Monday, November 07, 2005

What's the Deal With Branca?

Giovanni Branca's Le Machine (1629) is often cited in the same paragraph as some of its brethren: Ramelli, Besson, etc. There is, however, one big difference: it sucks. The wood cuts are inexpertly rendered and the machines depicted are far from novel. So why is it important? For that matter, why does it exist? Was it cheaper than similar works (both Besson and Ramelli were available in Italian)? Is it the chap book of the theatrum machinarum? Was the relatively large amount of text it contains an important selling point?

I shouldn't knock it too hard. The wood cuts of Le Machine are at least as good as those in equivalent English works by Wilkins and Bates. The nature of the machine books seems to have changed some time in this era. We have beautiful and increasingly detailed works by authors like Bockler, Zonca, and--eventually--Leupold, and increasingly low-fi but text heavy works.

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