Saturday, January 14, 2006

Heirich Zeising

I pulled some information on Zeisig from Gale's World Biographial Information System. The Deutsches Biographisches Archiv (DBA) yields the following information:


Thieme/Becker. Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart / herausgegeben von Ulrich Thieme und Felix Becker. - Leipzig: Seemann, 1907-1950. - 37 Bde


Zeising, Heinrich, Zeicher f. d. Kupferstih, 16./17. Jahrh., tätig in Leipzig.
Verfasser des 1607ff. erschien. Stichwerks: "Theatri Machinarum Erster (-Sechster) Theill In Welchem Vilerley Künstiche Mahinae... zu sehen... ", das Landschaften mit Maschinen, Wasserkünsten, Mühlen, Brunnen enthalt; vielleicht auch Zeichner der H Z bez. Zierleisten mit allegor. Figuren, die zu Werken aus der Leipz. Offizin Abrah. Lamberg, verwendet wurden.
Lit.: Nagler, Monogr., 3 (1863). --[Jessen,] Kat. der Ornamentst. -Slg des Kstgew. -Mus. [Berlin], 1894. -- Kat. der Ornamentstichsmlg der Staatl. Kstbibl. Berlin, 1939.

Thieme/Becker (Hrsg.): Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Bd. 36. 1947 (346)

Unfortunately, I don't think that even Google will be able to translate this one. Perhaps Beck will present me with some more information.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fiske on Steam and Rumours

John Fiske provides some interesting insight and de Caus and his role in the steam engine. This passage is taken from his "The Unseen World and Other Essays" (October, 1998). Specifically, the Project Gutenberg text is quoted (

We have devoted so much space to this problem, by far the most
considerable of those treated in Mr. Delepierre's book, that we
have hardly room for any of the others. But a false legend
concerning Solomon de Caus, the supposed original inventor of the
steam-engine, is so instructive that we must give a brief account
of it.

In 1834 "there appeared in the Musee des Familles a letter from
the celebrated Marion Delorme, supposed to have been written on
the 3d February, 1641, to her lover Cinq-Mars." In this letter it
is stated that De Caus came four years ago [1637] from Normandy,
to inform the King concerning a marvellous invention which he had
made, being nothing less than the application of steam to the
propulsion of carriages. "The Cardinal [Richelieu] dismissed this
fool without giving him a hearing." But De Caus, nowise
discouraged, followed close upon the autocrat's heels wherever he
went, and so teased him, that the Cardinal, out of patience, sent
him off to a madhouse, where he passed the remainder of his days
behind a grated window, proclaiming his invention to the
passengers in the street, and calling upon them to release him.
Marion gives a graphic account of her visit, accompanied by the
famous Lord Worcester, to the asylum at Bicetre, where they saw
De Caus at his window; and Worcester, in whose mind the
conception of the steam-engine was already taking shape, informed
her that the raving prisoner was not a madman, but a genius. A
great stir was made by this letter. The anecdote was copied into
standard works, and represented in engravings. Yet it was a
complete hoax. De Caus was not only never confined in a madhouse,
but he was architect to Louis XIII. up to the time of his death,
in 1630, just eleven years BEFORE Marion Delorme was said to have
seen him at his grated window!

"On tracing this hoax to its source," says Mr. Delepierre, "we
find that M. Henri Berthoud, a literary man of some repute, and a
constant contributor to the Musee des Familles, confesses that
the letter attributed to Marion was in fact written by himself.
The editor of this journal had requested Gavarni to furnish him
with a drawing for a tale in which a madman was introduced
looking through the bars of his cell. The drawing was executed
and engraved, but arrived too late; and the tale, which could not
wait, appeared without the illustration. However, as the
wood-engraving was effective, and, moreover, was paid for, the
editor was unwilling that it should be useless. Berthoud was,
therefore, commissioned to look for a subject and to invent a
story to which the engraving might be applied. Strangely enough,
the world refused to believe in M. Berthoud's confession, so
great a hold had the anecdote taken on the public mind; and a
Paris newspaper went so far even as to declare that the original
autograph of this letter was to be seen in a library in Normandy!
M. Berthoud wrote again, denying its existence, and offered a
million francs to any one who would produce the said letter."

From this we may learn two lessons, the first being that utterly
baseless but plausible stories may arise in queer ways. In the
above case, the most far-fetched hypothesis to account for the
origin of the legend could hardly have been as apparently
improbable as the reality. Secondly, we may learn that if a myth
once gets into the popular mind, it is next to impossible to get
it out again. In the Castle of Heidelberg there is a portrait of
De Caus, and a folio volume of his works, accompanied by a note,
in which this letter of Marion Delorme is unsuspectingly cited as
genuine. And only three years ago, at a public banquet at
Limoges, a well-known French Senator and man of letters made a
speech, in which he retailed the story of the madhouse for the
edification of his hearers. Truly a popular error has as many
lives as a cat; it comes walking in long after you have imagined
it effectually strangled.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Kunstkammer und Wunderkammer

One of my targets of study--Jacobus Strada/Jacopi de Strada--was a great collector of Rudolph's Kunstkammer... what exactly is a Kunstkammer?

Here are some references that may be useful:

Smith & Findlen (2002). Merchants and marvels: Commerce, science and art in Early Europe. New York, NY: Routledge. DBW N72.S3M47 2002 OUT (Smith and Findlen offer papers by Pamela Long and Chandra Mukerji!)
Kenseth (1991). The age of the marvelous. University of Chicago Press. DBW NX600.S9H66 1991
Bredekamp (1995). The lure of antiquity and the cult of the machine: the Kunstkammer and the evolution of nature, art, and technology. Princeton: Markus Wiener. DBW N1010.B7413 1995
Kaufmann (1995). Court, cloister, and city: the art and culture of Central Europe, 1450-1800. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. DBW N6754.K38
Kaufmann (1993). The mastery of nature: aspects of art, science, and humanism in the Renaissance. Princeton: Princeton University Press. DBW CB361.K36 1993
Fucíková (eds.) Rudolf II and Prague: the court and the city. Prague: Prague Castle Administration. NX571.C92P78 1997.
Pepys and Machinery

There are some tantalizing tidbits on technical communication burried in the Pepys diary. Here's but one example:

Thursday 11 October 1660

In the morning to my Lord’s, where I met with Mr. Creed, and with him and Mr. Blackburne to the Rhenish wine house, where we sat drinking of healths a great while, a thing which Mr. Blackburne formerly would not upon any terms have done. After we had done there Mr. Creed and I to the Leg in King Street, to dinner, where he and I and my Will had a good udder to dinner, and from thence to walk in St. James’s Park, where we observed the several engines at work to draw up water, with which sight I was very much pleased. Above all the rest, I liked best that which Mr. Greatorex brought, which is one round thing going within all with a pair of stairs round; round which being laid at an angle of 45 deg., do carry up the water with a great deal of ease. Here, in the Park, we met with Mr. Salisbury, who took Mr. Creed and me to the Cockpitt to see “The Moore of Venice,” which was well done. Burt acted the Moore; ‘by the same token, a very pretty lady that sat by me, called out, to see Desdemona smothered. From thence with Mr. Creed to Hercules Pillars, where we drank and so parted, and I went home.

Viewing mysterious machines in the park--with Mr. Greatorex of all people: builder of the air pump and supplier of drafting equipment--is tantalizing. A sort of Kunst- and Wunderkammer type-of-thing is urban London.
Technical Handbooks

Handbooks are in an odd category. They can't be considered "working documents"--i.e., a direct material input into a process such as lab notes or engineering drawings; But they also aren't an example of "epistemic documents": documents about the creation of truth that form what Fleck would call "journal science."

Instead, handbooks are a component of the vademecum of science. They could be considered "tekhnical documents" because they are meaningless to those without the practical knowlede to execute what they represent. According to Fleck:

"In contrast with popular science, whose aim is vividness, professional science in its vademecum (or handbook) form requires a critical synopsis in an organized system... It is not possible to produce a vademecum simply from a collection of articles that have appeared in journals. Onnly thorugh the socio-cognitive migration of fragments of personal knoweldge within the esoteric circle, combined with feedback [Ru:ckwirkung] from the exoteric circle, are these fragments altered so that additive, impersonal parts ca arise from the nonadditive personal ones." (pg. 118)

Fleck describes a scenario where the modalities of scientific statements ("I believe"; "it appears") are slowly stripped out in favour of statement of fact:

"Describable in terms of laboriously established, disjointed signals of resistance in thinking, this provisional, uncertain, and personally colored nonadditive journal science, then, is converted next into vademecum science by the migration of ideas throughout the collective. As we have already pointed out, this striving toward community, which expresses the dominance of the rank-and-file members of the thought collective of science overs it elite, will be found in every work of the scientist." (pg. 119)

Yet in the technical handbook we don't find this process of community vetting. Instead we see the work becoming a way of establishing priority and authority. The inventions of Ramelli, for example, weren't deemed necessary and appropriate by some board of ingenieurs. Instead, he created object which may--or may not--be realizable by the extant technical skills and materials. Similarly, the "standards" of Architectural Graphic Standards are created by their being in the book itself. Ramsey and Sleeper attempted to overcome a crisis in information by
boiling down what they thought were the most important concepts in practice. This process has shifted under the auspices of the AIA. Now, various firms contribute pages to AGS and in the process become experts.

Ramelli, Besson, and the other early mechanics had no standards to work from. The AGS is a slightly different story. Contained within the pages are references to building codes and best practices established by professional bodies and industry groups. The creation of these codes, however, seems to involve a different process that the one described by Fleck. These groups aren't necessarily interested in truth--can there by truth in window glazing? Rather, they act out of some sort of special interest. A government body may act out of hope for the public interest. A trade organization, however, may act out of the interests of maintaining market share or product quality.

Let's return to Fleck:

"The vademecum is therefor not simply the result of either a compilation or a collection of various journal contributions. The former is impossible because such papers often contradict each other. The latter does not yield a closed system, which is the goal of vademecum science. A vademecum is built up from individual contributions through selection and orderly arrangement like a mosaic from many colored stones. The plan according to which selection and arrangement are made will then provide the guidelines for future research. It governs the decision on what counts as a basic concept, what methods should be accepted, which research directions appear most promising, which scientists should be selected for prominent positions and which should simply be consigned to oblivion. Such a plan originates through esoteric communication of thought--during discussion among the experts, through mutual agreement and mutual misunderstanding, through mutual concessions and mutual incitement to obstinacy. When two ideas conflict with each other, all the forces of demagogy are activated. And it is almost always a third idea that emerges triumphant: one woven from exoteric, alien-collective, and controversial strands." (pg. 120)

Fleck add some more interesting points that could be relevant to technical handbooks as well:

"If a fact is taken to mean something fixed and proven, it exists only in vademecum science. The preliminary stage of disjointed signals of resistance within journal science really constitutes only the predisposition for a fact. Later, at the stage of everyday popular knowledge, the fact becomes incarnated as an immediately perceptible object of reality." (pg. 125)


Fleck, Ludwik ([1935] 1979). Genesis and the development of scientific fact. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
Pepys and the Theatrum Machinarum

Samuel Pepys was a great bibliophile and diarist. His collection gives some insight into the extant literature of the time. When it comes to the TM, we know:

  • He owned neither a Ramelli nor a Besson (not even in Spanish like Hooke!)
  • He did own Boeckler's Architectura curiosa nova (num 2488; pg. 19)...
  • ...and his Theatrum Machinarum Novum (num 2473; pg.19). The popularity of Boeckler among the Fellow of the Royal Society is surprising given that he was a fairly minor player who ripped off Jacopi de Strada!
  • Strada's work gets no mention; nor Zeising; nor Zonca; nor Branca.
  • The 1672 Coignard edition of Vitruvius is present (num 2915 pg. 184)
  • Wilkins's Mathematical Magick (num 802; pg. 190) but no Bates.
  • Agricola's De re metallica (num 2357; pg. 3)
  • There is also a work by Salomon de Caus: La practique et demonstration des horloges solaires (num 2602; pg. 34). Unfortunately, it's the wrong one.
Pypys's Appendix Classica is quite an amazing thing. It certainly demonstrates a strong adherence to Ramus classification principles. Remisiscent of Galileo's system, it breaks down the world into various classification headings. The structure of chapters is quite remarkable:
  • Arts and sciences
  • Boyle
  • Church
  • Cicero
  • Consutilia
  • Cotton-Sr. Robert
  • Devotion
  • Dictionarys & Lexicons- Vid. Grammars
  • Diversion
  • England
  • English
  • Grammars, Dictionaries & Lexicons
  • History
  • Latin
  • Law
  • Letters
  • Lifes
  • Liturgys
  • Liturgick Controversies
  • Manuscripts
  • Musicks
  • Narratives and Trials
  • Navy- vid. Sea
  • Parliament- []Proceedings
  • Philosophy
  • Plays
  • Poems
  • Scripture
  • Sea & Navy
  • Sermons & Preachers
  • Studiorum Methodi.
  • Tailles- Douces
  • Travels & Voyages
  • Trials- vid. Narratives
  • Vulgargia
It's quite convenient that he provides added entries for a one page list of subject headings!

Under Arts and Sciences, he lists works on Agrigulture, "Anneiling on Glass," Architecture, Carpentry, Chiromancy, "Chymistry," cryptography, "Cutting for the Stone" [he suffered from stones in his urinary tract], Drawing, "Dialling," teaching the dumb and deaf to speak, Fortification (featuring works by Blome, DeFer, and Scala), "Japanning," Joinery, Opticks, Painting, Perfuming, Smithery, Surveying, and Turning.

He also lists works on games and sports inlcuding a work on dice and two on cockfighting.

His manuscripts may contain an entire tressure trove of information on the type of documents that were actually used at the time. His diaries are notoriously stingy on navy-related technical information. A typical entry states: "spent day at office." The modern manuscripts may be more informative. Interesting entires include: instructions to pumpmakers and general costs for pumps, and ordnance. Recovering those manuscripts may be a challenge.


McKitterick, David. (ed.) (1991). Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge: VII. Facsimile of Pepys's catalogue. D.S. Brewster.
Smith, N.A. (ed.) (1991). Catalogue of the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge: I. Printed books. D.S. Brewster.