Friday, October 21, 2005

Digital Bachot

I've been revisiting Ramelli. Why was a Catholic so heavily invested in the theatrum machinarum game. The other authors were hard-core Calvinists. Besson was married by John Calvin himself. de Cerceau, Besson's engraver, was famous as a Huguenot architect in a country of Catholics. Rumour has it that Errard was a Protestant and Solomon de Caus certainly was.

The theatrum machinarum format would certainly be attractive to Protestants. Philibert de l'Orme was fingered as a closet Protestant due to his writings and the particular bits of scripture he elected to cite. Given the image-heavy presentation of the machine books, Protestants could contribute some popular works that echoed the Calvinist plan of development without actually outing themselves.

So why did Ramelli contribute his own work? Was he a closet Calvinist? This seems unlikely given his long-standing military and royal service. Did he just want to get some fame for himself? Perhaps.

Regardless, the exceptional case of Ramelli is an interesting one. To revisit his work I've pulled the reprints of both his own work and the German translation. I had never seen plates from the German work until today and they certainly lived up to their reputation: they suck. I can't comment on the copy since I don't read German, certainly not German printed in heavy Gothic type!

The German work is marked by the differences in type-face, tail-pieces, and attention to detail in the plates. Even the frontispiece is different. What I found most remarkable, however, is an initial in the bottom corner of page 31 (a rip-off of Ramelli's Plate 12 for those keeping score). The initial is a large "A" capping a smaller capital "B." Could these be the initials of Ambroise Bachot, the former protege and plagiarizer? I don't know and unfortunately I don't have such easy access to the work of Bachot...

...or so I thought. I just found a digital version of Bachot's Le Gouvernail courtesy of the National Library of France. What other goodies do they have?


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