, and Ibn al-Nafis' work was not published in print until the early 20th century, there is no evidence that either was available to Colombo at the time.

Colombo's observations of the heart also enabled him to gain a more correct understanding of the phases of the heartbeat, generally confused by his predecessors, who erroneously likened the heart's action to the expansive action of a bellows. Although overshadowed by his discovery of the pulmonary circulation, Colombo's observations of the heartbeat apparently directly inspired Harvey's vivisectional studies on the heart, which in turn led to his discovery of the greater circulation.

Colombo evidently died during the printing of his work, since in most copies his original dedication letter to Pope Paul IV (who also died while the work was in progress) has been replaced with a dedication to Pope Pius IV by Colombo's two sons, mentioning their father's recent demise. According to tradition, the work was to have been illustrated by Michelangelo; however, Michelangelo left no drawings or any other evidence that he ever seriously considered the task, and we can only speculate as to what sort of artistic masterpiece he might have produced. Colombo's book was published without illustrations except for the woodcut title, which was inspired by that of Vesalius's Fabrica. Schultz (p. 103) points out that the dangling right arm of the cadaver in the title-page woodcut recalls Donatello's bas-relief, The Heart of the Miser.

Schultz, Art and Anatomy in Renaissance Italy (1985) 102-104. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 501.

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The Codex Selden/ Codex Añute, a Precolonial Mexican Palimpsest Circa 1560

The Codex Selden, also called the Codex Añute, a Mixtec screenfold manuscript preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, was acquired by the Bodleian in the 17th century from the estate of jurist, legal antiquary and orientalist John Selden. It is one of less than twenty precolonial Mesoamerican codices that survived the conquest of the Americas, containing information on the history of ancient cities, prescriptions on rituals and calendrical divination. Of those codices, the Codex Selden/Añute is the only palimpsest, as its currently viewable content was written on a white paint layer that covers an earlier pictographic document.

In 2013-2014 the Bodleian's Ancient Mexican Manuscripts project undertook the recovery of these hidden pictorial texts. Results were expected to be published in the summer of 2016:

"The use of exclusively organic paints to create these images presented a unique set of challenges necessitating the development of a new imaging technique. During the present intervention this new technique called Photothermal Tomography is combined with a number of other techniques such as high-resolution photography, infrared photography, and RTI imaging to gain a better insight into this important palimpsest"( http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whats-on/upcoming-events/2015/mar/precolonial-mexican-manuscript, accessed 03-18-2015).

In August 2016 the Oxford Mail reported the following:

" "After four or five years of trying different techniques, we’ve been able to reveal an abundance of images without damaging this extremely vulnerable item,' said Ludo Snijders from Leiden University, who conducted the research with David Howell from the Bodleian Libraries and Tim Zaman from the University of Delft.,,,

"Mr Snijders said: 'What’s interesting is that the text we’ve found doesn’t match that of other early Mixtec manuscripts. The genealogy we see appears to be unique, which means it may prove invaluable for the interpretation of archaeological remains from southern Mexico.'

"Some pages feature more than 20 characters sitting or standing in the same direction. Similar scenes have been found on other Mixtec manuscripts, representing a King and his council.

"The researchers analysed seven pages of the codex for this study and revealed other images including people walking with sticks and spears, women with red hair or headdresses and place signs containing the glyphs for rivers.

"The paints used to crate the vibrant images are organic and do not absorb X-rays, meaning traditional methods could not be used in trying to get a glimpse of the codex's fascinating stories.

"Working with the humanities division in the University of Oxford, the Bodleian acquired a hyperspectral scanner in 2014 with the support of the university’s Fell Fund – and the equipment was able to unmask the past.

"David Howell, head of heritage science at the Bodleian Libraries, said: 'This is very much a new technique, and we’ve learned valuable lessons about how to use hyperspectral imaging in the future both for this very fragile manuscript and for countless others like it.' " (http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/14701472.Bodleian_boffins_uncover_images_of_rare_Mexican_manuscript_hidden_for_almost_500_years/, accessed 09-03-2016).

Researchers are continuing to analyse the remainder of the document with the aim of reconstructing the entire hidden imagery, allowing the text to be interpreted more fully.

The Codex Selden/Añute was first published by Edward King, Viscount Kingsborough in his ten volume series, Antiquities of Mexico (1831-1848). 

Regarding the history of the codex I quote from John Pohl's Mesoamerica:

"John Selden died in 1654 but the last date associated with the genealogy in the manuscript is the Mixtec year 11 Flint which corresponds to A.D. 1556. A date on the cover of the manuscript (2 Flint) may correspond to 1560 (M.E. Smith 1994:122-123). How the codex got from the Mixteca-Alta, Oaxaca, into the hands of Selden remains a mystery. Smith thinks that Codex Selden was composed by the community of Jaltepec, located in the southern Nochixtlán Valley for presentation to Spanish and Indian authorities with regard to a dispute over a subject town.

The town in question was called Zahuatlán and it is represented in the codex as a hill sign qualified by a man dancing - to signify Zahuatlán’s Mixtec name "yucu nicata" or "Hill that Danced". Both Jaltepec and Yanhuitlán, a principal rival in the the northern Nochixtlán Valley, claimed the town. Lords and Ladies of Zahuatlán appear in the codex either paying homage, intermarrying, or being subjugated by Jaltepec. Since the painting of the codex was assuredly commissioned by Jaltepec, a better name for the manuscript is Codex Añute, Jaltepec’s Mixtec name."

(This entry was last revised on 09-02-2016).

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Jean Cousin the Elder Issues "Livre de perspective" 1560

In 1560 French painter, sculptor, etcher, engraver, and geometrician, Jean Cousin the Elder, published Livre de perspective in Paris at the press of Jean Le Royer. The folio volume includes a woodcut title device, a frontispiece of platonic solids and 58 geometrical diagrams (16 full-page, 5 double-page) by Jean Le Royer and Aubin Olivier. The frontispiece of the platonic solids is one of the finest examples of mannerist book illustration.

“According to the printer’s introduction, leaf A3v, Le Royer received from Cousin the text and ‘les figures pour l’intelligence d’iceluy necessaries, portraittes de sa main sus planches de bois,’ and he himself cut most of Cousin’s blocks and completed others which his brother-in-law, Aubin Olivier, had started. Several of the diagrams are extended into landscapes with figures. . . . Le Royer held the title of king’s printer for mathematics. Cousin is known to have been a successful painter and designer of stained glass windows. . . . His considerable reputation as a designer of woodcuts for the Paris printers has been developed chiefly by comparison of details from this volume” (Mortimer, Harvard College Library Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts Part I. French Sixteenth Century Books (1964)no. 157, quote from pp. 195-97). 

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Bartholomeo Eustachi Discovers the Eustachian Tubes and Many Other Anatomical Features 1563

In 1563 Italian physician and anatomist Bartolomeo Eustachi (Eustachius) published his Opuscula anatomica in Venice with annotations by his relative and disciple, Pier Matteo Pini. Opuscula anatomica includes 8 engraved full-page copperplate text illustrations probably drawn by Eustachi and Pini, and engraved by Giulio de Musi, probably a relation of Agostino de' Musi (Agostino Veneziano).  The illustrations are on the unnumbered pages between pp. 1-20 (first series). Pini also prepared the 168 pages of annotations to Eustachi's anatomical treatises from the writings of Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen and other authorities. These were published at the end of the book. Pini's published dedication of these Annotationes to Eustachi is dated July, 1561. 

Written during 1561 and 1562, Eustachi's Opuscula consists of a group of anatomical treatises on the kidneys (De renum structura), the organ of hearing (De auditus organis), the venous system (De vena quae azygos graecis dicitur) and the teeth (De dentibus), which he issued together under the title Opuscula anatomica. De auditus organis is dated October 1562; De motu capitis January 1561. The dedication of Libellus de dentibus is dated December 1562.

The privilege granting rights to the publisher Vincenzo Luchino is dated May 6, 1563. Most copies of this work bear the imprint Venetiis: Vincentius Luchinus excudebat, 1564. From the setting of the type on the title page of those copies it is evident that the original imprint date was 1563 and that an additional "I" was added to the roman numeral MDLXIII to turn that number into MDLXIIII  (1564) —a contrivance since the correct roman numeral for 1564 would have been MDLXIV.

In 2010 I discovered in a group of "cripples" that I bought decades ago a very incomplete copy of the Opuscula anatomica with a titlepage dated 1563, and without the name of the publisher, confirming that some copies were issued with a 1563 date. The separate title page of Libellus de dentibus dated 1563 is similar to the first issue titlepage of the Opuscula anatomica in that it does not include the name of the publisher. Thus we may theorize that Luchino decided to add his name to the title page of the Opuscula anatomica after the printing occurred. When he did so in 1564 we may theorize most of the copies may have remained in sheets and not bound. If so, it was a matter of having the first sheet run back through the press. That may explain why both the final "I" in the roman numeral MDLXIIII and "Vincenzus Luchinus excudebat" are out of register.  In October 2012 my friend and colleague William P. Watson proposed another possible scenario: through examination of several copies of the 1564 issue Watson noticed that the printing of Luchino's name and the final "I" varies in position on different copies of the title page, and theorized that Luchino's name and the final "I" was applied through some kind of a stamp, rather than by running the sheet back through a press. Whatever the method, some copies were issued without the addition of Luchino's name and without changing the date to 1564.  Because we may never know the exact chronology or methodogy of events that occurred 450 years ago, it is reasonable to assume that the copies with the title page dated 1563 were issued before the correction, and represent an earlier state.

Eustachi's treatise on the kidney, the first work devoted specifically to that organ, showed a detailed knowledge of the kidney surpassing any earlier work; it contained the first account of the adrenal (suprarenal) gland and a correct determination of the relative levels of the kidneys. The treatise on the ear provided the first post-classical account of the Eustachian tube, while the work on the azygos vein contained the first description of the thoracic duct and of the valvula venae in the right ventricle of the heart, the so-called "Eustachian valve." In his treatise on dentistry, Libellus de dentibus, Eustachi was the first to study the teeth in any great detail: basing his work on the dissection of fetuses and stillborn infants, he gave an important description of the first and second dentitions, described the hard outer tissue and soft inner structure of the teeth, and attempted an explanation of the problem of the sensitivity of the tooth's hard structure. 

The engraved plates illustrating the Opuscula anatomica were the first eight in the series of forty-seven anatomical plates engraved by Giulio de' Musi, after drawings by Eustachi and Pini. They were prepared in 1552 to illustrate a projected book entitled De dissensionibus ac controversii anatomicis, the text of which was lost after Eustachi's death. Had the full series of forty-seven anatomical copperplates been published at the time of their completion, Eustachi would have ranked with Vesalius as a founder of modern anatomy. However, it is quite probable that because of the growing fame of Vesalius' Fabrica (1543, 1555), Eustachi did not consider publication of his remaining plates, or his accompanying manuscript worthwhile. The remaining thirty-nine plates were lost for over a century after Eustachi's death but were rediscovered in the hands of a descendant of Pier Matteo Pini by papal physician, cardiologist, and epidemiologist Giovanni Maria Lancisi, who edited them for publication, and published them, along with the previously published eight plates, under the title of Tabulae anatomicae (Rome, 1714).

Eustachi's plates are stylistically different from other sixteenth century anatomical studies, as they were produced without the conventional sixteenth-century decorative accompaniments and were framed on three sides by numbered rules providing coordinates by which any part of the image could be located. The publisher of the 1714 edition provided an unnumbered plate with graduated scales to be cut out and used as a location aid. The images are generic figures, composites of many anatomical observations, and are mathematically as well as representationally exact.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 200-202. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) nos. 739-40. Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine (1995) no. 21 (stating, based on information then available to me, that the Opuscula anatomica was first published in 1563-64). When I checked OCLC in November 2010 there were four copies listed in European libraries as having the first state (1563) of the title page of the Opuscula anatomica. A somewhat larger number of listings appeared for the second state.

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Jost Amman's Images of Trades and Technologies, with Descriptions in Verse 1568

In 1568 Swiss artist and book illustrator Jost Amman and poet, playwright, and shoemaker Hans Sachs published Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln ... Durch d. weitberümpten Hans Sachsen gantz fleissig beschrieben u. in teutsche Reimen gefasset in Frankfurt am Mayn. This series of illustrated descriptions of trades, accompanied by Sach's text in verse, included one of the earliest accounts–however brief–of the printing art, and one of the earliest images of the press. It also described and illustrated the art of making woodcuts, papermaking and bookbinding. 

In March 2015 a digital facsimile was available from the University of Koeln at this link.

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Agostini Ramelli Describes a Renaissance Information Retrieval Device and Other Machines 1588

In Le diverse et artificose machine, elegantly published from his home in Paris in 1588, Agostino Ramelli described and illustrated, among numerous remarkable inventions, a revolving book wheel. Ramelli's book wheel was one of the earliest "information retrieval" devices. He wrote:

"This is a beautiful and ingenious machine, very useful and convenient for anyone who takes pleasure in study, especially those who are indisposed and tormented by gout. For with this machine a man can see and turn through a large number of books without moving from one spot. Moveover, it has another fine convenience in that it occupies very little space in the place where it is set, as anyone of intelligence can clearly see from the drawing.

"This wheel is made in the manner shown, that is, it is contructed so that when the books are laid on its lecturns they never fall or move from the place where they are laid even as the wheel is turned and revolved all the way around. Indeed, they will always remain in the same position and will be displayed to the reader in the same way as they were laid on their small lecturns, without any need to tie or hold them with anything. This wheel may be made as large or small as desired, provided the master craftsman who constructs it observes the proportions of each part of its components. He can do this very easily if he studies carefully all the parts of these small wheels of ours and the other devices in this machine. These parts are made in sizes proportionate to each other. To give fuller understanding and comprehension to anyone who wishes to make and operate this machine, I have shown here separately and uncovered all the devices needed for it, so that anyone may understand them better and make use of them for his needs." (Ramelli, The Various Ingenious Machines of Agostino Ramelli. A classic Sixteenth-Century Illustrated Treatise on Technology. Translated from the Italian and French with a biographical study of the author by Martha Teach Gnudi. Techical annotations and a pictorial glossary by Eugene S. Ferguson [1987] 508-9)

Historian Anthony Grafton, whom many would call a Renaissance man, had one of Ramelli's book wheels constructed, and uses it in his office. In December 2010 you could view an image of Grafton with the book wheel at the Princeton website at this link.

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Architect Domenico Fontana Describes Moving the Obelisk 1590

In 1590 Italian Architect Domenico Fontana published Della transportatione dell'obelisco Vaticano....in Rome at the press of Domenico Basa. The folio volume contained 2 engraved titles, both signed by Natal Bonifacio, 35 full-page and 3 double-page engravings. It described one of the greatest engineering feats of the Renaissance -- the removal of the Vatican obelisk from its old location behind the sacristy of St. Peter's, where it had been since the reign of Caligula, to its present location in the center of the Piazza of St. Peter. The problem of transporting this 327 ton and fragile stone tower had occupied Italian engineers for many years, so that when Pope Sixtus V appointed a council to consider ways and means of moving the obelisk, nearly 500 men came to submit their plans.

The honor went to Domenico Fontana, the pope's official architect, who proved to the council the feasibility of his proposal by making a scale model in lead. Fontana erected a framed tower of timbers surrounding the obelisk and then by means of ropes attached to the tower raised the obelisk from its pedestal, and afterward lowered it so that it should rest on a wooden platform. This platform he had had drawn on rollers to the new site, where the tower was re-erected and the great stone raised from its horizontal position on the platform to the vertical and set on the new base.  The project required 900 men, 75 horses and untold numbers of pulleys and lengths of rope.

The plates in Fontana's volume also illustrate many of the buildings and designs that Fontana executed for Pope Sixtus V.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 812.

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Ottavio Ruini Issues the First Book Devoted Exclusively to the Structure of an Animal Other than Man 1598

Detail of head of horse from page of the Dell'anotomia [sic], et dell'infirmita del cavallo.  Click on link below to view and resize full image.

Detail from title page of the Dell'anotomia [sic], et dell'infirmita del cavallo.  Click on link below to view and resize full image.

Carlo Ruini.

In 1598 Conte Ottavio Ruini edited and had published in Bologna, with a dedication to Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, Dell'anotomia [sic], et dell'infirmita del cavallo [Book ii: Dell'infirmita del cavallo] by il marchese Carlo Ruini, Bolognese aristocrat, senator, and high-ranking lawyer. 

Ruini's work, was the first book devoted exclusively to the structure of an animal other than man. Following the example of Vesalius, Ruini stressed the importance of "artful instruction" about all parts of the horse's body, the diseases that afflict them, and their cures. The first part of his work gives an exhaustive treatment of equine anatomy, with especially good accounts of the sense organs; it is illustrated with sixty-four full-page woodcuts, of which the last three, showing a stripped horse in a landscape setting, were clearly inspired by the Vesalian "musclemen" plates.

The second part of the work deals with equine diseases and their cures from a traditional Hippocratic-Galenic standpoint. Some scholars, basing their arguments on Ruini's description of the horse's heart and blood vessels, believe that Ruini was active in the discovery of the greater and lesser circulatory systems. This is unlikely, but it is probable that he was one of many at that time who had a notion of the circulation of the blood.

Ruini's work appeared shortly after his death. The unusual rarity of the first edition might be partially explained by fact that a portion of the sheets of the first edition were reissued the following year by printer Gaspare Bindoni in Venice. Copies of this second issue, which is also rare, contain a cancel title and a different dedication leaf changing the dedication to César, Duke of Vendôme, natural son of Henry IV.

Cole, History of Comparative anatomy, 83-97. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1858.

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1600 – 1650

Federico Cesi Founds the Accademia dei Lincei, the First Scientific Society August 17, 1603

Believing that nature should be studied through direct observation, and not through the filter of Aristotelian philosophy, on August 17, 1603 scientist, naturalist and son of the first Duke of Acquasparta, Federico Cesi, together with Dutch scientist Johannes van Heeck (Eck), and Count Anastasio De Filiis, and Italian scientist and Latin translator, Francesco Stelluti founded the Accademia dei Lincei (the "Academy of the Lynx-Eyed") in Rome. 

"The four men chose the name 'Lincei' (lynx) from Giambattista della Porta's book 'Magia Naturalis', which had an illustration of the fabled cat on the cover and the words '. . . with lynx like eyes, examining those things which manifest themselves, so that having observed them, he may zealously use them'. Accademia dei Lincei's symbols were both a lynx and an eagle; animals with keen sight. The academy's motto, chosen by Cesi, was: 'Take care of small things if you want to obtain the greatest results' (minima cura si maxima vis). When Cesi visited Naples, he met the polymath della Porta. Della Porta encouraged Cesi to continue with his endeavours. Giambattista della Porta joined Cesi's academy in 1610.

"Galileo was inducted to the exclusive academy on December 25, 1611, and became its intellectual center. Galileo clearly felt honoured by his association with the academy for he adopted Galileo Galilei Linceo as his signature. The academy published his works and supported him throughout his disputes with the Roman Catholic Church. Among the academy's early publications in the fields of astronomy, physics and botany were the study of sunspots and the famous Saggiatore of Galileo, and the Tesoro Messicano (Mexican Treasury) describing the flora, fauna and drugs of the New World, which took decades of labor, down to 1651. With this publication, the first, most famous phase of the Lincei was concluded. Cesi's own intense activity was cut short by his sudden death in 1630 at forty-five.

"The Linceans produced an important collection of micrographs, or drawings made with the help of the newly invented microscope. After Cesi's death, the Accademia dei Lincei closed and the drawings were collected by Cassiano dal Pozzo, a Roman antiquarian, whose heirs sold them. The majority of the collection was procured by George III of the United Kingdom in 1763. The drawings were discovered in Windsor Castle in 1986 by art historian David Freedberg. They are being published as part of The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo" (Wikipedia article on Accademia dei Lincei, accessed 11-27-2010).

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Odoardo Fialetti Creates Probably the First Printed Manual for Drawing Human Anatomy 1608

The Bolognese artist Odoardo Fialetti, initially apprenticed to Giovanni Battista Cremonini, and after traveling to Rome, moved to Venice to work in the elderly Tintoretto's studio. From 1604 to 1612 he was listed as member of the Venetian painter's guild, the Fraglia dei Pittori. Fialetti was a proflific author of not only of paintings but also prints, portraits, books on drawing and ornament, and book illustrations on a very wide range of subjects, including anatomical treatises, especially those in Guido Cesare Casseri's (Casserio, Casserius) Tabulae anatomicae.

Probably the first printed manual on drawing the human body, as distinct from earlier manuals on anatomy for artists, was Fialetti's Il vero modo et ordine per dissegnar tvtte le parti et membra del corpo hvmano—an entirely etched book of 40 leaves, drawn and etched by Fialetti, published in Venice in 1608. Fialetti's book may also be the first printed book on drawing in general, and may also be the first printed book on drawing for which authorship is clear, as the undated printed drawing book associated with Agostino & Annibale Carracci, Scuola perfetta per imparare a disegnare tutto il corpo humano cavata dallo studio, e disegnari de Carracci, a work of engravings of drawing examples by the Carraccis and other artists, possibly including some from the Carraccis' Accademia degli Incamminati in Bologna, is thought to have been first printed between 1609 and 1614, but could also have been later. 

In her 2009 thesis, Odoardo Fialetti (1573-c.1638): The Interrelation of Venetian Art and Anatomy, and his Importance in England (2 vols.),  the most comprehensive study of Fialetti's work of which I am aware, Laura M. Walters provides on pp. 68-79 a detailed analysis of Fialetti's drawing book and calls it on "the first drawing book of its kind of to come out of Venice." She describes two different states of the work, and compares it to other drawing books of the period, but does not cite any printed drawing book earlier than 1608. Comparing Fialetti's book to known studies by Agostino Carracci, she states that "the arrangement and development of body parts reflects the studies of Agostino Carracci, though the images and techniques used by Fialetti are not taken directly from him" (p. 70).

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Galileo Issues Images of Revolutionary Discoveries Concerning the Universe; and the Story of a Remarkable Forgery November 1609 – March 13, 1610

After learning in 1609 that a Dutchman, Hans Lippershey, had invented an instrument that made faraway objects appear closer, Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, a resident of Padua, applied himself to discovering the principle behind this instrument. By late in 1609 he built a telescope of about thirty power. This he probably first turned to the heavens in November or December 1609, with astronishing and revolutionary results. In contradiction to the doctrines of Aristotle and Ptolemy, which taught that the celestrial sphere and its planets and stars were perfect and unchanging, Galileo's telescope showed that the surface of the moon was rough and mountainous, and the Milky way was composed of thickly clustered stars. In November or December 1609 Galileo painted six watercolors on a notebook page showing the phases of the moon, as he observed them through the telescope. These images, on a sheet preserved in Florence, at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale (Ms. Gal. 48, f. 28r), were the first realistic images of the moon, and the first recorded images of bodies beyond the earth seen by man. 

On the night of January 7, 2010 Galileo set up a telescope on his balcony in Padua. He spotted three stars near Jupiter, and noted their positions in a notebook. Six days later Galileo returned to his telescope and found the same stars, but by then their position had changed. At that point he realized that the three stars were moons orbiting Jupiter— proof that the universe of stars was not fixed, as postulated by Ptolemy's geocentric theory, and evidence for Copernicanism. Three months later Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, or Starry Messenger, was published in Venice in an edition of 550 copies. The Sidereus Nuncius described and illustrated with copperplate engravings the first astronomical observations made through a telescope. Its images provided revolutionary new information about the universe. Though it contained only the bare facts of Galileo's observations without any overt reference to the Copernican theory, Sidereus Nuncius aroused a sensation among the European learned community, for it provided the first hard evidence that the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic view of the universe contained inaccuracies. 

"He sent a copy of the book, along with the telescope he had been using, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici. Dr. [Owen] Gingerich said the pamphlet amounted to 'a job application' to the Medici family for whom, in one of history’s first examples of branding, Galileo named the four satellites of Jupiter. 'Other planets were gods or goddesses,' said Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Florence institute. 'The only humans with position in sky were Medicis.' The ploy worked, Cosimo II hired Galileo as his astronomer, elevating him from a poorly paid professor at the University of Padua to a celebrity, making the equivalent of $300,000, a year, Dr. Galluzzi said. Galileo returned the favor by giving Cosimo another telescope, clad in red leather and stamped with decorations" (Dennis Overbye, "A Telescope to the Past as Galileo Visits the U.S.", The New York Times, March 27, 2009.)

It is thought that Galileo built dozens of telescopes, of which two survive, both in the Institute for the History of Science (Museo Galileo) in Florence, Italy. One covered in decorated leather, which Galileo sent to Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici, retains only one of its original lenses, but the other, covered only in varnished paper, contains its original functioning optics, and has its focal length labeled in Galileo's handwriting on the outside of its tube. This telescope was loaned to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for an exhibition from April to September 2009. (The online article in The New York Times included a video showing the original telescope being unpacked in Philadelphia.)


In June 2005 antiquarian bookseller Richard Lan (Martayan-Lan, Inc.) purchased a copy of the Sidereus nuncius from Marino Massimo De Caro and antiquarian bookseller Filippo Rotundo that was represented as a proof copy, signed by Galileo, originally from the library of Federico Cesi, founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. Instead of copperplate engraved illustrations as in other copies of the book, this copy contained watercolors of the phases of the moon similar to those which Galileo made at the end of 1609 and which are preserved in Florence. It was known that the Venetian printer had sent Galileo thirty copies with blank spaces indicating where etchings would be placed. Presumably this was one of those copies, in which Galileo had personally painted images for presentation to Federico Cesi, instead of having engravings printed in. The copy was examined by all the leading authorities, subjected to various tests, and was generally considered a unique proof copy.

The Martayan Lan copy was included in the discussions in a symposium convened at the Library of Congress in November 2010 entitled "Galileo's Moons," intended to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Sidereus Nuncius and the acquisition by the Library of Congress of an uncut copy of the first edition bound in the original limp paper boards. Papers presented at this symposium accepted the authenticity of the Martayan Lan copy.

In 2011 De Gruyter published a rather grand 2-volume set, fully illustrated in color, based on research begun in 2007. Volume one, edited by Irene Brückle and Oliver Hahn, was entitled Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius. A comparison of the proof copy (New York) with other paradigmatic copies. Volume two, written by Paul Needham, was entitled Galileo Makes a Book. The First Edition of Sidereus Nuncius, Venice 1610. Regarding the significance of Needham's study, I quote from the review by G. Thomas Tanselle, Common Knowledge19, #3, (Fall 2013), 575-576:

"Needham’s book is based on eighty-three other copies, and he draws as well on Galileo’s letters, drafts, and various external documents. The result is a detailed account of the early months of 1610, from January 15, when Galileo decided he must publish his discoveries, to March 13, when the printing was completed; an additional chapter discusses the book’s distribution and Galileo’s corrections in some copies. The task of bibliography, as stated by Needham, is to know “the materials and human actions that produced (in multiple copies) the structure of a printed book.” Systematically he takes up the paper, type, and format of Sidereus Nuncius and provides a quire-by-quire analysis of its production, making exemplary use of many techniques of bibliographical analysis, each patiently and clearly explained, with accompanying illustrations. The book could serve as an excellent introduction to this kind of work; but even more remarkably, it demonstrates how interconnected are the physical object and its intellectual content. The title sentence, “Galileo makes a book,” has a double meaning: not only did Galileo write the text, but he also attended to its physical production, making the presentation of the text integral to its meaning. Needham does not neglect Galileo’s writing itself: he calls Galileo “an artist with words,” whose “prose embodies not just close reasoning, but also life and emotion.”

"This assessment applies equally to Needham’s own writing, which combines rigorous but readable technical analysis with an awareness of the human side of that work and the story it reveals. This combination recalls an earlier bibliographical classic, Allan Stevenson’s The Problem of the Missale Speciale (1967), another full-length treatment of a single book. Even the sense of humor displayed by Stevenson has its counterpart here: when, for example, Needham explains two hypotheses as to when the printing of Galileo’s book began, he calls the one that postulates a later date “the dilatory view.” At the end Needham praises the many nameless actors, such as papermakers and printing-shop workers, who played roles in the story; and he closes with “the mules and oxen whose humble labor moved sheets of Sidereus Nuncius across the face of Europe, under the eyes of the boundless sky.” This passage, occurring in a work of bibliographical analysis, epitomizes the work’s unusual accomplishment: it breaks new ground in the study of a major book, sets forth its discoveries in an engaging narrative, and in the process shows how bibliography can be essential to intellectual history."

Until early 2012 Richard Lan was privately offering the copy for sale for $10,000,000. Then Nick Wilding, an historian of science at Georgia State University who had been asked to review the 2-volume set mentioned above, presented concrete proof that the Martayan-Lan copy was a forgery:

  • The book bears a library stamp by the founder of the Accademia dei Lincei Federico Cesi. But the stamp in the Martayan Lan copy doesn’t match those in other books with Cesi's stamp.
  • The title page was different from genuine copies, but bore similarities to a 1964 facsimile and an unsold Sotheby’s auction copy.
  • There was no record of the Siderus Nuncius in the original library from which this copy was thought to come.

Slowly the thread of fabrication began to unravel. Discovery of the forgery coincided with the exposure of massive thefts of rare books from the Girolomini Library in Naples, for which Marino Massimo De Caro, and others were eventually convicted. In 2013 the Library of Congress and Levenger Press issued Galileo Galilei, The Starry Messenger, Venice, 1610. From Doubt to Astonishment. This volume contained a facsimile edition of the Library of Congress copy, an English translation, and the text of the papers delivered at the November 2010 symposium. However, as the editor of the volume noted, Paul Needham revised his paper (now retitled "Authenticity and Facsimile: Gaileo's Paper Trail") in light of his later acceptance that the Martayan Lan copy was a forgery. On December 16, 2013 The New Yorker magazine published a detailed background article on the forgery and how it was accomplished, by Nicholas Schmidel: "A Very Rare Book. The mystery surrounding a copy of Gaileo's pivotal treatise." While the article filled in many blanks concerning the Sidereus Nuncius forgery, it raised other questions concerning other unknown thefts and forgeries by Marino Massimo de Caro and his associates.

In February 2014 De Gruyter issued an originally unintended volume three of their 2011 two-volume set entitled A Galileo Forgery. Unmasking the New York Sidereus Nuncius, edited by Horst Bredekamp, Irëne Bruckel, and Paul Needham. When I last revised this entry in August 2014 the full text of the volume was available as an Open Access PDF at no charge. This was the most comprehensive account and proof of the forgery. In many ways it was the most remarkable and admirable volume of the set, in which the scholars, recounted how the forgery was discovered, drew their final conclusions proving the forgery, and explained how they had been deceived in the first place.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 855.

(This entry was last revised on 04-04-2015.)

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François d'Aguilon & Peter Paul Rubens Describe Optics and Color Theory 1613

Belgian Jesuit mathematician, physicist and architect François d'Aguilon published Opticorum libri sex philosophis juxta ac mathematicis utiles in Antwerp at the Officina Plantiniana in 1613. Intended for use in Jesuit schools, Aguilon’s work was primarily a synthesis of classical and modern writings on optics; however, it also contained the first discussion of the stereographic process (which Aguilon named), one of the earliest presentations of the red-yellow-blue color system, an original theory of binocular vision and the first published description of Aguilon’s horopter.

“The horopter is the invention, or rather discovery, of Aguilon; he coined the term and showed how important the horopter is in explaining vision with two eyes; he even demonstrated the horopter in a simple device constructed by him and pictured by Rubens. . . . The theory of Aguilon on the horopter is a large step in the right direction, calling a halt to all previous deficient theories” (Ziggelaar, François Aguilon, 115; see also 53-133).

Aguilar’s theory of binocular vision was eventually superseded (despite claims to the contrary, he apparently knew nothing about Kepler’s ideas on the retina); nevertheless his ideas had some influence on the theorists of vision from Huygens to Newton to Helmholtz.

Production of Aguilon’s book fell to the Plantin-Moretus printing house, whose controllers were sympathetic to the Jesuits in Antwerp. The illustrations and allegorical title were prepared by painter, collector, and humanist scholar Peter Paul Rubens, a friend of Balthasar Moretus and himself deeply interested in the world of books.

“The designs for the frontispiece and six vignettes reveal Rubens’ knowledge of the actual text. . . . Rubens combined successfully Aguilonius’ references to ancient mythology and allegory into a coherent programme that also includes a connection with the science of optics, for all the various elements on the frontispiece have a direct relationship with the concept of vision” (Held, Rubens and the Book  [1977] 52).  

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 25.

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Michael Maier Publishes Early Multimedia: Words, Images and Music 1617

In 1617 German physician, alchemist, epigrammist and amateur composer Michael Maier published Atalanta Fugiens, an alchemical emblem book, in Oppenheim at the Press of engraver and publisher Johann Theodore de Bry. The work incorporated 50 emblems (images) by the German engraver Matthäus Merian, de Bry's son-in-law, each with a motto, epigram, and a three-part musical setting of the epigram, followed by an exposition of its meaning. The book extended the concept of an emblem book by incorporating 50 fugues, a technique of music composition in which a theme or themes are stated in two or more voices and repeated frequently at different pitches. The title of Maier's book, Atalanta Fugiens, or Atalanta Fleeing, alluding to the virgin huntress Atalanta of Greek mythology, who was unwilling to marry and was loved by the hero Meleager, contains a pun on the word fugue.

Early translations of Maier's work survived in manuscript: British Library MS. Sloane 3645, and Mellon MS. 48 at Yale. In December 2013 an English translation of Atalanta Fugiens reproducing the images and incorporating transcriptions from the Sloan MS, and some translations by H. M. de Jong, was available from the hermetic.com website at this link. At the time the same translation was also available from several other websites.

H. M. de Jong, Michael Maier's Atalanta Fugiens: Sources of an Alchemical Book of Emblems. (1969). 

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Cassiano & Carlo Antonio dal Pozzo Attempt to Record All Human Knowledge in Visual Form Circa 1625 – 1665

The "Museo Cartaceo" ("Paper Museum"), a collection of more than 7,000 watercolors, drawings and prints assembled by the Roman patron and collector Cassiano dal Pozzo and his youngest brother Carlo Antonio from 1625 to 1665, represents one of the most significant attempts made before the age of photography to embrace the widest range of human knowledge in visual form. Documenting ancient art and architecture, botany, geology, ornithology and zoology, the collection is a significant tool for understanding the cultural and intellectual concerns of a period during which the foundations of our own scientific methods were laid down.

"The Paper Museum reflects the taste and intellectual breadth of Cassiano dal Pozzo, one of the most learned and enthusiastic of all seventeenth-century Roman collectors. As secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, patron of artists such as Poussin, and a friend of Galileo, Cassiano crossed the boundaries of artistic, scientific and political disciplines to create his unique visual encyclopaedia. His patronage extended to both the well-known and the lesser-known artists of his day, and his close connections with leading European scientists, scholars and philosophers kept him informed of the latest archaeological and scientific discoveries. His younger brother Carlo Antonio came to share his interests and played a significant role in augmenting and arranging the collection.

"Through his association with Federico Cesi, Prince of Acquasparta (1585–1630), and his membership of the Accademia dei Lincei (the first modern scientific society, founded by Cesi), Cassiano assembled visual evidence of scientifically – and for the first time microscopically – observed natural phenomena, thus establishing a firm basis for scientific classification. Fruit, flora, fungi, fauna, minerals and fossils – all were meticulously recorded, whether commonplace or exotic. He applied the same rigour and systematic methodology to his antiquarian studies: classical and early medieval monuments and artefacts were painstakingly drawn and classified to form a unique survey of ancient architecture, religion, custom, dress and spectacle" (http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/pozzo/prospectus.pdf, accessed 0-03-2010).

The "Paper Museum" was sold by Cassiano’s heirs to the Albani Pope Clement XI , who resold it to his connoisseur nephew Cardinal Alessandro Albani in the early eighteenth century. It remained in the Albani collection until a substantial portion was acquired by George III, also a scientific amateur, in 1762 for his library at Buckingham House. In 1834, the collection was transferred to the Royal Library created by William IV at Windsor Castle, where it forms part of the Royal Collection. Other portions are at the British Library, the British Museum, the botanical gardens at Kew (mycological specimens) , the library of Sir John Soane's Museum. Portions not purchased for George III are preserved at the Institut de France and various other public and private collections. 

Since the 1990s a project has been underway to publish the drawings and prints in the ‘Museo Cartaceo’ in a series of thirty-six volumes, arranged by subject matter following the method of classification employed by Cassiano himself. The series is entitled The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo ~ A Catalogue Raisonné.

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Johannes Hevelius Issues the First Extensive Moon Atlas 1647

In 1647 Brewer, protestant councillor and mayor, instrument maker, astronomer and engraver in Danzig (Gdańsk), Johannes Hevelius (Latin), also called Johannes Hewel, Johann Hewelke, Johannes Höwelcke in German, or Jan Heweliusz (in Polish), self-published Selenographia: sive, lunae descriptio. Besides an allegorical engraved title by Jeremias Falck after Adolf Boy, a portrait of Hevelius also engraved by Falck, after Helmick van Iwenhusen,  the book, published in small folio format, contains 110 plates on 89 sheets, drawn & engraved by the author (1 with volvelle, 3 double-page), and numerous  engravings within the text. 

The result of four years of observations, Selenographia was the first comprehensive atlas of the moon. The first state of the book does not contain the plate RRR, which is not called for in the plate list. Hevelius kept adding to his book as it went through the press; probably some copies were already in circulation by the time he had drawn and engraved plate RRR.

Son of a prosperous brewery owner, Hevelius made his own instruments, made his own drawings, did his own engraving, published his own books, and built the best observatory in Europe on beer proceeds. In the Selenographia he drew excellent moon maps, based on his own observations, and gave many new names to the features observable on the moon's surface such as seas, mountains, craters, borrowing nomenclature from terrestrial geography. For example he named an island of Sicily complete with a Mount Etna, and an island of Corsica, both in the Mediterranean Sea. A few of these names—the Alps, the Apennines, and the Caucasus—remain in use, but most of Hevelius's' nomenclature was superceded in the seventeenth century by that of Giovanni Battista Riccioli

Even more significant was his drawing of the moon in different states of libration; his descriptions of a librational cycle of shadow changes in the lunar details, his method of judging the libration by means of changes in apparent (telescopic) separation of a pair of lunar details, and his introduction of rudimentary lunar coordinate systems provided a sound basis for the work of subsequent astronomers. He also described a mounted lunar globe, perhaps the first of its kind, which allowed representation of librational movements.

The first part of the Selenographia is valuable for the history of optics. Hevelius describes an optical lathe for turning telescope lenses and gives methods for judging the parameters and qualities of lenses. He describes Christoph Scheiner's helioscope, which he eventually modified, the microscope and the military periscope. He illustrates telescopes that he made, which often had unusual fittings and complimentary devices. Hevelius also made observations of Saturn, the satellites of Jupiter, sunspots, comets and the star which he named "Mira." 

Zinner, Astronomische Instrumente 275-82.  Personal communication from Jörn Koblitz, The MetBase Library of Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences.

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1650 – 1700

Robert Hooke's Graphic Portrayal of the Hitherto Unknown Microcosm 1665

In 1665 Robert Hooke published Micrographia: Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses in London. This was the first book devoted entirely to microscopical observations, and also the first book to pair its microscopic descriptions with profuse and detailed illustrations. This graphic portrayal of the hitherto unknown microcosm had an impact rivalling that of Galileo's Sidereus nuncius (1610), which was the first book to include images of the macrocosm shown through the telescope. It was also the second book published under the auspices of the Royal Society of London.

Hooke began his observations with studies of non-living materials, such as woven cloth and frozen urine crystals, then proceeded to investigations of plant and animal life.  He published the first studies of insect anatomy, giving a lucid account of the compound eye of the fly, and illustrating the microscopic details of such structures as apian wings, flies' legs and feet, and the sting of the bee.  His famous and dramatic portraits of the flea and louse, a frightening eighteen inches long, are hardly less startling today than they must have been to Hooke's contemporaries.  His botanical observations include the first description of the plant-like form of molds, and of the honeycomb-like structure of cork, which last he described as being composed of "cellulae"— thereby coining the modern biological usage of the work "cell" to describe the basic microscopic units of tissue.

In January 2014 a digital facsimile of the first edition of Hooke's Micrographia was available from the National Library of Medicine's website at this link.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1092.

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Anatomy in the Style of Dutch Still-Life Painting 1685

Plate from Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis. Please click on the link below to view and resize full page. 

Title page of Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis. 
Please click on the link below to view and resize full page. 

Govert Bidloo.

Gerard de Lairesse (1641–1711) by Rembrandt.  Lariesse suffered from congenital syphilis.

In 1685 Dutch physician, anatomist, poet, and playwright Govert Bidloo published Anatomia humani corporis. This large folio contains an engraved title, engraved portrait of Bidloo by Abraham Bloteling after Gérard de Lairesse and 105 engraved plates after Lairesse, probably by Bloteling and Peter and Philip van Gunst. The work was issued in  Amsterdam for the widow of Joannes van Someren, the heirs of Joannes van Dyk, Henry Boom and widow of Theodore Boom.

Considered as an artistic meditation on anatomy, Gerard de Lairesse’s designs are a total departure from the idealistic tradition inaugurated in the mid-16th century by the Vesalian woodcuts. They are also worlds apart from the productions of the Odoardo Fialetti - Giulio Casserio collaboration. Lairesse displayed his figures with everyday realism and sensuality, contrasting the raw dissected parts of the body with the full, soft surfaces of undissected flesh surrounding them; placing flayed, bound figures in ordinary nightclothes or bedding; setting objects such as a book, a jar, a crawling fly in the same space as a dissected limb or torso. He thus brought the qualities of Dutch still-life painting into anatomical illustration, and gave a new, darker expression to the significance of dissection. De Lairesse’s images of dissected pregnancies and premature infants also reflect compassion—a quality unusual in art that was intended primarily to be scientific.

A painter and writer on art theory, Lairesse was influenced by Rembrandt, who painted his portrait in 1665, and also by the French styles of Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. The French called Lairesse the “Dutch Poussin.” Lairesse suffered from congenital syphilis, which gave him a deformed nose visible in Rembrandt’s portrait. Perhaps because he had always lived with disease Lairesse had more than a casual interest in medicine. Syphilis made him blind in 1690, and for the rest of his active life Lairesse supported himself by lecturing and writing about art, publishing two books on drawing and painting which were widely reprinted and translated throughout the eighteenth century.

Some of Lairesse’s drawings were probably engraved by Abraham Bloteling (Blooteling). A line engraver and creator of mezzotint plates who worked in both Holland and England, Bloteling was particularly famous for the quality of his mezzotints, for which he initiated a more thorough system of preparing the grounds, and may have invented the rocker. According to historian of medical book illustration Ludwig Choulant, prior medical scholars Albrecht Haller and Johann Carl Wilhelm Moehsen believed that some plates in the series were engraved by the brothers Pieter and Philip van Gunst. Despite imperfections from the point of view of dissection, which Choulant and others have pointed out, the Bidloo-de Lairesse anatomical studies reflect much that is good, including early depictions of skin and hair from observation with a microscope.

Bidloo began this project with de Lairesse around 1676 during a period in which he was also writing plays in Amsterdam, obtaining his medical degree, and working as a surgeon. It would appear that Bidloo brought his flair for drama to the conception and realization of this project. The 105 large drawings were probably completed about 1682, after which the plates had to be engraved—a huge production.

In 1690 Bidloo's publishers issued an edition in Dutch, and in 1698 William Cowper issued an expanded English with new text using Bidloo's original plates, but without crediting Bidloo, resulting in a famous plagiarism dispute in the era before copyright.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 250. Dumaître, La Curieuse Destiné des Planches Anatomiques de Gérard de Lairesse (1982). Hofer, Baroque Book Illustration, 146. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 231. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body, 309-17. Wax, The Mezzotint: History and Technique (1990) 25-26.

♦ In 2012 it was my pleasure to sell a spectacular large paper copy of Bidloo's atlas, bound in contemporary full red morocco, and emblazened with the coat of arms of its first owner, to Vassar College as their 1,000,000th book. Vassar produced a spectacular website describing the copy, with background, images and a video. The excellent video, which beautifully described this wonderful copy, is here:

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Baroque Anatomy and Plagiarism (?) 1698

English surgeon and anatomist William Cowper published The Anatomy of Humane Bodies. . . . in 1698. This large folio volume included a mezzotint portrait of Cowper by Smith after Closterman, an allegorical engraved title attributed to Abraham Bloteling with pasted-on English title in cartouche, a second engraved title with vignette by Sturt, and 114 plates, of which 105 were designed by Gérard de Lairesse and probably engraved by Bloteling, and 9 plates mostly drawn and engraved by Michael van der Gucht. The volume was printed in Oxford at the Sheldonian Theatre and issued in London by Samuel Smith & Benjamin Walford.  From the format standpoint it is one of the largest volumes published in England during the seventeenth century.

Cowper's atlas was the first edition in English of the original anatomical plates designed for Govert Bidloo by Gérard de Lairesse, a painter who rivaled Rembrandt in popularity in his time. The plates were originally issued with Bidloo's Latin text and published in 1685. There was also an edition in Dutch in 1690. Bidloo’s text, however, was widely criticized, and perhaps because of this, or because sales were disappointing, Cowper, or his publisher, was able to obtain 300 sets of Bidloo's original plates from the publishers in Amsterdam. Cowper arranged to supply an entirely new text in English to accompany the reissue of the original engravings, with a few additions. Cowper also commissioned nine new plates. Cowper's new English text was clearly superior, and the basis for later Latin editions. However, Cowper did not acknowledge Bidloo, even going so far as to paste over Bidloo’s name with his own in the cartouche on the engraved allegorical title.

At this time neither copyright nor rights of authorship existed. The first copyright law passed was the British Statute of Anne in 1709. Without legal recourse, Bidloo chose to attack Cowper in print, resulting in a bitter plagiarism dispute between the two— one of the most famous in medical history. In 1700 Bidloo went so far as to publish his Gulielmus Cowper, criminalis literari citatus, coram tribunali, attacking Cowper in considerable detail. 

Russell, British Anatomy, no. 211.

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1700 – 1750

Friedrich Ruysch's Anatomical Preparations: Surrealism Centuries Before Surrealism Became Fashionable 1701 – 1725

In Amsterdam Dutch anatomist Frederik Ruysch published Thesaurus anatomicus in ten parts from 1701 to 1716, and the first and only part of his Thesaurus animalium in 1710. An index to the Thesaurus anatomicus appeared in 1725.

Probably the most original artist in the history of anatomical preparations, Ruysch enjoyed making up elaborate three-dimensional emblems of mortality from his specimens. These fantastic, dream-like concoctions constructed of human anatomical parts are illustrated in the Thesaurus on large folding plates mostly engraved by Cornelis Huyberts, who also engraved plates for the painter Gérard de Lairesse, illustrator of Govert Bidloo’s anatomy. In their dreamlike qualities many of the plates depicting the preparations reflect surrealism centuries before surrealism became fashionable. Ruysch’s Thesaurus anatomicus and his Thesaurus animalium describe and illustrate the spectacular collections of “Anatomical Treasures” which he produced for display in his home museum between 1701 and 1716 using secret methods of anatomical injection and preservation.

Ruysch's unique anatomical preparations attracted many notables to his museum, including Czar Peter the Great of Russia, who was so fascinated with the preparations that he attended Ruysch’s anatomy lectures, and in 1717 he bought Ruysch’s entire collection, along with that of the Amsterdam apothecary Albert Seba, for Russia's first public museum, the St. Petersburg Kunstkammer. Over the years most of the dry preparations in St. Petersburg deteriorated or disappeared, but some of those preserved in glass jars remain. A few later specimens by Ruysch, auctioned off by his widow after his death, are also preserved in Leiden. Because most of the preparations did not survive, Ruysch’s preparations, and his museum, are known primarily from these publications.

Ruysch's methods allowed him to prepare organs such as the liver and kidneys and keep entire corpses for years. He used a mixture of talc, white wax, and cinnabar for injecting vessels and an embalming fluid of alcohol made from wine or corn with black pepper added. Using his injection methods Ruysch was the first to demonstrate the occurrence of blood vessels in almost all tissues of the human body, thereby destroying the Galenic belief that certain areas of the body had no vascular supply. He was also the first to show that blood vessels display diverse organ-specific patterns. He investigated the valves in the lymphatic system, the bronchial arteries and the vascular plexuses of the heart, and was the first to point out the nourishment of the fetus through the umbilical cord. Ruysch's discoveries led him to claim erroneously that tissues consisted solely of vascular networks, and to deny the existence of glandular tissue. 

Impey & Macgregor (eds.) The Origins of Museums (1985)  55-56. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1875.  Rosamond Purcell & Stephen Gould, Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors (1992) chapter 1 reproduces spectacular color images of Ruysch’s preparations from Czar Peter’s Wunderkammer, and Leiden.  Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Human Body (1992) 290-98.

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Opticks: Isaac Newton's Theories of Light & Color . . . 1704

Isaac Newton published Opticks: Or a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light. Also Two Treatises of the Species and Magnitude of Curvilinear Figures in London in 1704. Unlike most of Newton's works, Opticks was originally published in English, with the Latin version following in 1706. The book summarized Newton's discoveries and theories concerning light and color: the spectrum of the sunlight, the degrees of refraction associated with different colors, the color circle (the first in the history of color theory), the invention of the reflecting telescope; the first workable theory of the rainbow, and experiments on what would later be called "interference effects" in conjunction with Newton's rings.  His discovery of periodicity in Newton's rings, which would later prove to be so useful to Thomas Young, led Newton to postulate that periodicity was a fundamental property either of light waves or of waves associated with light.  Nevertheless, Newton preferred the corpuscular theory of light, with which he is usually associated, because of its explanatory value for certain optical phenomena and because it a llowed him to link the action of gross bodies with the action of light. The first edition of the Opticks ends with two mathematical treatises in Latin, written to establish his priority over Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in the invention of the calculus.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1588. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 172.

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Jacob Christophe Le Blon Invents the Three-Color Process of Color Printing 1719 – 1725

Working in London, the painter Jacob Christoph Le Blon, a citizen of Frankfurt, secured a patent in 1719 from George I for a process which he called "printing paintings." Much as fifteenth century printers viewed printing by movable type as a less expensive way to reproduce texts that had previously been reproduced by manuscript copying, Le Blon viewed his process of color printing as a less expensive way of producing or reproducing color paintings. Prior to moving to London Le Blon worked as a miniaturist in Amsterdam, and it is thought that he might have been influenced by the anonymous third edition of Traité de la peinture en mignature issued in The Hague in 1708, which described trichromancy in terms of three couleurs primitives— yellow, red and blue.

In London Le Blon formed a company called The Picture Office to produce color prints. The historian of anatomical illustration Ludwig Choulant stated that in 1721 Le Blon issued a separate print depicting the male sexual organs entitled Préparation anatomique des parties de l’homme, servants a la generation, faites sur les decouvertes les plus modernes. This print, which I have not seen, may be the first, or among the first, color-printed mezzotints ever published. In 1725 Le Blon privately published a pamphlet called Coloritto, describing the process that he had invented. This was the first published description of trichromatic color printing.

To prepare each of his three printing plates, Le Blon used the technique of mezzotint engraving in which a copper sheet is uniformly roughened with the finely serrated edge of a burring tool, and local regions are then polished, to varying degrees, in order to control the amount of ink that they are to hold. To develop his process Le Blon needed to find three colored inks of suitable transparency, and to analyze the color that was to be reproduced into its components. Sometimes he used a fourth plate, carrying black ink. This technique allowed the use of thinner layers of colored ink, reducing cost, and accelerating drying.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 265-66.

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Albinus & Ladmiral Issue the First Full Color Printing by the Three-Color Process to Illustrate a Medical or Scientific Book 1736 – 1741

In 1736 physician and anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus of Leiden published Dissertatio de arteries et venis intestinorum hominis. Adjecta icon coloribus distincta containing a color mezzotint printed by the painter Jan Ladmiral. This was among the earliest applications of full color printing, and the first use of the three-color printing  process in a medical or scientific book. Between 1736 and 1741 Albinus issued six pamphlets, each containing a color mezzotint by Ladmiral, forming the first series of full-color anatomical color-printed illustrations ever made.  Besides the previously mentioned pamphlet of 1736, the dissertations included De sede et causa coloris Aethiopum et caeterorum hominum (1737), a treatise on the anatomy and color of human skin; Icon durae matris in coava superficie visae (1738), on the anatomy of the brain; Icon durae matris in convexa superfice visae, ex capite (1738); Icon membranae vasculosae (1738), on the vascular membranes; and Effigies penis humani (1741), on the anatomy of the penis. These six images are  the only color prints produced by Jan Ladmiral, who had learned the process of color printing from the artist Jacob Christoph le Blon, the inventor of the process for printing color mezzotints using the three primary colors.  

♦ Probably the most unusual set of Albinus's pamphlets with color plates by Ladmiral is the collection bound in human skin in 1910 by Paul Kersten for the German collector Hans Friedenthal, and preserved at the Lane Medical Library at Stanford University.

The first medical book with illustrations printed in color by any method was Aselli's De lactibus (1627) which contained 4 folding woodcuts printed by the chiaroscuro process.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 265-66 for Le Blon, and 267-69 for Ladmiral.

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Bernhard Siegfried Albinus' Cool, Elegant Aesthetic of Anatomy 1747

In 1747 Dutch physician and anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus published Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani in Leiden at the printing office of Johan & Hermann Verbeek. The plates in this large folio work are unsurpassed for their cool, elegant aesthetic and scientific accuracy. They were drawn and engraved by Jan Wandelaar, a pupil of the engravers Jacob Fokema and Guillem van der Gouwen, and the painter Gérard de Lairesse, who prepared the drawings for Govert Bidloo's atlas (referenced in this database). Prior to working for Albinus, Wandelaar worked for anatomist Friedrik Ruysch. Albinus, however, provided Wandelaar with the opportunity for the full expression of his talents as a draftsman and engraver. For many years Wandelaar worked nearly exclusively for Albinus, and lived in Albinus' house, illustrating the long series of superb books which Albinus produced. Choulant states that when Wandelaar died Albinus fell into a severe depression, from which he only gradually recovered. The Tables of the Skeleton and Muscles of the Human Body represents the apogee of an exceptional collaboration between physician and artist which lasted from 1721 until the artist's death in 1754, and resulted in a series of unsurpassed publications.

Roberts and Tomlinson described the innovative method that Wandelaar and Albinus devised for the transfer of the most accurate and proportional images of the anatomy to the drawings, using two nets, or grids, of small cords. The first plates are finished representations of the skeleton and are each accompanied by an outline-plate of the same size. The following 9 plates represent complete finished musclemen, each with an additional outline plate. The 14 plates following these represent special muscles and parts of muscles. Each of the very numerous figures on these last 14 plates is supplied with an outline-drawing unless the letters are engraved directly upon the finished figures. There are a total of 40 plates.

The 3 finished plates of the skeleton and the 9 finished muscle men are some of the most beautiful plates in the history of engraving. Wandelaer placed each figure in a carefully chosen landscape setting, and the artistic results are so pleasantly successful that the anatomical figures, although composed of many separate parts, appear to be actually stepping out of the picture.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 276-83. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Human Body (1992) 320-339. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography (1991) No. 399. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 29. Sappol, Dream Anatomy (2006) 118-19.

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1750 – 1800

Jacques Gamelin Issues an Anatomy for Artists including Fantastical Elements 1779

Detail of plate from Gamelin's Nouveau recueil d'ostéologie et de myologie, dessin‚ d'après nature. . . pour l'utilit‚ des sciences et des arts..  Please click on link below to view and resize full image.

Jacques Gamelin.

In 1779 French painter Jacques Gamelin issued from Toulouse Nouveau recueil d'ostéologie et de myologie, dessin‚ d'après nature. . . pour l'utilit‚ des sciences et des arts. The folio volume, made up of 128 unfolded single sheets, included 90 engraved plates, and text vignettes engraved in a variety of techniques by Gamelin and his pupils Lavallée and Martin after Gamelin's original drawings.

Gamelin is known for his paintings and engravings of battle scenes. The plates for his anatomical atlas, issued in an edition of only 200 copies, were prepared from drawings made at his own dissection facility; they are distinct from the plates of other works of its type, being larger, more artistically varied, and more expressive and fantastic in their conceptions. "The work is known for its display of both talent and imagination, with striking scenes of the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, and skeletons at play. Aside from the full-page copperplate illustrations by Gamelin and the engraver Lavalée, the work contains a number of intriguing vignettes on the title pages and elsewhere, which show battle scenes, visitations by death on unsuspecting revelers, and the anatomical artist's studio" (Wikipedia article on Jacques Gamelin, accessed 02-08-2009).

Gamelin's plates show a constant interplay between the artistic and the anatomic: emblematic images in the seventeenth-century tradition, vignettes in the coquettish eighteenth-century manner, and classic studies of figures in repose and movement vie with straightforward "medical" depictions of bones and muscles. Gamelin's technical perfection, coupled with the emotional and fantastical elements in his images, have led him to be seen as a precursor of Goya; it is possible that the young Goya may have known or studied with Gamelin, who taught in Rome during the time Goya was there. 

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 872.

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Léonard Defrance Creates Panel Paintings of the Operations of a French Enlightenment Printing Shop Circa 1782

In the early 21st century the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Grenoble recently acquired a fourth, and previously unknown panel painting of the printing shop of the Liège printer Clément Plomteux by the Franco-Flemish genre painter Léonard Defrance in 1782. 

This painting, and the three other paintings by Defrance that depict Plomteux's shop, are illustrated in color in the online article linked to above by Daniel Droixhe, du Groupe d'étude du XVIIIe siècle de l'Université de Liège. Defrance's paintings are among the best painted records of the printing/publishing process in the late eighteenth century.

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Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Martyr to Chemistry 1789

In 1789, the year of the French Revolution, French chemist and biologist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier published Traité élémentaire de chimie in 2 volumes with 13 engraved plates by his wife, the chemist Marie Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze Lavoisier. Born into a wealthy Parisian family, Lavoisier was an administrator of the "Ferme Générale" and a powerful member of a number of other aristocratic councils. These political and economic activities enabled him to fund his scientific research. At the height of the French Revolution he was accused by Jean-Paul Marat of selling watered-down tobacco, and of other crimes, and was guillotined on May 8, 1794.

In his Traité work Lavoisier overthrew the phlogiston theory of Georg Ernst Stahl, established the concept of elements as substances which cannot be further decomposed, and reformed chemical nomenclature. An important consequence of his work was the law of conservation of mass, which states that matter remains constant throughout all chemical change. The book’s thirteen plates of chemical apparatus were drawn and engraved by Lavoisier’s wife, who had studied under the French artist David. 

"In 1771, at the age of 28, Lavoisier married 13-year-old Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, the daughter of a co-owner of the Ferme générale. Over time, she proved to be a scientific colleague to her husband. She translated documents from English for him, including Richard Kirwan's Essay on Phlogiston and Joseph Priestley's research. She created many sketches and carved engravings of the laboratory instruments used by Lavoisier and his colleagues. She edited and published Lavoisier’s memoirs (whether any English translations of those memoirs have survived is unknown as of today) and hosted parties at which eminent scientists discussed ideas and problems related to chemistry" (Wikipedia article on Antoine Lavoisier, accessed 07-10-2011).

The work was first issed in a one-volume version known in only a handful of copies; the second issue in 2 volumes contains 95 pages of additional material, including the “Tables à l’usage des chimistes” (pp. 559-591), the “Table des matières” (pp. 592-619) and various approvals of the work (pp. 620-653).

Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science, no. 64. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man no. 238. Duveen & Klickstein, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier bibliography no.  154. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine no. 1295. 

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Giovanni Battista Venturi Begins Scientific and Art Historical Studies on Leonardo da Vinci 1797

In 1797 Italian physicist Giovanni Battista Venturi published Essais sur les ouvrages physico-mathématiques de Léonard de Vinci, avec des fragmens tirés de ses manuscrits. . . . This brief work, with one folding engraved plate, is considered the beginning of the modern Leonardo studies. Venturi, who lived in Paris for much of his life, had access to the Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts which had been moved by order of Napoleon, after his conquests in the Italian peninsula, from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan to the Institut National in Paris.  Venturi organized the codices and gave them the letters by which they are known today. His studies inspired him to claim that “il faut donc placer Léonard à la tête de ceux qui se sont occupés des sciences Physico-Mathématiques et de la vraie méthode d’étudier parmi les Modernes.” In his 56 page book, Venturi presented excerpts, translated into French, of some of the manuscripts’ most important sections on physics, mathematics and geology together with essays and notes of his own on the texts. Venturi intended this work to be the prelude to a more ambitious three-volume edition of Leonardo’s complete writings on mechanics, hydraulics and optics; however, this was never published.

Venturi is best known for his researches on the Venturi effect described in his treatise on hydraulics, Recherches expérimentales sur le principe de la communication latérale du mouvement dans les fluides appliqué a l'explication de differens phenomenes hydrauliques, also first published in 1797. Verga, Bibliografia Vinciana, No. 273. 

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1800 – 1850

The Double Publication of the Double Elephant Folio of Anatomy 1823 – 1826

Considering that it is among the rarest of all anatomies, and certainly the largest, it is remarkable that two nearly identical editions of Paolo Mascagni’s posthumous life-size anatomy were published almost simultaneously. From 1823 to 1826 Francesco Antommarchi, a physician and anatomist of Corsican descent, issued from Paris Planches anatomiques du corps humain executes d’après les dimensions naturelles. This huge work contained 83 lithographed plates of which 48 were hand-colored and 35 were outline keys. The uncut sheets of the atlas measured 970 x 650 mm., or 25.5 x 38.25 inches. To accompany these plates Antommarchi published a folio text (Explication des planches anatomiques . . . in normal folio size with sheets 545 x 350 mm. or 21.5 x 13.75 inches. 

An edition with engraved plates was also published in Pisa under the title Anatomia universa (1823-32). Though the two editions were printed by different processes, the image quality of the two is remarkably similar and it is debatable which is superior from either the artistic or scientific standpoint. In an hommage to Vesalius, Antommarchi had imaginary landscape backgrounds created for the base of his musclemen. These did not appear in the Italian edition. There are other subtle differences: Antommarchi included letter keys within the images of some of the less-complex plates, eliminating the need for outline plates to those images. He also published more anatomical plates than the Italian edition, and, of course, his text was substantially different.

The publication history of these two editions is complex and usually misunderstood. The Paris edition was issued in 15 parts between 1823 and 1826 by the lithographic press of the Comte de Lasteyrie, one of the two founders of lithography in France (the text volume, issued in 1826, bears the imprint of Lasteyrie’s successor, R. Brégeaut). The atlas, with magnificent plates printed on single broadsheets measuring 970 x 650 mm., is comparable in size to the double elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America (1827-38), which measures about 985 x 660 mm.

Antommarchi's work is undoubtedly the largest lithographically printed book issued during the incunabula period of lithography. It is also the second anatomical atlas ever reproduced through the medium of lithography, overlapping in its years of publication with the Anatomie de l'homme ou descriptions et figures lithographes de toutes les parties du corps humain by the artist/anatomist Jules Germaine Cloquet, which was issued in five normal-sized folio volumes, also in Paris at the presses of Engelmann and de Lasteyrie from 1821 to 1831.

Antommarchi's atlas was issued in both colored and uncolored versions; according to the historian of anatomical illustration Ludwig Choulant, writing in the 1840s when copies of both editions may have remained available from the publishers, copies with colored plates could be purchased for 1050 francs and uncolored copies for 375 francs.

The preface to the text volume of the lithographed edition, written by Antommarchi, and personally signed by him on the verso of the title page, provides valuable information about this work’s publication history. Antommarchi studied under the great Italian anatomist Paolo Mascagni, and at the time of Mascagni’s death was serving as his prosector, responsible for preparing dissections for demonstration. During his career Mascagni spent a great deal of his time, energy and money in the production of a life-sized human anatomy, titled Anatomia universa, which he intended to have printed using engraved copperplates; this required meticulous preparation of very large copperplates for the work’s enormous images. Some scholars have suggested that Mascagni was hoping to have this work printed in color by the Le Blon / Gautier d’Agoty process; however, that process of color-printing mezzotints would not have been able to reproduce Mascagni’s drawings in sufficient detail. At his death Mascagni left this project unfinished, along with two others: an illustrated anatomy for sculptors and painters; and a treatise on the tissues of animals and plants intended as an introduction or “Prodromo” to the Anatomia universa. These manuscripts he put in the hands of Antommarchi, who was left in charge of publishing these three works on behalf of the Mascagni family.

In 1816 Antommarchi issued Mascagni’s anatomy for artists, edited by the author’s brother and grandson, under the title Anatomia per uso degli studiosi di scultura e pittura. According to Antommarchi’s preface to the present work (pp. iii-iv), the uncompleted works by Mascagni that remained after the publication of Anatomia per uso degli studiosi consisted of the following:

1. Trente planches ombrées, gravées sur cuivre et non terminés, de sa grande Anatomie;  

2. Quinze planches au simple trait, gravées presque toutes au dos des planches ombrées. Une multitude de fautes et d’erreurs s’étaient glissées dans la gravure, quoiqu’elle eût été faite du vivant de cet homme célèbre, et sur des dessins aussi soignés qu’ils étaient exacts;

Dix-neuf planches gravées sur cuivre, avec quelques cahiers manuscrits qui devaient servir de prodrome ou l’introduction à la grande anatomie;

4. Un certain nombre de dessins anatomiques et de cahiers manuscrits sur l’anatomie descriptive et l’économie rurale.

[1. Thirty shaded plates, engraved on copper and not completed, of his grand Anatomy;

2. Fifteen outline plates, almost all engraved on the backs of the shaded plates. A multitude of faults and errors have slipped in during the engraving, even though they were made during the lifetime of this famous man [Mascagni], and from drawings as detailed as they were exact;

3. Nineteen plates engraved on copper, with several manuscript notebooks intended to serve as the prodrome or introduction to the grand Anatomy;

4. A certain number of anatomical drawings and manuscript notebooks on descriptive aantomy and rural economy.]

Since the publication of the Prodromo and the grand anatomy would require a large sum of money, a private company was formed, with the Mascagni family’s permission, to supply the necessary funds. As Antommarchi states in his preface (p. iv),

Je fus mis à la tête de cette opération, chargé de coordonner les matériaux, de perfectionner les planches, de faire les textes, et de soigner la publication successive de ces deux ouvrages. [I was placed in charge of this operation, charged with coordinating materials, perfecting the plates, preparing the texts and overseeing the successive publication of these two books.]

Antommarchi issued the Prodromo in 1819. In the meantime he had been appointed physician to Napoleon, then in exile on the remote island of St. Helena, and on 10 September 1819 he was sent to St. Helena to provide medical care to the deposed emperor. It is possible that Napoleon requested Antommarchi’s services because, like Napoleon, Antommarchi was Corsican by birth. Antommarchi brought copies of Mascagni’s plates for the grand anatomy to St. Helena, and continued working on the project in his spare time. Napoleon took a great interest in the anatomy and even consented to have it dedicated to him; however, the emperor died in May 1821, prior to the completion of Antommarchi’s editorial labors. Antommarchi directed Napoleon’s autopsy, cast Napoleon’s death mask, and later published best-selling books about his experiences with the late emperor. Since he could not dedicate his edition to the living man, in homage to Napoleon’s memory, and in reference to the isolation of Napoleon’s remains on the remote island, Antommarchi dedicated his edition of Mascagni’s grand anatomy to the emperor’s tomb on St. Helena. (Napoleon’s body remained on the island until 1840, when it was moved to a tomb created for him in Paris.)

Upon Antommarchi’s return to Italy, as he recounts in his preface (p. v), he received an offer from the private company and Mascagni’s heirs,

où l’on me proposait de m’abandonner en totalité les exemplaires du Prodrome, les cuivres de cet ouvrage, ceux de la grande Anatomie, ainsi que tous les papiers qui pouvaient y avoir rapport. On demandait une somme de huit mille écus de Toscane, pour le paiement desquels on donnerait du temps et prendrait des sûretés convenables. La famille Mascagni, convaincue qu’il serait avantageux à l’acquéreur de ces deux ouvrages d’avoir les cuivres et les exemplaires qui restaient du “Traité sur les vaisseaux lymphatiques” et de l’Anatomie pittoresque, m’en proposait aussi l’acquisition pour la moitié de ce qui portait le prospectus.

[where they proposed to surrender to me in totality the copies of the Prodrome, the copperplates for that work, those of the grand Anatomy, as well as all the papers relating to it. They asked the sum of eight thousand Tuscan crowns, to be paid over time, for which they would take suitable security. The Mascagni family, convinced that it would be advantageous to the buyer of these two works to have the copperplates and remaining copies of [Mascagni’s] “Treatise on the lymphatic vessels” [1787] and the artists’ anatomy, also proposed that I purchase these works for half the sum indicated on the prospectus.]

Before this could be accomplished, however, Antommarchi was informed by M. Moggi, one of the private company’s representatives, that the company had decided not to go through with the deal, and that it wanted to dissolve itself. Antommarchi then went to Florence to propose another arrangement with the Mascagni family:

Je m’adressai de suite à la famille Mascagni, et lui proposait sept mille cinq cents écus, au lieu de six mille cinq cents que lui payait la société. Nous fûmes bientôt d’accord, les actes étaient rédigés, on allait signer; mais Moggi, qui était l’âme de toute cette affaire, avait d’autres vues. L’autorité intervint et refusa de sanctionner la transaction. “Puisqu’on m’empêche d’acquérir, qu’on s’exécute.—Nous ne voulons pas.—Mon travail?—Vous l’avez.—Je l’utiliserai.—Libre à vous.—Résilions.—Nous ne demandons pas mieux.” Ainsi fut fait; nous parùmes devant le magistrat, qui déclara la société dissoute. Mais l’opération était déjà passée en d’autres mains; je n’avais pu l’avoir pour sept mille cinq cents écus: on la céda pour trois mille. La famille Mascagni était désintéressée, je ne devais rien à la nouvelle société; je me disposai à tirer parti de mon travail.

[I next spoke to the Mascagni family and offered them seven thousand five hundred crowns in place of the six thousand five hundred that the company would have paid them. We were soon in agreement, the papers were drawn up and ready to be signed; but Moggi, who was the prime mover in this whole affair, had different ideas. Authorities intervened and refused to sanction the transaction. “Since you are forbidding me to purchase, then you take over.—We don’t want to.—My work?—You have it.—I will use it.—You are free to do so.—Let us quit.—We ask nothing better.” This was done; we appeared before the magistrate, who declared the company dissolved. But the operation had already passed into other hands; I could not have it for seven thousand five hundred crowns: they had sold it for three thousand. The Mascagni family was paid off, I owed nothing to the new company; I prepared to take advantage of my work.] 

The Mascagni family sold the copperplates of the grand anatomy to three professors at Pisa who began preparing their own edition of the work; this edition, containing 44 engraved illustrations and 44 outline plates (compared to 48 hand-colored plates and 35 outline plates called for in our edition) was published between 1823 and 1832 under the title Anatomia universa. In the meantime Antommarchi proceeded to Paris where he arranged to have his versions of the Mascagni plates lithographed by de Lasteyrie and issued under the title Planches anatomiques du corps humain. It is clear from his preface that Antommarchi believed he had full authority to publish his edition which, because of his close working relationship with Mascagni, may be closer to Mascagni’s original intention than the Italian version. Choulant, who provided an incorrect collation of Antommarchi’s edition, objected to the fact that Antommarchi left Mascagni’s name off the title page, but otherwise appears to have agreed. If one thinks of the Anatomia universa, edited by the three Pisa professors, as an adaptation of Mascagni’s plates according to the ideas of the three editors, he may, on the other hand, look upon Lasteyrie’s lithographed edition as Antommarchi’s adaptation, evidently prepared by him at St. Helena for his edition of Mascagni’s plates (Choulant, p. 319).

Complete sets of Antommarchi’s edition, with both the text and all the plates, are extremely rare, especially with the plates hand-colored. In 2012 OCLC and the Karlsruhe Virtuelle Katalog cited four copies of the text and atlas in American libraries (U. Chicago, National Library of Medicine, U. Minnesota and the College of Physicians in Philadelphia) plus six copies in France (Bibliothèque Nationale, Bibliothèque St. Geneviève, Paris BIUM, Bordeaux, U. Reims and U. de Lille), a copy at the British Library and four other European copies (Sachsische Landesbib., U. Leiden, Berlin, Halle). The library database records for these copies did not indicate whether the atlas plates were colored or black and white.

Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration (1920) 315-320. Roberts & Tomlinson, The Fabric of the Body (1992) 384-96. Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850,  50-52.

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The First Commercially Viable Method of Color Printing 1834 – 1835

In 1835 London-based English artist and printer George Baxter received patent No. 6916, "Improvements for Producing Coloured Steel Plate, Copper Plate, and Other Impressions." His patent included an example of a print requiring 14 different impressions on the hand press before completion. The original printed patent in my possession, which reproduced Baxter's original color artwork in black & white like all early patents, could not accurately show the progression of colors involved, but the patent did explain the concepts.  Even though Baxter's process was elaborate, it was the first commercially viable method of color printing. A perfectionist, Baxter never personally profited from the process, probably because he used so many colors and extra hand-touches to achieve his desired results. 

Perhaps also because of the extreme complexity of the technique, Baxter's patent seems not to have been infringed upon. Eventually Baxter licensed the process to other printers, such as George C. Leighton, who being less perfectionistic, modified the process, and produced commercial color prints more efficiently and more profitably.

"Baxter’s process for producing colour prints combined relief and intaglio printing methods. A ‘key’ plate was prepared, usually made of steel and using any combination of engraving, stipple, etching and aquatint. Baxter also appears to have used mezzotint and lithography to create his key plate on occasion. The key plate provided the main lines of the image and much of the tone, light and shade. It was usually printed in a neutral tone, such as light grey or terracotta. Often Baxter used more than one colour to ink the key plate – for example, to gradate the image from blue in the sky, to buff in the middle distance and to a darker colour in the foreground; i.e. inking the plate à la poupée. Usually Baxter used aquatint for landscapes and stipple to work faces and figures.

"Following printing of the key plate, relief blocks were prepared, usually from wood but also from zinc or copper, using impressions of the key plate to create the blocks. Usually one block was prepared for each colour, although sometimes two or more colours or tints were included on the same block, requiring hand inking of each individual area. Each colour was applied and allowed to dry before adding the next colour. It is thought that Baxter usually started printing with a blue tint and then progressed through the other colours in a predetermined order – all blocks were numbered sequentially and labelled with the colour to be used. Sometimes up to 24 separate colours were used, although ten could be considered an average number. Baxter achieved his precise registration by fixing the print over a number of spikes, over which the blocks would also fit.

"Baxter is thought to have used hand-colouring for finishing touches on occasion – for example, '… extra touches of red on the mouths, high white lights upon jewels . . .' It is also believed Baxter occasionally applied glaze via an additional printing step all over the image, composed of his usual varnish with a ‘hard drier’ added to make it insoluble in water. More often, however, it is thought that Baxter glazed areas of the print selectively by hand using a glaze composed of gum arabic, egg white and Castile soap" (Wikipedia article on George Baxter, accessed 05-17-2012).

Probably the first published "Baxter Prints" were two small cameo prints of birds illustrating the title pages of Robert Mudie's The Feathered Tribes of the British Islands (London, 1834). The are captioned in small type, "Engraved on Wood and Printed in Colours, by G. Baxter."  The following year Baxter color printed title page vignettes and also the frontispieces of Mudie's 4-volume set, The Heavens, the Earth, the Sea, and the Air.  My copy of the first edition of Mudie's The Sea, presumably issued after the Baxter's patent was granted, has a color frontispiece entitled "Evening on the Sea,"captioned "Baxter's Patent Oil Colour Printing."

Burch, Colour Printing and Colour Printers (1910) 124-134.  

♦ For collectors and students of Baxter prints there is the New Baxter Society in England.

(This entry was last revised on 03-19-2014.)

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The Most Famous Image in the Early History of Computing 1839

Portrait of Jacquard woven in silk on a Jacquard loom.

In 1839 weaver Michel-Marie Carquillat, working for the firm of Didier, Petit et Cie, in Lyon, France wove in fine silk a Portrait of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, The image, including caption and Carquillat’s name, taking credit for the weaving, measures 55 x 34 cm.; the full piece of silk including blank margins measures 85 x 66 cm.

This image, of which perhaps only about 20 examples survived, was woven on a Jacquard loom using 24,000 Jacquard cards, each of which had over 1000 hole positions. The process of mis en carte, or converting the image details to punched cards for the Jacquard mechanism, for this exceptionally large and detailed image, would have taken several workers many months, as the woven image convincingly portrays superfine elements such as a translucent curtain over glass window panes.

The Jacquard loom did no computation, and for that reason it was not a digital device in the way we think of digital today. However the method by which Jacquard stored information in punched cards by either punching a hole in s standardized space in a card or not punching a whole in that space is analogous to a zero or one or an on and off switch. It was also an important conceptual step in the history of computing because the Jacquard method of storing information in punched cards, and weaving a pattern by following the series of instructions recorded in a train of punched cards, was used by Charles Babbage in his plans for data and program input, and data output and storage in his general purpose programmable computer, the Analytical EngineOffsite Link. Trains of Jacquard cards were programs in the modern sense of computer programs, though the word "program" did not have that meaning until after the development of electronic computers after World War II.

Once all the “programming” was completed, the process of weaving the image with its 24,000 punched cards would have taken more than eight hours, assuming that the weaver was working at the usual Jacquard loom speed of about forty-eight picks per minute, or about 2800 per hour. More than once this woven image was mistaken for an engraved image. The image was produced only to order, most likely in an exceptionally small number of examples. In 2012 the only publically recorded examples were those in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Science Museum, London, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California. The image was the subject of the book by James Essinger entitled, Jacquard's Web. How a Hand Loom led to the Birth of the Information Age (2004).

To Charles Babbage the incredible sophistication of the information processing involved in the mis en carte — what we call programming— of this exceptionally elaborate and beautiful image confirmed the potential of using punched cards for the input, programming, output and storage of information in his design and conception of the first general-purpose programmable computer—the Analytical Engine. The highly aesthetic result also confirmed to Babbage that machines were capable of amazingly complex and subtle processes—processes which might eventually emulate the subtlety of the human mind.

“In June 1836 Babbage opted for punched cards to control the machine [the Analytical Engine]. The principle was openly borrowed from the Jacquard loom, which used a string of punched cards to automatically control the pattern of a weave. In the loom, rods were linked to wire hooks, each of which could lift one of the longitudinal threads strung between the frame. The rods were gathered in a rectangular bundle, and the cards were pressed one at a time against the rod ends. If a hole coincided with a rod, the rod passed through the card and no action was taken. If no hole was present then the card pressed back the rod to activate a hook which lifted the associated thread, allowing the shuttle which carried the cross-thread to pass underneath. The cards were strung together with wire, ribbon or tape hinges, and fan-folded into large stacks to form long sequences. The looms were often massive and the loom operator sat inside the frame, sequencing through the cards one at a time by means of a foot pedal or hand lever. The arrangement of holes on the cards determined the pattern of the weave.

“As well as patterned textiles for ordinary use, the technique was used to produce elaborate and complex images as exhibition pieces. One well-known piece was a shaded portrait of Jacquard seated at table with a small model of his loom. The portrait was woven in fine silk by a firm in Lyon using a Jacquard punched-card loom. . . . Babbage was much taken with the portrait, which is so fine that it is difficult to tell with the naked eye that it is woven rather than engraved. He hung his own copy of the prized portrait in his drawing room and used it to explain his use of the punched cards in his Engine. The delicate shading, crafted shadows and fine resolution of the Jacquard portrait challenged existing notions that machines were incapable of subtlety. Gradations of shading were surely a matter of artistic taste rather than the province of machinery, and the portrait blurred the clear lines between industrial production and the arts. Just as the completed section of the Difference Engine played its role in reconciling science and religion through Babbage’s theory of miracles, the portrait played its part in inviting acceptance for the products of industry in a culture in which aesthetics was regarded as the rightful domain of manual craft and art” (Swade, The Cogwheel Brain. Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer [2000] 107-8).

(This entry was last revised on 02-28-2016.)

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The First Book Illustrated with Photographs October 1843 – 1853

In October 1843 Anna Atkins, an English amateur botanist and the first woman phtographer, published the first installment of Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions. Atkins published this work privately with a handwritten text from her home in Sevenoaks, Kent, England. She issued a very small number of copies from cyanotypes contact printed by placing specimens directly onto coated paper, allowing the action of light to create a sillhouette effect. Photographs of British Algae was the first book illustrated with photographs, and the first serious application of photography to a scientific subject. The paper Atklns used for the first volume contains a watermark reading "Whatman Turkey Mill 1843." Atkins extended the work into three volumes, with the last part appearing in 1853. 

In May 2011 only seventeen copies of Atkins's book were recorded, in various states of completeness. Only the copy in the Royal Society seems to be complete as Atkins intended, with 389 plates.  Robert Hunt's copy, with 382 plates was sold at Christie's, London for £229,250 ($406,460) in May 2004.

♦ In December 2013 further background information and digital facsimiles were available from the NYPL Digital Gallery.

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) No. 5.

(This entry was last revised on 01-14-2014.)

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The First Photographically Illustrated Book Commercially Published. June 1844 – April 1846

From June 1844 to April 1846 British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot published The Pencil of Nature in six fascicules in London through the firm of Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans. This work was illustrated with 24 calotypes or talbotypes, a photographic process invented by Fox Talbot in 1841, in which salted paper prints were made from paper negatives. It was the "first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published," or "the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs."  

Because the work was a complete novelty to the book-buying public Fox Tablot published a brief "Notice to the Reader" explaining the nature of the images:

"The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone without any aid whatever from the artist's pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation."

Fox Talbot originally intended to publish additional fascicules but discontinued publication after six because the work was a commercial failure. "The numbers of issues produced were not great in comparison to printed works for obvious reasons of technical difficulty, but were still considerable for such a pioneering endeavour. There is slight variance in the numbers quoted in different sources but it is certain over a thousand booklets of the six parts were manufactured. It is beyond dispute that 285 copies of the first pamphlet were created and, with encouraging sales figures 150 copies were produced of the second part. It seems probable that 150 copies of each of the final parts were manufactured. Fox Talbot himself sold the parts for 7/6d, 12/- and 21/-. Additionally, some of the completed series were bound together and a subscription list raised headed by Queen Victoria, while Fox Talbot also gifted a few to his family and close friends. A very few of these bound volumes still exist today" (http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/Feb2007.html, accessed 01-14-2015). Approximately 40 copies of original edition of The Pencil of Nature have survived.

Two facsimiles were published in print in the 20th century, one in the 21st. The text and images are also available online. 

(This entry was last revised on 01-14-2015.)

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Alfred Bonnardot Issues the First Book on the Restoration of Rare Books and their Bindings 1846

In 1846 French bookbinder, restorer, and writer Alfred Bonnardot published Essai sur la restauration des anciennes estampes et des livres rares, ou Traité sur les meilleurs procédés a suivre pour réparer, détacher, décolorier et conserver les gravures, dessins et livres. Ouvrages spécialment utile aux artists, aux collectionneurs, aux marchands d'estampes, aux bibliophiles, etc. This was the first book on the restoration of rare books and their bindings. It also covered issues of restoration of works of art on paper, and was directed toward artists, collectors, print dealers and bibliophiles. The small work consisted of 80 pages, including an index.  

Bonnardot later issued a Supplément of 31 pages with 15 pages of revisions to the previous work and an additional Chapter XV (pp. 16-31) "De la restauration et de la reliure provisoire des livres rares." The Table des Chapitres was published on the first leaf of the index (p. 79).  15 pages of revisions to a text of only 80 pages, plus the addition of an additional chapter as an afterthought, suggest a work that was rapidly published, probably before the author had the opportunity to make sufficient revisions. 400 copies were printed.

In 1858 Bonnardot published a greatly revised second edition of this work. According to his preface to the later edition, the first edition was sold out by 1850, but presumably, having rushed the first edition, Bonnardot took sufficient time to put out a more definitive second edition. The revised edition, published 12 years after the first, consisted of eight preliminary pages, and 352 pages of text. In addition to the greatly expanded text, this edition is useful for its chronological listing, with comments, of rare works on the topics covered in the text. The list includes some books that Bonnardot knew about but was not able to see. The second edition also included an "Exposé des divers systèmes de reproduction des anciennes estampes et des livres rares." This covered lithographic, photographic, and other means of reproduction.  A German translation of the 1858 edition was published in 1859.

Portions of Bonnardot's 1858 edition were translated into English in Buck, Book Repair and Restoration . . . including some Translated Selections from Essai sur l'art de Restaurer les Estampes et les Livres par A. Bonnardot, Paris 1858 (1918).

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1850 – 1875

Allen's Victoria Regia: The First Large Scale Chromolithographed Book Produced in the U.S. 1854

John Fisk Allen's Victoria Regia; or the Great Water Lily of America, With a Brief Account of its Discovery and Introduction into Cultivation: with Illustrations by William Sharp, from Specimens Grown at Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.A., Printed and Published for the Author by Dutton & Wentworth of Boston, was the first large scale color printed book produced in the United States. Its pages measure 21 x 26.5 inches. Its six life-size images were chromolithographed by William Sharp, and of these, one was after a drawing by Allen, and the remaining five were drawn by Sharp specifically to be reproduced by chromolithography. 

America's first chromolithographic printer, William Sharp emigrated to Boston from England in the late 1830s, after working in London for the pioneer lithographer and chromolithographer Charles Hullmandel. Sharp produced the first chromolithograph in the United States in 1840, and his career culminated in Victoria Regia, the plates of which Reese describes as having "printed colors with a delicacy of execution and technical brilliance never before achieved in the United States." Sharp's work was partly successful because the five plates he designed were specifically intended to be printed by chromolithography. The very large format reflects the extraordinary size of the lily; its leaves grow several inches a day until they reach up to 6 feet long, and are strong enough to support the weight of a child. The flowers are 12 to 17 inches in diameter.

Allen's text provides a history of the cultivation of the lily, which was introduced into England after being discovered on the Amazon in the 1830s. Victoria had recently been crowned, and the lily was named in her honor. Allen's lily was given to him by Caleb Frederick Cope, to whom the book is dedicated. Cope, president of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, was the first American to cultivate this lily. The scientific name of the illy is Victoria amazonica.

Reese 19,  Marzio, Democratic Art pp. 18, 215, 279-80.

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Paul Pretsch's "Photographic Art Treasures," the First Book of Printed Reproductions of Photographs 1854 – July 1857

In 1854 Viennese photographer resident in London Paul Pretsch patented a process called "photo-galvanography" for the printed reproduction of photographs. The first print that Pretsch issued was called "Scene in Gaeta after the Explosion." It was "the first relief half-tone and the first commercial use of half-tone" (Printing and the Mind of Man. Catalogue of the Exhibitions Held at the British Museum and at Earls Court, London [1963] No. 629).

In November 1856 Pretsch issued through his Patent-Photo-Galvano-Graphic Company the first fascicule of a book entitled in an oddly circular manner Photographic Art Treasures, or, Nature and Art Illustrated by Art and Nature. This fascicule, which also immodestly characterized itself as "A New Era in Art" on its printed cover, was the first part of the first book of printed reproductions of photographs, as distinct from books illustrated with pasted-in original photographs. A total of five fascicules were published between November 1856 and July 1857, each with 4 "photo-galvano-graphic" plates.

Pretsch's photo-galvanographic process began with a photographically exposed dichromated-gelatine mould which was made to reticulate, from which he produced a copper intaglio plate by galvanoplasty. His halftone method was not entirely original. Others had developed methods of engraving from photographs. As early as the 1830s William Fox Talbot had patented a method of using "photographic screens or veils" in connection with a photographic intaglio process.

"However, Pretsch's system achieved one thing that no others had previously managed— the inclusion of half-tones— the greys which make the photographic image unique. At the time, the half-tone dot screen had not yet been invented and all engravings from photographs such as those used in the Illustrated London News from Fenton's Crimea portraits, were hand-drawn impressions of the original photograph. Even the more advanced process which Pretsch was now attempting to market did not completely dispose of the need for long and careful hand-retouching on the part of the engraver and it took an average of six weeks hard work to prepare just one plate. After all that work, only about five hundred prints could be made before the image started to break up. As with all such processes, the first prints were of a far superior quality to the last— so a sliding scale of charges was evolved, the price depending on the state of the plate at the time the print was made. . . .

"Pretsch was no photographer, however, and he left it to others to provide the pictures for his patent process. Roger Fenton took up his appointment as manager of the Photographic Department and chief photographer, in August 1857. . . .In the short time Fenton had been employed at Holloway Place, the company's head office in Holloway Road, he had not had time to acquire prints by other photographers and so that the first publication of four prints [in the first fascicule of Photographic Art Treasures] was entirely his own work. . . ." (Hannaway, Roger Fenton of Crimble Hall [1976] 65-67).

Paul William Morgan, "Paul Pretsch, Photogalvanography and Photographic Art Treasures," accessed 01-12-2015).

Goldschmidt & Naef, The Truthful Lens (1980) No. 131.

(This entry was last revised on 01-12-2015.)

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François Willème Invents Photosculpture: Early 3D Imaging 1859

In 1859 a Frenchman in Paris, François Willème, who characterized himself as a painter, sculptor and photographer, and "inventeur de la photosculpture," began creating photosculptures of living people. To create a photosculpture Willème would arrange his subject on a circular platform surrounded by 24 cameras— one every 15 degrees. He would then photograph their silhouette simultaneously with each camera. This set of photographic profiles contained the data for a complete representation of his subject in 3 dimensions, although at relatively coarse resolution. 

Willème had now collected layer data for his subjects in the form of 24 different photographs of their profile. To create a 3D image of his subject he needed to make the information in each layer accessible by projecting each image onto a screen. Next, he translated each image into the movements required to fabricate each layer. This he accomplished using a pantograph attached to a cutter. He traced each profile with one end of the pantograph while the other end cut a sheet of wood with the exact same movement. The pantograph allowed the cuts to be smaller, larger, or the same size as the original projection. The layers of wood were then assembled to create the photosculpture. This was necessarily rough; if desired, an artist could smooth the sculpture and perhaps paint it, making it look more like a traditional sculpture.

On January 4, 1864 French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, art critic and literary critic Théophile Gautier published an illustrated article entitled, appropriately, "Photosculpture," in the Moniteur universel newspaper. To advertise the process this was also issued as a separate pamphlet of 14 pp., of which the last two pages consisted of a price list. 

On August 9. 1864 Willème was granted U.S. patent 43,822 for Photographing Sculpture, &c.

Historian of photography Beaumont Newhall published an article on Willèm's process entitled "Photosculpture," Image 7 no. 5 (1958) [99]-105.

Sobieszek, "Sculpture as the Sum of Its Profiles. François Willème and Photosculpture in France, 1859-1868," The Art Bulletin 62, no. 4 (1980) 617-30.

Walters & Thirkell, "New technologies for 3D realization in Art and Design practice," Artifact1 (2007) 232-245.

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Francis Amasa Walker Issues The First National Thematic Atlas 1874

In 1874 American economist, statistician, journalist, educator, academic administrator, and military officer Francis Amasa Walker published in Washington, D.C. at the Government Printing Office Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census 1870 with Contributions from Many Eminent Men of Science and Several Departments of the Government. This oversized compendium of maps, graphs, statistical tables, and essays by scientists, economists, and federal officials was the first comprehensive thematic atlas produced by any nation.  It was hailed both at home and abroad for its innovative use of graphic elements to distill and display complex data. When he conceived and supervised production and publication of this work Walker was Chief of the U. S. Bureau of Statistics and superintendent of the 1870 census. The 60 large maps, most of which were printed in color, were chromolithographed in New York by Julius Bien, who produced the plates for the first American full-size reissue of portions of Audubon's Birds of America (1858-60).

Kinnahan, "Charting Progress: Francis Amasa Walker's Statistical Atlas of the United States and Narratives of Western Expansion," American Quarterly 60 (2008) 399-423.

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1875 – 1900

Invention of Photogravure 1878

In 1877 Czech painter, photographer and illustrator Karel Václav Klíč (Karl Klietsch) became one of the inventors of photogravure.

"The earliest forms of photogravure were developed in the 1830s by the original pioneers of photography itself, Henry Fox Talbot in England and Nicéphore Niépce in France. They were seeking a means to make prints that would not fade, by creating photographic images on plates that could then be etched. The etched plates could then be printed using a traditional printing press. These early images were among the first photographs, pre-dating daguerreotypes and the later wet-collodion photographic processes. Fox Talbot worked on extending the process in the 1850s and patented it in 1852 ('photographic engraving') and 1858 ('photoglyphic engraving'). Photogravure in its mature form was developed in 1878 by Czech painter Karel Klíč, who built on Talbot's research. This process, the one still in use today, is called the Talbot-Klič process" (Wikipedia article on photogravure, accessed 02-05-2012).

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Gaston Tissandier Issues The First Book on Aerial Photography 1886

French chemist, meteorologist, aviator and editor Gaston Tissandier published La photographie en ballon.  This pamphlet included a frontispiece consisting of an original photographic print by Jacques Ducom mounted on stiff card with a tissue overlay key. The key was thought necessary to explain the photograph because people were completely unaccustomed to looking at images from an aerial point of view.

The history of aerial photography began in 1858, when the photographer Nadar took the first photographs from a balloon. His results were only partially successful, as were those of other experimenters who followed him, and it was not until 1878, when factory-made gelatin dry plates were introduced, that aerial photography came into its own. Using gelatin plates, which were twenty times faster than the old wet-collodion plates, the photographer Paul Desmarets obtained two birds-eye views of Rouen in 1880 from a balloon at 4,200 feet. However, Desmarets' results were surpassed five years later by Jacques Ducom, who, in a balloon navigated by Gaston Tissandier, was able to take superb aerial photographs of Paris from a height of 1,800 feet.

"Ducom's view of the Ile Saint-Louis, Paris from 1,800 ft leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Through a magnifying glass people can be counted on the bridge. The exposure of this and the other photographs taken on this flight was 1/50 second, using a specially constructed guillotine shutter which was opened pneumatically and closed automatically with a rubber spring" (Gernsheim & Gernsheim, The History of Photography 1685-1914 p. 508). Tissandier's La photographie en ballon records his and Ducom's achievements in aerial photography, and also surveys the work of Nadar, Desmarets, Shadbolt, Triboulet, Pinard, Weddel and other aerial photographers. The preface mentions the pioneering aerial photograph of Boston taken in 1860 by J. W. Black from a tethered balloon at 1,200 feet. Tissandier, who saw a print of Black's photograph, described it as "assurément fort curieuse, mais comme les précédentes elle manque de netteté et semble en outre avoir été prise  très faible hauteur" (p. vi). Gernsheim & Gernsheim, pp. 507-8. Frizot, A New History of Photography, p. 391.

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"Le Journal Illustré" Publishes the First Photo-Interview September 5, 1886

On September 5, 1886 Le Journal Illustré in Paris published on pp. 284-88 "L'Art de vivre cent ans. Trois entretiens avec Monsieur Chevreul." This appeared in Vol. 23, No. 36 of the periodical.  Besides the portrait of Chevreul on the cover, the article included  half-tone reproductions of a series of twelve unposed photographs taken on August 18, 1886 by photographer Paul Nadar of his father, the photographer and aeronaut Félix Nadar, interviewing the chemist and sceptic Michel Eugène Chevreul on Chevreul's 100th birthday. This was the first photographic interview, sometimes called the first media interview. 

In front of the camera, Nadar and Chevreul discussed photography, color theory, Molière and Pasteur, the scientific method, the crazy ideas of balloonists, and – of course – how to live for 100 years. It was a lively and interesting conversation between two legends of the 19th century: one born before the French revolution; the other destined to see the marvels of the airplane and motion pictures.  

In 2012 ABC Australia made a commercial documentary film re-creating the interview in the style of an early motion picture.  

Auer, Paul Nadar. Le premier interview photographique. Chevreul. Félix Nadar. Paul Nadar (1999), included a reduced-size fold-out reproduction of the issue of Le Journal Illustré in which the photo-interview was published so that the images could be viewed side-by-side in sequence.

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1900 – 1910

Revealing a Hidden Image in a 1901 Painting by Picasso in a 2012 Newspaper Article 1901 – October 24, 2012

Since 1989 conservators and art historians have known that hidden beneath the surface of Picasso's “Woman Ironing”  preserved in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, is the upside-down ghost of another painting — a three-quarter-length portrait of a man with a mustache. The hidden image was first seen in photographs of this painting from Picasso's Blue Period (1901-1904) taken with an infrared camera in 1989.  

On October 24, 2012 The New York Times published an article by Carol Vogel on this painting and the painting hidden underneath entitled "Under One Picasso, Another."  From the standpoint of this database on the history of media what I find most interesting about this is the "interactive feature" published in association with the article entitled "Scratching the Surface, Two Picassos Revealed."

A very clever imaging program in the interactive feature invited the reader to "click and drag your mouse over the painting to see what was hidden beneath it." As I wiped the top image of the painting off with mouse strokes the painting underneath was revealed.  I could also rotate the image and reset it back to the top layer.

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Curtis's The North American Indian 1907 – 1930

IN 1907, using funds supplied by J. Pierpont Morgan, entrepreneur and photographer Edward S. Curtis began publication and sale by subscription in Seattle, Washington, of The North American Indian, Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska.

The massive work was written and illustrated by Curtis, and edited by anthropologist Frederick Webb Hodge. Volume one contained an introduction by Theodore Roosevelt. The original publication project was intended to occur over five years.  Twenty-three years later the work was finally complete,  in 20 volumes of text and illustrations, and 20 large portfolios, including 723 leaves of photogravure reproductions of photographs.

"This publication follows the nineteenth-century Euro-American tradition of capturing the 'otherness' of indigenous American Indian life in photography and narrative chronicles. It is set apart by its ambitious scale, and by the striking effect of its images, which are essentially contrived reconstructions rather than true documentation.

"Originally planned for five years, the complicated project was slowed by prohibitive expenses. Public reception was mixed. Less than half of 500 projected sets were printed. Scholars, while interested in staff notes on vocabulary and lore, were dubious of Curtis’s methods of observation. In the 1970s the photographs began to enjoy a nostalgic revival in reprints, and have had a lasting, if controversial, influence on views of the American Indian" (http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/curtis/aboutwork.html).

"The lavishly illustrated volumes were printed on the finest paper (Dutch etching stock or Japanese tissue paper) and bound in expensive leather, making the price prohibitive for all but the most avid collectors and libraries.

"Subscriptions started at $3000 on the Van Gelder paper in 1907; by 1924 the base price had risen to $4200.

"Although the plan was to sell 500 sets, it appears that Curtis secured just over 220 subscriptions over the course of the project, and printed less than 300 sets.

"In 1935 the assets of the project were liquidated, and the remaining materials were sold to the Charles Lauriat Company, a rare book dealer in Boston. Lauriat acquired nineteen unsold sets of The North American Indian, thousands of individual prints, sheets of unbound paper, and the handmade copper photogravure plates. The book dealer printed a sales brochure and sold nearly seventy more sets at the reduced price of $1245 each. The sets sold apparently included the nineteen remaining original sets plus additional ones made up from loose sheets and newly printed plates" (http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/curtis/description.html).

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1910 – 1920

"Ridgway Colors" 1912

American ornithologist Robert Ridgway self-published in Washington, D.C. Color Standards and Nomenclature. This evolved out of his 1886 book, A Nomenclature of Colors for Naturalists, and Compendium of Useful Knowledge for Ornithologists, which was one of the first color systems for bird identification.

"Ridgway was with the Smithsonian Institution from the age of 24 until his death. In 1912 he printed 5,000 copies of his book Color Standards and Nomenclature, one of the most influential works on color ever published. This was prompted by his problems with color descriptions in bird portraits. So he developed descriptions of 1,150 colors as well as the technology for making and printing them all; his wife cut all the color swatches by hand and pasted them into the books. In providing a textual description he used very colorful language--deep turtle green, clean fluoride green, malachite green, shamrock green, light Danube green, deep dull green. The books are historic artifacts in and of themselves. But it's important to note that the book is still very much in use. Everyone from stamp collectors to naturalists to chemists refers to 'Ridway colors' to identify specific shades"  (Daniel Lewis, "In Living Color. A Conversation with the Dibner Senior Curator of the History of Science & Technology" by Traude Gomez-Rhine, Huntington Frontiers IV, #2 [2008] 7)

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1930 – 1940

The Henry Graves Supercomplication, the Most Valuable Watch in the World 1933

In 1933 Patek Philippe of Geneva delivered to New York banker Henry Graves, Jr. "the Supercomplication," a gold pocket watch with 24 functions. The watch, which took Patek Philippe three years to research and five years to manufacture, cost Graves 60,000 Swiss francs in 1933 (USD $15,000). It is considered the most complicated of all mechanical watches; only one was ever made.

Among the watch's features are a double face, perpetual calendar, phases of the moon, a chronograph that can time two simultaneous events, Westminster chimes, and indications for the time of sunset and sunrise, and a celestial chart depicting the night sky over New York's Central Park, as seen from Graves' home on Fifth Avenue.

"Graves died in 1953. His heirs sold the watch in 1968 to The Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, which closed in March 1999. (From January 2001 through February 2004 the Time Museum collection was displayed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, then sold.)] The watch was held in the Rockford Time Museum until it was sold at Sotheby's for a record breaking $11,002,500 to an anonymous bidder in New York City on December 2, 1999. The owner was later known to be a member of the Qatari Royal Family, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani. The watch was on loan to the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, Switzerland for several years, and was the most expensive single piece on display.
On July 10, 2014, Sotheby's announced that in November 2014, the watch would once again be auctioned. It sold for 23.2 million Swiss francs (≈USD $24 million/ ≈19.3 million Euros) at Sotheby’s in Geneva on November 11, 2014, setting a new record price for any timepiece sold at auction" (Wikipedia article on Henry Graves (banker) accessed 11-12-2014).

On November 11, 2014 the New York Times published an article by Reuters on the sale of the "Supercomplication" which included a particularly striking image of the watch.

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1950 – 1960

The Earliest Pioneer in Electronic Art 1950 – 1953

In 1950 American draftsman, graphic artist and mathematician Benjamin (Ben) F. Laposky of Cherokee, Iowa, first used a cathode ray oscilloscope with sine wave generators and various other electrical and electronic circuits to create abstract art, which he called "electrical compositions." The electrical vibrations shown on the screen of the oscilloscope, which included Lissajous figures, he recorded by still photography. Some of Laposky's images were published in Scripta Mathematica in 1952.

In 1953 Laposky exhibited fifty images that called "Oscillons" (or oscillogram designs) at the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, Iowa. To record this exhibition and Laposky's statements of his artistic philosophy the museum published an exhibition catalogue entitled electronic abstractions. Because of this exhibition Laposky is credited as the earliest pioneer in electronic art, more specifically in the analog vector medium. In later work Laposky also incorporated motorized rotating filters of variable speed to color the patterns. He never programmed computers to create images.

A version of Laposky's electronic abstractions show was exhibited across the United States, in France at LeMons, and other places by the Cultural Relations Section of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

In later work Laposky incorporated motorized rotating filters of variable speed to color the patterns, recording the images by color photography.

Herzogenrath & Nierhoff-Wielk, Ex Machina–Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. Ex Machina-Early Computer Graphics up to 1979 (2007) 229.

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"Can Man Build a Superman?" January 23, 1950

The cover by Boris Artzybasheff on the January 23, 1950 issue of TIME Magazine depicted the Harvard Mark III partly electronic and partly electromechanical computer as a Naval officer in Artzybasheff's "bizarrely anthropomorphic" style. The caption under the image read, "Mark III. Can Man Build a Superman?" The cover story of the magazine was entitled "The Thinking Machine."

The Mark III, delivered to U.S. Naval Proving Ground at the US Navy base at Dahlgren, Virginia in March 1950, operated at 250 times the speed of the Harvard Mark I (1944). 

Among its interesting elements,  the Time article included an early use of the word computer for machines rather than people. The review of Wiener's Cybernetics published in TIME in December 1948, referred to the machines as calculators.

"What Is Thinking? Do computers think? Some experts say yes, some say no. Both sides are vehement; but all agree that the answer to the question depends on what you mean by thinking.

"The human brain, some computermen explain, thinks by judging present information in the light of past experience. That is roughly what the machines do. They consider figures fed into them (just as information is fed to the human brain by the senses), and measure the figures against information that is "remembered." The machine-radicals ask: 'Isn't this thinking?'

"Their opponents retort that computers are mere tools that do only what they are told. Professor [Howard] Aiken, a leader of the conservatives, admits that the machines show, in rudimentary form at least, all the attributes of human thinking except one: imagination. Aiken cannot define imagination, but he is sure that it exists and that no machine, however clever, is likely to have any."

"Nearly all the computermen are worried about the effect the machines will have on society. But most of them are not so pessimistic as [Norbert] Wiener. Professor Aiken thinks that computers will take over intellectual drudgery as power-driven tools took over spading and reaping. Already the telephone people are installing machines of the computer type that watch the operations of dial exchanges and tot up the bills of subscribers.

"Psychotic Robots. In the larger, "biological" sense, there is room for nervous speculation. Some philosophical worriers suggest that the computers, growing superhumanly intelligent in more & more ways, will develop wills, desires and unpleasant foibles' of their own, as did the famous robots in Capek's R.U.R.

"Professor Wiener says that some computers are already "human" enough to suffer from typical psychiatric troubles. Unruly memories, he says, sometimes spread through a machine as fears and fixations spread through a psychotic human brain. Such psychoses may be cured, says Wiener, by rest (shutting down the machine), by electric shock treatment (increasing the voltage in the tubes), or by lobotomy (disconnecting part of the machine).

"Some practical computermen scoff at such picturesque talk, but others recall odd behavior in their own machines. Robert Seeber of I.B.M. says that his big computer has a very human foible: it hates to wake up in the morning. The operators turn it on, the tubes light up and reach a proper temperature, but the machine is not really awake. A problem sent through its sleepy wits does not get far. Red lights flash, indicating that the machine has made an error. The patient operators try the problem again. This time the machine thinks a little more clearly. At last, after several tries, it is fully awake and willing to think straight.

"Neurotic Exchange. Bell Laboratories' Dr. [Claude] Shannon has a similar story. During World War II, he says, one of the Manhattan dial exchanges (very similar to computers) was overloaded with work. It began to behave queerly, acting with an irrationality that disturbed the company. Flocks of engineers, sent to treat the patient, could find nothing organically wrong. After the war was over, the work load decreased. The ailing exchange recovered and is now entirely normal. Its trouble had been 'functional': like other hard-driven war workers, it had suffered a nervous breakdown" (quotations from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,858601-7,00.html, accessed 03-05-2009).

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Probably the First Computer-Controlled Aesthetic System 1953 – 1957

Between 1953 and 1957 English cybernetician and psychologist Gordon Pask, in collaboration with Robin McKinnon-Wood, created Musicolour, a reactive system for theatre productions, or a computer-controlled aesthetic system, that "drove an array of lights that adapted to a musician's performance" (Mason, a computer in the art room. the origins of british computer arts 1950-1980 [2008] 6). This was one of the earliest examples of "computer art." The system's analog computer was transported from performance to performance.

Pask discussed and explained Musicolour in A comment, a case history and a plan (1968) written before the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition (1968) in which Musicolour was demonstrated. However the text was not published in the catalogue of that exhibition. It was first published in Reichardt ed., Cybernetics: Art and Ideas (1971) 76-99.

Pickering, The Cybernetic Brain. Sketches of Another Future (2010) 313-324.

(This entry was last revised on 08-14-2014.)

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The First Use of a Computer to Write Literary Texts October 1954

In the October 1954 issue of the journal Enounter (pp. 25-31) British computer scientist Christopher Strachey published "The 'Thinking' Machine."  Strachey's paper included two love letters written by the Ferranti Mark I computer at the University of Manchester running a program which he had written. This represented the first use of a computer to write literary texts.

Herzogenrath & Nierhoff-Wielk, Ex Machina-Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. . . . Ex Machina- Early Computer Graphics to 1979 (2007) 229.

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1960 – 1970

William Fetter Coins the Term "Computer Graphics" 1960

William A Fetter: while working for Boeing, made the first computer model of the human body ("Boeing Man"), and coined the term computer graphics.

In 1960 William A. Fetter, an art director at The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, coined the term “computer graphics.” With Walter Bernhardt, assistant professor of applied mechanics from Wichita State University, Kansas, Fetter outlined a new concept of perspective which Bernhardt converted to mathematics. The same year Boeing established a formal research program to determine how computing technology could be used for design.

See also the entry on "Boeing Man."

(This entry was last revised on 10-18-2014.)

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Among the Beginnings of Computer Art in the United States August 28, 1962

"During the summer of 1962, A. Michael Noll . . . had an assignment working in the research division of Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he was employed as a Member of Technical Staff. His summer project involved the programming of a new method for the determination of the pitch of human speech – the short-term cepstrum. The results of the computer calculations were plotted on the Stromberg Carlson SC-4020 microfilm plotter.

"The SC-4020 plotter had a cathode ray tube that was photographed automatically with a 35-mm camera. The SC-4020 was intended as a high-speed printer in which the electron beam was passed through a character mask and the shaped beam positioned on the screen while the shutter of the camera remained open. The staff of the computer center wrote a FORTRAN software package to interface with the SC-4020 in positioning the electron beam to draw images on the screen, mostly plots of scientific data, with a 1024-by-1024 resolution.

"A colleague (Elwyn Berlekamp) had a programming error that produced a graphic mess on the plotter, which he comically called 'computer art.' Noll decided to program the computer to create art deliberately, drawing on his past training in drawing and interests in abstract painting. He described [and illustrated] the results in an internal published Technical Memorandum 'Patterns by 7090' dated August 28, 1962.

"Noll’s early pieces combined mathematical equations with pseudo randomness. Today his work would be called programmed computer art or algorithmic art. Much art is produced today by drawing and painting directly on the screen of the computer using programs designed expressly for such purposes.

"Two early works by Noll were 'Gaussian-Quadratic' and 'Vertical Horizontal Number Three.' Stimulated by 'op art,' he created 'Ninety Parallel Sinusoids' as a computer version of Bridget Riley’s 'Currents.' Noll believed that in the computer, the artist had a new artistic partner. Noll used FORTRAN and subroutine packages he wrote using FORTRAN for all his art and animation" (A. Michael Noll, "First Hand: Early Digital Art at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., accessed 01-19-2014).

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Using his BEFLIX Computer Animation Language, Ken Knowlton Produces "A Computer Technique for the Production of Animated Movies" 1963 – 1966

In 1963, Kenneth C. Knowlton, working at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ, developed the BEFLIX (Bell Flicks) programming language for bitmap computer-produced movies, using an IBM 7094 computer and a Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder. This was the first computer animation language. Each frame created with BEFLIX contained eight shades of grey and a resolution of 252 x 184. Using this technique, Knowlton in 1963 created a 10 minute 16mm silent film entitled A Computer Technique for the Production of Animated Movies.  

At the Spring Joint Computer Conference of AFIPS, on April 21-23, 1964 Knowlton delivered a paper entitled, appropriately enough, "A computer technique for producing animated movies." This was published in the Proceedings on pp. 67-87. The paper reproduced some images from Knowlton's film and indicated that the film could be borrowed from Bell Labs. Most of the paper reproduced programming code in Beflix.

The following year published "Computer-Produced Movies. A computer-controlled display tube and camera can produce animated movies quickly and economically," Science 150 (November 16, 1965) 1116-1120. This was offprinted as Bell Telephone System Technical Publications Monograph 5112.

And, in 1966 Knowlton published "Computer-Generated Movies, Designs and Diagrams," Design Quarterly, No. 66/67, Design and the Computer (1966), 58-63.

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The First to Create Three-Dimensional Images of the Human Body Using a Computer 1964

"Boeing Man" or "Human Figure," a wireframe drawing printed on a Gerber Plotter.  It was used as a standard figure of a pilot.

In 1964 William A. Fetter, an art director at The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, supervised development of a  computer program that allowed him to create the first three-dimensional images of the human body through computer graphics. Using this program Fetter and his team produced the first computer model of a human figure for use in the study of aircraft cockpit design. It was called the “First Man” or "Boeing Man." Though Fetter's wire frame drawings could be called commercial art, they were of a high aesthetic standard.

Herzogenrath & Nierhoff-Wielk, Ex-Machina–Frühe Computergrafik bis 1979. Die Sammlunge Franke. . . . Ex-Machina– Early Computer Graphics up to 1979 (2007) 239.

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William Fetter Issues the First Book on Computer Graphics 1965

Example of image from Computer Graphics in Communication.  Please click to view larger image.

Detail of cover of Computer Graphics in Communication. Please click to see entire image.

Detail of title page of Computer Graphics in Communication. Please click to see entire image.

William Fetter taken when he worked at Boeing.

In 1965 William A. Fetter of The Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, issued the first book on computer graphics: Computer Graphics in Communication. This 110-page work with nearly 100 illustrations may be the first monograph illustrated with computer graphics. Fetter had coined the term "computer graphics" in 1960. The book was "Written for the Course Content Development Study in Engineering Graphics Supported by the National Science Foundation September, 1964." As a reflection of the novelty of its topic, the book contained a bibliography of seven references but stated that none were used directly in its development.

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The Earliest Public Exhibitions of Computer Art February 5 – November 26, 1965

The first public exhibitions of computer art were:

Feb 5-19, 1965:

Generative Computergrafik. Studien-Galerie des Studium Generale, Technische Hochschule Stuttgart. held by Frieder Nake and Georg Nees. Opened by Max Bense.  

Apr 6-24, 1965:

Computer-generated pictures. Howard Wise Gallery, New York, held by A. Michael Noll, Bela Julesz, both of whom worked at Bell Labs. The announcement for the show was a small deck of colored IBM punch cards.

"The agreement was that any profits from the sale of the works would be split between the Wise Gallery and either Julesz or Noll. In the end, not a single work was sold" (Noll, First-Hand: Early Digital Art at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., accessed 01-19-2014).

Nov 5-26, 1965:

Computergrafik. Galerie Wendelin Niedlich, Stuttgart. held by Frieder Nake and Georg Nees. Opened by Max Bense.

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The Computer Artis Society, the First Society for Computer Art, is Founded in London 1968

In the months following the ground breaking London exhibition, Cybernetic Serendipity, that showcased computer-based and technologically influenced works in graphics, music, film, and interactivity, Alan SutcliffeGeorge Mallen, and John Lansdown founded the Computer Arts Society in London. The Society enabled relatively isolated artists working with computers in a variety of fields to meet and exchange information. It also ran practical courses, conferences and exhibitions.

"In March 1969, CAS organised an exhibition entitled Event One, which was held at the Royal College of Art. The exhibition showcased innovative work with computers across a broad range of disciplines, including sculpture, graphics, music, film, architecture, poetry, theatre and dance. CAS founder John Lansdown, for example, designed and organised a dance performance that was choreographed entirely by the computer and performed by members of the Royal Ballet School. The multi-media approach of exhibitions such as Event One greatly influenced younger artists and designers emerging at this time. Many of these artists were rebelling against the traditional fine art hierarchies of the time, and went on to work in the new fields of computer, digital, and video art as a result.

"CAS established links with educational establishments, journalists and industry, ensuring greater coverage of their activities and more importantly helping to provide access to computing technology at a time when this was difficult. CAS members were remarkably ahead of their time in recognising the long term impact that the computer would have on society, and in providing services to those already working creatively with the computer. By 1970 CAS had 377 members in 17 countries. Its journal 'PAGE' was first edited by auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger, and is still being produced today. The Computer Arts Society is a specialist group of the British Computer Society" (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/v-and-a-computer-art-collections/, accessed 01-19-2014).

In January 2014 all of the early issues of Page, beginning with "Page 1," April 1969 were available from the website of the Computer Arts Society Specialty Group of the BCS at this link.

In 2007 the Computer Arts Society donated its collection of original computer art to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which maintains one of the world's largest and most significant collections of computer art. The V&A's holdings in this field were the subject of an article by Honro Beddard entitled "Computer Art at the V&A," V&A Online Journal, Issue No. 2 (2009), accessed 01-19-2014). 

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"Incredible Machine" State of the Art in Computer Generated Film, Graphics and Music in 1968 1968

In 1968 scientists at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey, created "Incredible Machine,"a color film that that represented the state-of-the- art in computer-generated film, graphics, and music at the time. 

The film featured artwork and computer graphics by Ken Knowlton and 
computer-generated music by Max Mathews. The title sequence was programmed by A. Michael Noll using his four-dimensional animation technique and is perhaps the first use of computer animation for title sequences. The computer ballet during the end credits was by A. Michael Noll. The basilar membrane animation was done by Robert C. Lummis, Man Mohan Sondhi, and A. Michael Noll.

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Cybernetic Serendipity: The First Widely-Attended International Exhibition of Computer Art August 2 – October 20, 1968

From August 2  to October 20, 1968 Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts was exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, curated by British art critic, editor, and Assistant Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts Jasia Reichardt, at the suggestion of Max Bense. This was the first widely attended international exhibition of computer art, and the first exhibition to attempt to demonstrate all aspects of computer-aided creative activity: art, music, poetry, dance, sculpture, animation.

In the video below Jasia Reichardt introduced the exhibition:

"It drew together 325 participants from many countries; attendance figures reached somewhere between 45,000 and 60,000 (accounts differ) and it received wide and generally positive press coverage ranging from the Daily Mirror newspaper to the fashion magazine Vogue. A scaled-down version toured to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC and then the Exploratorium, the museum of science, art and human perception in San Francisco. It took Reichardt three years of fundraising, travelling and planning" (Mason, a computer in the art room. the origins of british computer arts 1950-80 [2008] 101-102)

For the catalogue of the show Reichardt edited a special issue of Studio International magazine, consisting of 100 pages with 300 images, publication of which coincided with the exhibition in 1968. The color frontispiece reproduced a color computer graphic by the American John C. Mott-Smith "made by time-lapse photography successively exposed through coloured filters, of an oscilloscope connected to a computer." The cover of the special issue was designed by the Polish-British painter, illustrator, film-maker, and stage designer Franciszka Themerson, incorporating computer graphics from the exhibition. Laid into copies of the special issue were 4 leaves entitled "Cybernetic Serendipity Music," each page providing a program for one of eight tapes of music played during the show. This information presumably was not available in time to be printed in the issue of Studio International.

Reichardt's Introduction  (p. 5) included the following:

"The exhibition is divided into three sections, and these sections are represented in the catalogue in a different order:

"1. Computer-generated graphics, computer-animated films, computer-composed and -played music, and computer poems and texts.

"2. Cybernetic devices as works of art, cybernetic enironments, remoted-control robots and painting machines.

"3. Machines demonstrating the uses of computers and an environment dealing with the history of cybernetics.

"Cybernetic Sernedipity deals with possibilites rather than achievements, and in this sense it is prematurely optimistic. There are no heroic claims to be made because computers have so far neither revolutionized music, nor art, nor poetry, the same way that they have revolutionized science.

"There are two main points which make this exhibition and this catalogue unusual in the contexts in which art exhibitions and catalogues are normally seen. The first is that no visitor to the exhibition, unless he reads all the notes relating to all the works, will know whether he is looking at something made by an artist, engineer, mathematician, or architect. Nor is it particularly important to know the background of all the makers of the various robots, machines and graphics- it will not alter their impact, although it might make us see them differently.

"The other point is more significant.

"New media, such as plastics, or new systems such as visual music notation and the parameters of concrete poetry, inevitably alter the shape of art, the characteristics of music, and content of poetry. New possibilities extend the range of expression of those creative poeple whom we identify as painters, film makers, composers and poets. It is very rare, however, that new media and new systems should bring in their wake new people to become involved in creative activity, be it composiing music drawing, constructing or writing.

"This has happened with the advent of computers. The engineers for whom the graphic plotter driven by a computer represented nothing more than a means of solving certain problems visually, have occasionally become so interested in the possibilities of this visual output, that they have started to make drawings which bear no practical application, and for which the only real motives are the desire to explore, and the sheer pelasure of seeing a drawing materialize. Thus people who would never have put pencil to paper, or brush to canvas, have started making images, both still and animated, which approximate and often look identical to what we call 'art' and put in public galleries.

"This is the most important single revelation of this exhibition." 

Some copies of the special issue were purchased by Motif Editions of London.  Those copies do not include the ICA logo on the upper cover and do not print the price of 25s. They also substitute two blanks for the two leaves of ads printed in the back of the regular issue. They do not include the separate 4 leaves of programs of computer music.  These special copies were sold by Motif Editions with a large  (75 x 52 cm) portfolio containing seven 30 x 20 inch color lithographs with a descriptive table of contents. The artists included Masao Komura/Makoto Ohtake/Koji Fujino (Computer Technique Group); Masao Komura/Kunio Yamanaka (Computer Technique Group); Maugham S. Mason, Boeing Computer Graphics; Kerry Starnd, Charles "Chuck" Csuri/James Shaffer & Donald K. Robbins/ The art works were titled respectively 'Running Cola is Africa', 'Return to Square', 'Maughanogram', 'Human Figure', 'The Snail', 'Random War' & '3D Checkerboard Pattern'.  Copies of the regular edition contained a full-page ad for the Motif Editions portfolio for sale at £5 plus postage or £1 plus postage for individual prints.

In 1969 Frederick A. Praeger Publishers of New York and Washington, DC issued a cloth-bound second edition of the Cybernetic Serendipity catalogue with a dust jacket design adapted from the original Studio International cover. It was priced $8.95. The American edition probably coincided with the exhibition of the material at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. The Praeger edition included an index on p. 101, and no ads. Comparison of the text of the 1968 and 1969 editions shows that the 1969 edition contains numerous revisions and changes.

In 2005 Jasia Reichardt looked back on the exhibition with these comments:

"One of the journals dealing with the Computer and the Arts in the mid-sixties, was Computers and the Humanities. In September 1967, Leslie Mezei of the University of Toronto, opened his article on 'Computers and the Visual Arts' in the September issue, as follows: 'Although there is much interest in applying the computer to various areas of the visual arts, few real accomplishments have been recorded so far. Two of the causes for this lack of progress are technical difficulty of processing two-dimensional images and the complexity and expense of the equipment and the software. Still the current explosive growth in computer graphics and automatic picture processing technology are likely to have dramatic effects in this area in the next few years.' The development of picture processing technology took longer than Mezei had anticipated, partly because both the hardware and the software continued to be expensive. He also pointed out that most of the pictures in existence in 1967 were produced mainly as a hobby and he discussed the work of Michael Noll, Charles Csuri, Jack Citron, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, and H.P. Paterson. All these names are familiar to us today as the pioneers of computer art history. Mezei himself too was a computer artist and produced series of images using maple leaf design and other national Canadian themes. Most of the computer art in 1967 was made with mechanical computer plotters, on CRT displays with a light pen or from scanned photographs. Mathematical equations that produced curves, lines or dots, and techniques to introduce randomness, all played their part in those early pictures. Art made with these techniques was instantaneously recognisable as having been produced either by mechanical means or with a program. It didn't actually look as if it had been done by hand. Then, and even now, most art made with the computer carries an indelible computer signature. The possibility of computer poetry and art was first mentioned in 1949. By the beginning of the 1950s it was a topic of conversation at universities and scientific establishments, and by the time computer graphics arrived on the scene, the artists were scientists, engineers, architects. Computer graphics were exhibited for the first time in 1965 in Germany and in America. 1965 was also the year when plans were laid for a show that later came to be called 'Cybernetic Serendipity' and presented at the ICA in London in 1968. It was the first exhibition to attempt to demonstrate all aspects of computer-aided creative activity: art, music, poetry, dance, sculpture, animation. The principal idea was to examine the role of cybernetics in contemporary arts. The exhibition included robots, poetry, music and painting machines, as well as all sorts of works where chance was an important ingredient. It was an intellectual exercise that became a spectacular exhibition in the summer of 1968" (http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/exhibitions/serendipity/images/1/, accessed 06-16-2012). This website reproduces photographs of the actual exhibition and a poster printed for the show.

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K. G. Pontius Hultén Curates "The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age" : An Art Exhibition November 27, 1968 – February 9, 1969

Swedish art collector and curator K. G. Pontius Hultén curated and wrote the catalogue for The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from November 27, 1968 to February 9, 1969. This was a landmark exhibition on the history of the machine in its relationship to art from the Renaissance to 1968; or as the editor stated, it was "a collection of comments on technology by artists of the Western world" (p. 3). The art reproduced and described in the catalogue— including much that was radical for its time—was mainly in traditional media such as prints or paintings, sculptural or mechanical, with a few electro-mechanical items, and one example of laser art.

Only the last two items in the exhibition were examples of computer graphics, the first of which was a digitized and pixilated image of a reclining nude, entitled "The Nude," executed in 1966 Leon D. Harman and Kenneth C. Knowlton, researchers at Bell Labs. "Knowlton relates how they tossed a coin to determine who would be listed in the museum catalogue as the 'artist' (Harmon) and as the 'engineer' (Knowlton)" (Noll, First Hand: Early Digital Art at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc, accessed 01-19-2014).  Creation of "The Nude" as shown in a five foot by twelve enlargement was discussed in a New York Times article by Henry R. Lieberman entitled "Art and Science Proclaim Alliance in Avant-Garde Loft," October 11, 1967.

That the show took place only a month after the pioneering computer art show, Cybernetic Serendipity, closed in London, was probably a coincidence.

The design and production of the catalogue was unusually excellent, including a very striking binding of aluminum sheeting with a stamped enamel-painted design of the MOMA building on the upper cover.

In January 2014 all the press release documents, including detailed information about art exhibited, were available from the Museum of Modern Art website at this link.

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Lloyd Sumner Issues The First Monograph by a Computer Artist December 1968

Cover of Computer Art and Human Response by Lloyd Sumner.

In 1968 print dealer and book collector Paul B. Victorius of Charlottesville, Virginia published Computer Art and Human Response by computer artist Lloyd Sumner. This oblong 8vo of 96 pages, dedicated "To my good friends the Burroughs B5500 and the Calcomp 565," appears to be the first monograph by a computer artist, and because it explains techniques, it is probably the first book on how to produce computer art, as William Fetter's 1965 book on Computer Graphics in Communication was focused on computer graphics used in engineering.

Sumner's book is extensively illustrated with numerous plotter images output on the Calcomp 565, several of which are reproduced in color, making it one of the earliest books exclusively illustrated with computer graphics. Sumner's book was probably published in December 1968.  The text refers to Sumner's participation in the Cybernetic Serendipity show in London held from August to October 1968, indicating that "over 50,000 people" attended that show, and the introduction to the book by the president of the University of Virginia is dated August 1968. Two presentation copies in my collection are dated December 12 and 13 respectively.

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1970 – 1980

Franke Issues the First Comprehensive Treatise on Computer Graphics with the First History of Computer Art 1971

Cover of Computergraphik-Computerkunst, by H.W. Franke. Please click on image to see larger version of image.

Herbert W. Franke.

In 1971 Austrian scientist, science fiction writer, and computer graphics artist Herbert W. Franke published Computergraphik-Computerkunst in Munich at the press of F. Bruckmann.  Within the same year his book was also translated into English by Gustav Metzger and published by Phaidon in London and New York as Computer Graphics, Computer Art. In many respects Franke's extensively illustrated book was the first comprehensive treatise on computer graphics, representing the state of the art in 1971.  It also contained the first history of computer art in graphics, sculpture, film, music, architecture, theater and dance.

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Mandelbrot's "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" 1975 – 1982

In 1975 French American mathematician, physicist, economist, and information theorist Benoit Mandelbrot, a researcher at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, first developed fractal geometry in his book, Les objets fractals, forme, hasard et dimension, building on the concept that seemingly irregular shapes can have identical structure at all scales. Mandelbrot expanded and translated his ideas in his book Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension (1977). He further expanded them in The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1982). In 1999 American Scientist magazine stated that these three books, taken together, comprise “one of the ten most influential scientific essays of the 20th century.” The impact of these books on the scientific community, and on the educated public, was significantly enhanced by mathematically accurate computer-drawn illustrations created by programmers working with Mandelbrot, primarily at IBM Research. Images for the 1977 and 1982 books were mainly by Richard F. Voss. The early graphics were low-resolution black and white; later drawings were higher resolution and in color as computer graphic technology evolved between 1975 and 1982.

Mandelbrot's new geometry made it possible to describe mathematically the kinds of irregularities existing in nature, and had applications in an enormously wide range of scientific and technological fields.

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1980 – 1990

The First Digital Image Database of Cultural Materials 1987

To photograph, store, and organize the art work of the painter, Andrew Wyeth in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in 1987 Fred Mintzer, Henry Gladney and colleagues at IBM developed a high resolution digital camera for photographing art works and a PC-based database system to store and index the images. The system was used by Wyeth's staff to photograph, store, and organize about 10,000 images. "Pictures were scanned at a spatial resolution of 2500 by 3000 pixels and a color depth of 24 bits-per-pixel, and were color calibrated." This was the first digital image database of cultural materials.

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1990 – 2000

An Encoded Sculpture, Still Not Decoded November 3, 1990

On November 3, 1990 American sculptor James Sanborn completed the cryptographic sculpture, Kryptos, on the grounds of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia.

"The name Kryptos comes from the Greek word for 'hidden', and the theme of the sculpture is 'intelligence gathering.' The most prominent feature is a large vertical S-shaped copper screen resembling a scroll, or piece of paper emerging from a computer printer, covered with characters comprising encrypted text. The characters consist of the 26 letters of the standard Roman alphabet and question marks cut out of the copper. This 'inscription' contains four separate enigmatic messages, each apparently encrypted with a different cipher."

"The ciphertext on one half of the main sculpture contains 869 characters in total, however Sanborn released information in April 2006 stating that an intended letter on the main half of Kryptos was missing. This would bring the total number of characters to 870 on the main portion. The other half of the sculpture comprises a Vigenère encryption tableau, comprising 869 characters, if spaces are counted. Sanborn worked with a retiring CIA employee named Ed Scheidt, Chairman of the CIA Cryptographic Center, to come up with the cryptographic systems used on the sculpture. Sanborn has since revealed that the sculpture contains a riddle within a riddle which will be solvable only after the four encrypted passages have been decrypted. He said that he gave the complete solution at the time of the sculpture's dedication to CIA director William H. Webster. However, in an interview for wired.com in January 2005, Sanborn said that he had not given Webster the entire solution. He did, however, confirm that where in part 2 it says "Who knows the exact location? Only WW," that "WW" was intended to refer to William Webster. He also confirmed that should he die before it becomes deciphered that there will be someone able to confirm the solution" (Wikipedia article on Kryptos, accessed 05-09-2009).

Steven Levy, "Mission Impossible: The Code that Even the CIA Can't Crack," Wired 17.05 (May 2009).

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"The Book and Beyond" Exhibition Takes Place April 7 – October 1, 1995

In its Design Now Room, 20th Century Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London held the exhibition The Book and Beyond. Electronic publishing and the art of the book. To accompany the exhibition from April 7 to October 1, 1995 the museum published a pamphlet. In 2001 they incorporated material in the pamphlet into a website.

The exhibition was divided into five sections:

1. Introduction

2. Artists' books and books as art

3. Artists' books and books as art

4. Electronic publications

"Various forms of "electronic publishing" - including videodiscs, "floppy books", CD-ROMs, and the Internet - have become increasingly evident in the 1980s and 1990s. Some electronic publications are based upon information which was previously available in a linear form, and they represent a natural progression from computer typesetting or video. Others have been conceived specifically to exploit the potential offered by the new media. The method of presentation is crucial to the success (or otherwise) of these publications, and designers and publishers are still learning to use the new technology."

5. Artists, computers and publishing

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The Digital Michelangelo Project 1998

Marc Levoy and team began The Digital Michelangelo Project at Stanford University in 1998 using laser scanners to digitize the statues of Michelangelo, as well as 1,163 fragments of the Forma Urbis Romae, a giant marble map of ancient Rome.

The quality of the scans was so high that the Italian government would not permit the release of the full data set on the Internet; however, the Stanford researchers built a system called ScanView that allowed viewing of details of specific parts of the statue, including parts that would be inaccessible to a normal museum visitor. In December 2013 Scanview could be downloaded at this link.

The laser scan data for Michelangelo's David was utilized in its cleaning and restoration that began in September 2002. This eventually resulted in a 2004 book entitled Exploring David: Diagnostic Tests and State of Conservation.

"In preparation for this restoration, the Galleria dell'Accademia undertook an ambitious 10-year program of scientific study of the statue and its condition. Led by Professor Mauro Matteini of CNR-ICVBC, a team of Italian scientists studied every inch of the statue using color photography, radiography (i.e. X-rays), ultraviolet fluorescence and thermographic imaging, and several other modalities. In addition, by scraping off microsamples and performing in-situ analyses, the mineralogy and chemistry of the statue and its contaminants were characterized. Finally, finite element structural analyses were performed to determine the origin of hairline cracks that are visible on his ankles and the tree stump, to decide if intervention was necessary. (They decided it wasn't; these cracks arose in 1871, when the statue briefly tilted forward 3 degrees due to settling of the ground in the Piazza Signoria. This tilt was one of the reasons they moved the statue to the Galleria dell'Accademia.)  

"The results of this diagnostic campaign are summarized in the book Exploring David . . . . The book, written in English, also contains a history of the statue and its past restorations, a visual analysis of the chisel marks of Michelangelo as evident from the statue surface, and an essay by museum director Franca Falletti on the difficulties of restoring famous artworks. . . .  

"Aside from its sweeping scientific vision, what is remarkable about this book is that many of the studies employed a three-dimensional computer model of the statue - the model created by us during the Digital Michelangelo Project. Although we worked hard to create this model, and we envisioned 3D models eventually being used to support art conservation, we did not expect such uses to become practical so soon. After all, our model of the David is huge; outside our laboratory and a few others in the computer graphics field, little software exists that can manipulate such large models. However, with help from Roberto Scopigno and his team at CNR-Pisa, museum director Franca Falletti prodded, encouraged, and cajoled the scientists working under her direction to use our model wherever possible. We contributed a chapter to this book, on the scanning of the statue, but we take no credit for its use in the rest of the book. In fact, to us at Stanford University, the timing of our scanning project relative to the statue's restoration and the creation of this book seems merely fortuitious. However, Falletti insists that she had this use of our model in mind all along! In any case, this is a landmark book - the most extensive use that has ever been made of a 3D computer model in an art conservation project" (http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/book/book.html, accessed 12-23-2009).

On July 21, 2009 the team announced that they had a "full-resolution (1/4mm) 3D model of Michelangelo's 5-meter statue of David", containing "about 1 billion polygons."

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Foundation of Designboom 1999

In 1999 German industrial designer Birgit Lohmann co-founded Designboom in Milan Italy with Massimo Mini. Designboom was the first independent web publication dedicated to architecture and design.

"Based in Milan with her family, Birgit Lohmann runs the website of her own creation, Designboom. At Designboom, people from around the world can compete in design competitions, view design jobs and share their design work.  

"Having created one of the go-to websites for design knowledge, Birgit Lohmann is certainly on the cutting edge. We had the chance to speak with her about the role trend spotting plays in her work with Designboom.

"1. How did you get involved with Designboom and what motivates you to continue?  

"I practiced as an industrial designer and product development manager for 15 years, I worked for a number of Italian architects and master designers which include Achille Castiglioni, Vico Magistretti, Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari and Renzo Piano. At that time we did not use computers, we drew by hand and made lots of models and prototypes. I was able to work on the first chair using polypropylene and developed the tools for producing it. I enjoyed the work so much, that I did not plan to work on my own, but then there was a time when the ‘eternal assistant’ aspired for more autonomy.  

"Two of the things I like best - spending time in nature and figuring out how things work. I got to combine these things through Internet publishing. Massimo Mini and I founded Designboom in 1999. We left Milan with our two children (at that time 9 and 5 years old) and lived in Bali for a while. In between tropical plants in our garden we created an open air office with 4 desks, where the kids did drawings and homework (which was sent to us by email from their Italian school teachers) and we created and updated Designboom.  

"1999 - we are the ‘grandparents’ of online publishing in the field of art, architecture and design. When we started there were only two other relevant sites, the American Core77.com and the Belgian DesignAddict.com. Core77 was created by students inside the university and this targeted their audience - students and young professionals. Designaddict was initially a XX century design collector’s database. Designboom, because of our work experience, always reached design professionals. The ‘real world’ is a place where things change all the time, and it is essential to be updated continuously.  

"Based in Milan, our small international team is still made up of designers, not journalists. We talk about real experience, cultural intents and influences, restraints and contradictions. We stimulate a global discussion and the rapport that we’ve established with our readers and the greater design community keeps us motivated. It’s a lot of work, not exactly a typical 9-to-5 job, but we spend our days sharing ideas with people of all ages and backgrounds from more than 200 countries. Seriously - what could be better?!" (http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/birgit-lohmann-interview. accessed 01-15-2013).

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2005 – 2010

Connectomes: Elements of Connections Forming the Human Brain September 30, 2005

Olaf Sporns

Giulio Tononi

Neuroscientists Olaf Sporns of Indiana University, Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin, and Rolf Köttler of Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany, published "The Human Connectome: A Structural Description of the Human Brain," PLoS Computational Biology I (4). This paper and the PhD thesis of Patric Hagmann from the Université de Lausanne, From diffusion MRI to brain connectomics, coined the term connectome:

In their 2005 paper  Sporns et al. wrote:

"To understand the functioning of a network, one must know its elements and their interconnections. The purpose of this article is to discuss research strategies aimed at a comprehensive structural description of the network of elements and connections forming the human brain. We propose to call this dataset the human 'connectome,' and we argue that it is fundamentally important in cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology. The connectome will significantly increase our understanding of how functional brain states emerge from their underlying structural substrate, and will provide new mechanistic insights into how brain function is affected if this structural substrate is disrupted."

In his 2005 Ph.D. thesis, From diffusion MRI to brain connectomics, Hagmann wrote:

"It is clear that, like the genome, which is much more than just a juxtaposition of genes, the set of all neuronal connections in the brain is much more than the sum of their individual components. The genome is an entity it-self, as it is from the subtle gene interaction that [life] emerges. In a similar manner, one could consider the brain connectome, set of all neuronal connections, as one single entity, thus emphasizing the fact that the huge brain neuronal communication capacity and computational power critically relies on this subtle and incredibly complex connectivity architecture" (Wikipedia article on Connectome, accessed 12-28-2010).

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Pixar at MOMA December 14, 2005

The Pixar logo

A poster for Pixar at the Moma

The Moma

On December 14, 2005 the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, opened PIXAR: 20 Years of Animation:

"The Most Extensive Gallery Exhibition that MoMA has ever devoted to Animation along with a Retrospective of Pixar Features and Shorts."

Notably MoMA found it unnecessary to characterize the exhibition as "computer animation" since by this time virtually all animation was done by computer. They published a 175 page printed catalogue of the exhibition.

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Damage to Codex Atlanticus Caused by Efforts at Preservation April 2006

A self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci in red chalk

A unique edition of the Codex Atlanticus as it was in the 1600s. The book is a box made by Pompeo Leoni to collect all of the pages made by Mario Taddei in 2007

In April 2006 Carmen Bambach of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York discovered an extensive invasion of molds of various colors, "including black, red, and purple, along with swelling of pages" on the priceless manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus, preserved in the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana in Milan. 

In 2008 The Opificio delle Pietre Dure, in Florence "determined that the colors found on the pages weren't the product of mold, but instead caused by mercury salts added to protect the Codex from mold."

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The First Magazine Cover Created as iPhone Art June 1, 2009

Artist Jorge Columbo's cover art for the New Yorker magazine of June 1, 2009 drawn entirely on an iPhone using the Brushes app was the first iPhone art published as the cover of a major magazine.

"It has been widely reported that my drawings are now made on an iPhone... Considering all the sketches and watercolors and photographs I have done in the USA for the past twenty years, my output in the Brushes app since I bought a G3 last February is still rather small. It has attracted more attention than anything else I have done: it seems people can't resist a nice tech story. But it's a happy affair. As much as I enjoy and admire other media, drawing on a screen that's always bright even on a dark street, with no paint to carry, no brushes to wash, and countless levels of "undo", seems to agree with me. I always work on location, drawing everything from scratch, with no use of photography whatsoever. (The app churns out Quicktime movies that detail each brushtroke, as seen in The New Yorker's website; it mercifully ignores all the trial-and-errors and failed attempts, making my progression look uncannily flawless. That's so not true.) I could carry a pad or even an easel around. But drawing on a phone is so discreet, so casual" (http://www.drawger.com/jorgecolombo/?section=articles&article_id=9154, accessed 01-07-2010).

♦ On January 07, 2010 you could watch a series of Quicktime movies of Jorge Columbo creating iPhone paintings on the New Yorker website at this link: http://www.newyorker.com/video?videoID=40951183001.

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Discovery of Unknown Portrait by Leonardo Confirmed by a Fingerprint October 13, 2009

"The ghost of a fingerprint in the top left corner of an obscure portrait appears to have confirmed one of the most extraordinary art discoveries. The 33 x 23cm (13 x 9in) picture, in chalk, pen and ink, appeared at auction at Christie’s, New York, in 1998, catalogued as 'German school, early 19th century'. It sold for $19,000 (£11,400). Now a growing number of leading art experts agree that it is almost certainly by Leonardo da Vinci and worth about £100 million.

"Carbon dating and infra-red analysis of the artist’s technique are consistent with such a conclusion, but the most compelling evidence is that fragment of a fingerprint.

"Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, found it while examining images captured by the revolutionary multispectral camera from the Lumière Technology company, Antiques Trade Gazette reports today.

"Mr Biro has pioneered the use of fingerprint technology to help to resolve art authentication disputes. Multispectral analysis reveals each layer of colour, and enables the pigment mixtures of each pixel to be identified without taking physical samples. The fingerprint corresponds to the tip of the index or middle finger, and is 'highly comparable' to one on Leonardo’s St Jerome in the Vatican. Importantly, St Jerome is an early work from a time when Leonardo was not known to have employed assistants, making it likely that it is his fingerprint.

"Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford, is convinced and recently completed a book about the find (as yet unpublished). He said that his first reaction was that 'it sounded too good to be true — after 40 years in the business, I thought I’d seen it all'. But gradually, “all the bits fell into place.”

Professor Kemp has rechristened the picture, sold as Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress, as La Bella Principessa after identifying her, 'by a process of elimination', as Bianca Sforza, daughter of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan (1452-1508), and his mistress Bernardina de Corradis. He described the profile as 'subtle to an inexpressible degree', as befits the artist best known for the Mona Lisa.

"If it is by Leonardo, it would be the only known work by the artist on vellum although Professor Kemp points out that Leonardo asked the French court painter Jean Perréal about the technique of using coloured chalks on vellum in 1494.

"The picture was bought in 1998 by Kate Ganz, a New York dealer, who sold it for about the same sum to the Canadian-born Europe-based connoisseur Peter Silverman in 2007. Ms Ganz had suggested that the portrait 'may have been made by a German artist studying in Italy ... based on paintings by Leonardo da Vinci'.

"When Mr Silverman first saw it, in a drawer, 'my heart started to beat a million times a minute,' he said. 'I immediately thought this could be a Florentine artist. The idea of Leonardo came to me in a flash.'

"Carbon-14 analysis of the vellum gave a date range of 1440-1650. Infra-red analysis revealed stylistic parallels to Leonardo’s other works, including a palm print in the chalk on the sitter’s neck 'consistent ... to Leonardo’s use of his hands in creating texture and shading', according to Mr Biro" (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article6872019.ece, accessed 10-14-2009).

♦Another very useful report on this discovery appeared in Antiques Trade Gazette on October 12, 2009.

♦An interview with Peter Silverman about the purchase appeared in Antiques Trade Gazette on October 26, 2009.

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David Hockney's iPhone Art October 22, 2009

On October 22, 2009 Lawrence Wechler, director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University,  published "David Hockney's iPhone Passion," New York Review of Books LXVI, no. 16, 35.

Hockney had a history of exploiting new technologies in his art:

"Hockney continued to explore other media besides painting, most notably photography. From 1982-86, he created some of his best-known and most iconographic work — his “joiners,” large composite landscapes and portraits made up of hundreds or thousands of individual photographs. Hockney initially used a Polaroid camera for the photos, switching to a 35 mm camera as the works grew larger and more complex. In interviews, Hockney related the “joiners” to cubism, pointing out that they incorporate elements that a traditional photograph does not possess — namely time, space, and narrative.

"Always willing to adopt new techniques, in 1986 Hockney began producing art with color photocopiers. He has also incorporated fax machines (faxing art to an exhibition in Brazil, for example) and computer-generated images (most notably Quantel Paintbox, a computer system often used to make graphics for television shows) into his work" (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/david-hockney/the-colors-of-music/103/, accessed 01-09-2010).

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2010 – 2012

An Interactive Pop-Up Children's Book App for the iPhone & iPad December 16, 2010

On December 16, 2010 GameCollage.com, based in Seattle, issued Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book for iPhone, iPod touch, and the iPad. The app, which cost $3.99, was an interactive children's book which allowed the reader to push, pull, spine, slide and explore interactive pages, and to see, in a virtual way, how the mechanism of the book would work if it were an actual paper pop-up book. The art was adapted from original illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke.  The app included a "whimsical sound track with colorful sound effects." When apples fell out of the tree, they fell in the direction the iPad was tipped. 

Unlike an actual popup book printed on paper, which might feature high quality paper, paper engineering, printing, and binding,  the app featured "silky smooth animation running at constant 60 frames per second," and a "highly polished user interface."

In December 2013 a video ad for the app was available from YouTube at this link

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"Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information" 2011

In 2011 Manuel Lima, who characterized himself on his website as an "Interaction Designer, Information Architect, and Design Researcher," published Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information through Princeton Architectural Press in New York. This spectacular, modernistically designed, full color book may best be characterized as two books in one. Its first 80 pages are a profound intellectual and visual interpretation of landmarks in information visualization from the ancient world through the early twentieth century. The remainder of the book illustrates, analyzes and classifies types of state of the art visualizations of complex information sets. 

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The Google Art Project February 1, 2011

Bringing technology developed for Street View indoors, Google introduced The Art Project.  Simultaneously they introduced an Art Project channel on YouTube.

These projects allowed you to take virtual tours of major museums, view relevant background material about art, store high resolution images, share images and commentaries with friends.

Each of the 17 museums involved also chose one artwork to be photographed using gigapixel photo capturing technology, resulting in an image on the computer containing seven billion pixels and providing detail not visible to the naked eye.

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2012 – 2016

Using a Densitometer to Measure Usage of Medieval Books of Hours April 23, 2012

On April 23, 2012 the website of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland published an article entitled Dirty books reval secret lives of people living in mediaeval times. This article described a technique invented by Kathryn Rudy, lecturer in the School of Art History at St. Andrews, of using a densitometer to measure the dirt levels on pages of medieval books of hours, showing which pages were most read, leaving dirty residue. 

"Dr Rudy’s new technique with the machine, used on mediaeval prayer books, has shown people were as self-interested, and afraid of illness as today.  

"The ground-breaking research has even managed to pinpoint the moment that people fell asleep reading the same book.  

"For example one of the dirtiest pages in a selection of European religious books was a prayer to St Sebastian who was often prayed to because his arrow-wounds (the cause of his martyrdom) looked like the bubonic plague.

"This shows us that the reader of the book was terrified of the plague and repeated the prayer to ward off the disease.  

"Similarly pages which contained the prayers for the salvation of others were less dirty than those asking for salvation for oneself.  

"As well as demonstrating mediaeval people prayed for their own assistance, the analysis showed the pages of a prayer to be said in the small hours of the morning were only dirty for the first few pages.  

"Dr Rudy extrapolates that it shows most readers fell asleep at the same point.  

"She said: 'Although it is often difficult to study the habits, private rituals and emotional states of people, this new technique can let us into the minds of people from the past.  

“ 'Religion was inseparable from physical health, time management, and interpersonal relationships in mediaeval times. In the century before printing, people ordered tens of thousands of prayer books—sometimes quite beautifully illuminated ones—even thought they might cost as much as a house.  

“ 'As a result they were treasured, read several times a day at key prayer times, and through analysing how dirty the pages are we can identify the priorities and beliefs of their owners' " (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2012/Title,85210,en.html, accessed 06-23-2012).

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The First 3D Printshow Takes Place in London October 2012

In October 2012 the first 3D Printshow London occurred. 

"Blending technology, art, design and medical applications with a live show that featured music and fashion, it gave visitors a glimpse of the future, where 3D printing will be used across almost every industry. The show sold out completely, meaning that we welcomed more than 4,000 visitors across three days, from industry leaders and prominent technologists to designers, artists and families. With a packed exhibition floor, three sold out live shows, the world's largest gallery of 3D printed art and a series of seminars and workshops hosted by the biggest names in 3D printing, the show was buzzing!" (http://3dprintshow.com/london2012/, accessed 07-08-2013).

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The First 3D Photo Booth Prints Personal Miniature Figures November 12, 2012 – August 9, 2013

On November 12, 2012 designboom.com reported on a limited edition pop-up installation developed by the Japanese firm omote3D.com that reproduces personal detailed miniature action figures.

"ranging from 10 to 20 centimetres in height, the system utilizes a three-dimensional camera and printer to process and scan users, creating custom scale reproductions. The three-step procedure requires the user to keep still for 15 minutes while the scanners capture the data" (http://www.designboom.com/art/personal-action-figures-printed-at-a-japanese-photo-booth/, accessed 08-11-2013).

On August 9, 2013 designboom.com reported on an expansion of the concept developed and commercialized by Twinkind.com in Hamburg, Germany.

"ever imagined a true-to-life miniature version of yourself? well - now it's possible. these 3D printed portrait figurines by twinkind are made using state-of-the art 3D scanning and color printing technology. the miniatures are available to anyone who can make it to twinkind's studio in hamburg, with a 15cm tall figure costing €225 and a 35cm model coming in at €1290. several other size options are also available" (http://www.designboom.com/technology/3d-printed-portrait-figurines-by-twinkind/?utm_campaign=daily&utm_medium=e-mail&utm_source=subscribers, accessed 08-11-2013).

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Titian's Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro is Rediscovered January 7, 2013

On January 7, 2013 The Guardian newspaper reported that a portrait of the Renaissance physician Girolamo Fracastoro, stored in London's National Gallery since 1924, was attributed to Titian, adding to the National Gallery's great collection of the works of this painter:

"How was this painting misrecognised for so long? When a painting is regarded as not by anyone famous and put in a museum's dark corners, Penny suggests, a self-fulfilling process starts: curators are less likely to examine it, or clean it, or even properly frame it. But in this case fresh eyes, including those of the art historian Paul Joannides, were cast on a forgotten painting and it was taken to the lab to be restored. Discoveries there about the canvas and technique blaze the name Titian.  

"Fracastoro's portrait has been damaged over the centuries, although the new cleaning by the National Gallery has revealed a very characterful face. The background is more problematic and Penny admits its clumsy architecture remains a puzzle.  

"But Titian's genius flares in one fantastic detail that makes this painting – warts and all – truly captivating. "It's not the head that is so amazing in this picture", as Penny puts it, "but the fur."  

"We are feasting our eyes on a flecked mist of white, gold, brown and black, a virtuoso, nearly abstract performance that has all the magic of Titian. With joyous freedom and a casual command of fluffy gossamer colours, the master sensualist has recreated the richness of a lynx fur hung over Fracastoro's shoulders. "The great thing about the lynx is that it has got this brown smudge as well as black and white," enthuses Penny about the animal whose fur Titian so convincingly copied. /He shows me how lynx fur also features in Titian's nearby group portrait of the men of the Vendramin family – lynx was a favourite for rich Venetians.  "Fracostoro worked in Verona, in the empire of the Venetian republic. As well as naming syphilis, he came up with a modern theory of contagion, saying diseases were transmitted by tiny "spores". This was a big advance on the orthodoxy of the time that sicknesses such as plague were caused by bad air.  

"The lynx is an appropriate animal for such a man to sport on his shoulders, for this cat was famous for its eyesight. Italian scientific pioneers including Galileo belonged to the Academy of Lynxes, which associated the creature's eyesight with the pursuit of empirical truth" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/jan/07/titian-painting-rediscovered-national-gallery, accessed 01-09-2013).

A scholarly article on the rediscovery by Jill Dunkerton, Jennifer Fletcher and Paul Joannides entitled "A portrait of ‘Girolamo Fracastoro’ by Titian in the National Gallery" was published in the January 2013 issue of The Burlington Magazine.

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The First 3D Printing Pen; Drawing Enters the Third Dimension February 2013

On February 21, 2013 at 7:10 AM PST the 3Doodler 3D printing pen project on Kickstarter.com had 12,743 backers who had pledged $1,129.404, drastically exceeding the original goal of raising $30,000, and there were 31 days to go on the fund-raising program. By the time I finished writing this database entry the totals had already increased to 12,801 backers who pledged $1,134,565. Photographs and videos on the websites described the remarkable features of the invention.

"A hand draws a square on a piece of paper–the standard first step for drawing a representation of a cube. But then, instead of drawing a second square on the paper, and connecting the edges with ink, the hand rises up. A plastic material emits from the pen, as the hand “draws,” or sculpts, really, the vertical edges of the cube. Then the hand caps off the cube with edges at the top. The whole structure stays sturdy.

"Drawing has entered the third dimension.

"3-D printing has always been about empowering smaller artisans, about taking what is traditionally the realm of major manufacturers, and bringing some of that power closer to the creators. The journey of 3-D printing, in many ways, has been bringing technology that’s traditionally been too expensive for individuals or even small businesses, and making that (or similar) technology available to the little guys. To wit: one company made a portable 3-D printer that, as of my writing about it in November, only cost a few hundred dollars (see: “3-D Printing on a Budget”).  

"The 3Doodler is far cheaper and easier to use, and though less capable in some ways, it has the curious effect of leapfrogging the technology that it’s descended from. 3-D printers are gaining in cultural mindshare, yet I still have to explain to some people what is meant by such a device (“printing” simply evokes an ironclad image of ink and paper, for many). Most people have never seen one; I’m a professional tech journalist, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person. Yet I’m a click away from dropping $75 on my very own 3Doodler pen. It’s cheap, it’s novel, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see technology like this to have a crossover appeal with DIYers and upscale toy store owners alike.  

"As a result, many people may be introduced to a “3-D printing pen” before they even know what a 3-D printer is to begin with. Though the analogy is accurate–the 3Doodler heats and cools plastic in a controlled way, much like a 3-D printer–I wonder if the company might have more success by breaking with precedent and simply describing the thing as a “sculpture pen,” or something of the sort. I might even call it “the skywriter.”  

"Here is the ultimate democratization of 3-D printing. “If you can scribble, trace or wave a finger in the air you can use a 3Doodler,” explain Wobble Works on their Kickstarter page The clever people of Wobble Works have brought 3-D creation to masses of people who might otherwise not have had access to it. Kudos to them, and I look forward to seeing what kinds of creativity their invention unleashes" (http://www.technologyreview.com/view/511471/a-3-d-printing-pen-wows-kickstarter/?utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=newsletter-daily-all&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20130220, accessed 02-21-2013)

The 3Doodler was a project of Boston-based WoobleWorks LLC, an emerging toy and robotics company led by Peter Dilworth and Maxwell Bogue.

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Software Turns a Smartphone into a 3D Scanner December 5, 2013

On December 5. 2013 scientists led by Marc Pollefeys, head of the Computer Vision and Geometry Group in the Institute of Visual Computing at ETH Zurich announced that they developed an app that turned an ordinary Android smartphone into a 3D scanner. Marc Pollefeys commented that two years ago software of this type would have been expected to run only on large computers. "That this works on a smartphone would have been unthinkable."

Rather than taking a regular photograph, a user moves the phone and its camera around the object being scanned, and after a few motions, a three dimensional model appears on the screen. As the user keeps moving the phone and its camera, additional images are recorded automatically, extending the wireframe of the virtual object. Because all calculations are programmed into the software, the user gets immediate feedback and can select additional viewpoints to cover missing parts of the rendering. The system utilizes the inertial sensors of the phone, extracting the camera views in real-time based on kinetic motion capture. The resulting 360 degree model can be used for visualization or augmented reality applications, or rapid prototyping with CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and 3D printers.

Because the app worked even in low light conditions, such as in museums and churches, it was suggested that a visitor in a museum could scan a sculpture and consider it later at home or at work.

In December 2013 a YouTube video showing how the 3D scanning app worked as well as examples of 3D printed objects made from cell phone scans were available at this link.

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"TOP 10 3D Printing Stories of 2013" December 20, 2013

With the advent of comparatively inexpensive 3D printers intended for the consumer market, by the end of 2013 3D printing had become a widespread consumer and industrial phenomenon, applied to untold numbers of new products and art forms. On December 20, 2013 Designboom.com, based in Milan, Italy, published their illustraded list of TOP 10 3D printing stories of 2013

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Selfiecity.net. Analysis and Visualization of Thousands of Selfie Photos. . . . February 25, 2014

On February 25, 2014 I received this email from "new media" theorist Lev Manovich via the Humanist Discussion Group, announcing the launch of a cutting edge website analyzing the "Selfie" phenomenon: 

 "Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2014 21:00:30 +0000
        From: Lev Manovich <manovich@softwarestudies.com>
        Subject: Inntroducing selfiecity.net  - analysis and visualization of thousands of selfies photos from five global cities

"Welcome to Selfiecity!

I'm excited to announce the launch of our new research project selfiecity.net. The website presents analysis and interactive visualizations of 3,200 Instagram selfie photos, taken between December 4 and 12, 2013, in Bangkok, Berlin, Moscow, New York, and São Paulo.

The project explores how people represent themselves using mobile photography in social media by analyzing the subjects’ demographics, poses, and expressions.

Selfiecity (http://softwarestudies.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=67ffe3671ec85d3bb8a9319ca&id=edb72af8ec&e=8a08a35e11) investigates selfies using a mix of theoretic, artistic and quantitative methods:

* Rich media visualizations in the Imageplots section assemble thousands of photos to reveal interesting patterns.
* An interactive component of the website, a custom-made app Selfiexploratory invites visitors to filter and explore the photos themselves.
* Theory and Reflection section of the website contribute to the discussion of the findings of the research. The authors of the essays are art historians Alise Tifentale (The City University of New York, The Graduate Center) and Nadav Hochman (University of Pittsburgh) as well as media theorist Elizabeth Losh (University of California, San Diego).

The project is led by Dr. Lev Manovich, leading expert on digital art and culture; Professor of Computer Science, The Graduate Center, CUNY; Director, Software Studies Initiative."

Considering the phenomenon that selfies had become, I was not surprised when two days later reference was made, also via the Humanist Discussion Group, to  "a very active Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/664091916962292/ 'The Selfies Research Network'." When I looked at this page in February 2014 the group had 298 members, mostly from academia, but also including professionals in fields like social media, from many different countries.

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A Machine Vision Algorithm Learns to Attribute Paintings to Specific Artists May 2015

In May 2015 Babak Saleh and Ahmed Elgammal of the Department of Compuer Science, Rutgers University, described an algorithm that could recognize the Style, Genre, and Artist of a painting.

"Saleh and Elgammal begin with a database of images of more than 80,000 paintings by more than a 1,000 artists spanning 15 centuries. These paintings cover 27 different styles, each with more than 1,500 examples. The researchers also classify the works by genre, such as interior, cityscape, landscape, and so on.

"They then take a subset of the images and use them to train various kinds of state-of-the-art machine-learning algorithms to pick out certain features. These include general, low-level features such as the overall color, as well as more advanced features that describe the objects in the image, such as a horse and a cross. The end result is a vector-like description of each painting that contains 400 different dimensions.

"The researchers then test the algorithm on a set of paintings it has not yet seen. And the results are impressive. Their new approach can accurately identify the artist in over 60 percent of the paintings it sees and identify the style in 45 percent of them.

"But crucially, the machine-learning approach provides an insight into the nature of fine art that is otherwise hard even for humans to develop. This comes from analyzing the paintings that the algorithm finds difficult to classify.

"For example, Saleh and Elgammal say their new approach finds it hard to distinguish between works painted by Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet. But a little research on these artists quickly reveals both were active in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and that both attended the Académie Suisse in Paris. An expert might also know that Pissarro and Monet were good friends and shared many experiences that informed their art. So the fact that their work is similar is no surprise.

"As another example, the new approach confuses works by Claude Monet and the American impressionist Childe Hassam, who, it turns out, was strongly influenced by the French impressionists and Monet in particular.  These are links that might take a human some time to discover" (MIT Technology Review May 11, 2015).

Saleh, Babak, and Elgammal, Ahmed," Large-scale Classification of Fine-Art Paintings; Learning the Right Metric on the Right Feature" (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1505.00855v1.pdf, 5 May 2015.

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