L'Eclairage, published by la Societe pour le Perfectionnement de l'Eclarage, was printed in 1937, and addressed the use and beauty of proper lighting. The photography is the work of Andre Vigneau, French photographer/film-maker/sculptor (1892-1968), who among many other things was one of the first to design photographic covers for books. This little pamphlet outlines the importance of lighting in photography--aside from that, though, its principal interest for this blog is the absurd/surreal nature of the photographs when taken away from the text and out of context. The image are unexpectedly interesting as cleaved-away photographic documents of unusual perspectives.
I was about to post this great image of the attendees of a significant meeting of the American Astronomical Society taken during the meeting in D.C. over New Year's 1924 (Dec 30 1924-January 1, 1925--certainly no one for many years has thought about holding a professional meeting on such a date!1) but I cannot let it pass that the paper on the other side of the photo was one of very high importance.
First, the photo, which I have not yet been able to locate easily online:
[More detailed closeups are available in the continued reading section, below. Source: Popular Astronomy, volume 33, April, 1925.]
The paper directly opposite the slick reverse of the photo spread is Edwin Hubble's "Cepheids in the Spiral Nebulae"--it was reported in the issue of Popular Astronomy for the 1924 meeting, though Hubble himself wasn't actually there. No matter--he was a meticulous and methodical man, and it seems he was at odd in pressing his results into print too quickly because it contradicted established thinking, which called for caution. (The results of his findings had been earlier presented in the New York Times in November 19242.) But the paper--to paraphrase my brother-in-law Mickey Digh--"was what it was", and (using Shapley's calibration for the period-luminosity relation, published in the Astrophysical Journal in 1918) announced the discovery of Cepheid variable stars in the nebulae M 31 and M 33, placing them at vast distances, well outside our galaxy. This in effect established that the belief of our galaxy being the only galaxy in he universe was incorrect, and that the Great Debate arguing these points on the nature of the nebulae and begun decades earlier was settled.
In the next year, 1926, Hubble would contribute a paper on the classification of the nebulae ("Extra-galactic Nebulae", in the Astrophysical Journal, volume 64, pp 321-369) which was highly adaptable and proved to be iconic. Three years later, continuing on the theme of the 1925 paper, Hubble published what has been seen by many as the great astronomical paper of the century, the 1929 Velocity-distance relationship, with Hubble's Constant. So not only were there galaxies existing outside of our own as he had demonstrated in 1925, but that these galaxies were moving, and quickly, away from each other, everywhere. This was the establishment of the expanding universe--the Big Bang stuff (famously put forward in the April 1 Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper by Alpher, Gamow and Herman but no Bethe, a bit of nerd humor to get ABC out of the initials of the authors of the paper on April Fool's Day, 1939) would come about to explain what the 1929 paper established.
Anyway, the 1925 paper is a major step in the history of cosmology, and perhaps the greatest effort in observational cosmology of the 20th century.
The other odd thing about this issue is that contains another "first"--not as significant as the Hubble, but still very interesting. It is a short paper by L.J. Comrie--an early visionary and practicioner of the use of the calculator and computer--on the application of the electric calculator to solving problems in astronomy. It looks like this may be the first paper on the use of the electric calculator to solve complex computation problems in astronomical issues. If this isn't the first paper on the subject, it is close to being so--I haven't yet figured that out.
This is another entry in a developing thread on marvelous/incredible/Outersider-y book covers and the ideas that go with them. "Butter Tub" units of comparison jumped straight into my brain when I flipped through the pages of Cow Paths to Prosperity (1934), which is basically a very sober appraisal of the cattle industry for the smaller rancher--except of course that it has a fabulous cover and also has a bar graph employing tubs of butter. The Butter Tubs makes perfect sense, of course, but if view just slightly out of context the graph sustains a slightly covert semi-absurdist feel to it.
The graph comes from this jumpily-designed pamphlet:
And not to be outdone in the serendipity department, I offer this unusually-titled effort from the other side of the Meat Spectrum Civil War between beef and chicken:
$10 grand doesn't sound like a lot in today's money for having to put up with 4000 modern dinosaurs on an egg farm--but when this pamphlet was printed in Pasadena in 1925, it was a 300+% increase over the average American yearly income. I think the money was a little better and certainly much cleaner for writing about making chicken money than it was to actually do it.
When I think of the early-ish thinkers on optics and vision, and consider their fantastic images
of the anatomy of the eye and the mind/brain/eye connection, the work of Rene Descartes usually appears first. It is a general go-to illustration in optics and biology, and it appeared in his Dioptique in 1637. It is standard iconography.
For me, an antiquarian non-standard image of the eye appeared today. Hieronymous Bosch is not terribly well known as a person, as a walking and talking citizen of the world--it is known where he died, and where he spent the last twenty years of his life, but the details outside of this are scarce. And even though he signed his adopted name of "Bosch"(he was born ca. 1450 as Jerome van Aken, and died in 1516) very boldly and clearly--and was among the earliest crops of artists to do so in the West--he never dated the paintings. Scholars have determined their dates in some part by the increased realism and skill, which leads me to one of his latest works, the beautiful table top of the Seven Deadly Sins (ca. 1400).
I had never really noticed it before, but when I looked closely at some of the detail in the work it suddenly dawned on me that the central part of the work was an eyeball--this no doubt instantly seen by every other person, but for me it was a shock of recognition. This became particularly clear when I (quickly and clumsily) photoshopped out most of the elements of the painting, leaving me with this:
Which is clearly an eye--and as a matter of fact the Latin inscription emblazoned underneath Christ reads Cave Cave Deus Videt ( or "Beware, Beware, God Sees"), meaning that the watchful creator sees everything and will be the judge and offer final dispensation depending upon past history.
Rendered like this the work reminds me strongly--at least in a symbolist sense--of Ordilon Redon's (1840-1916) Eye Balloon (1878). Well, mostly it is the sense doctored image that drives this recollection more so than the painting--removing almost all of the elements of the Bosch suddenly gave the piece an escapist flavoring, like something in the early modernist movements.
And the original (47x59" in real life), with the roundels elements restored and Christ replaced in the iris of the eye:
The motif of the painting clearly works its way outside-in, with the all-seeing omnipotent being seeing-all, there at the center of the eye, surveying everything that takes place on the living dominion, surrounded at the corners by depictions of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell, and then immediately encompassed by the seven deadly sins.
In the floating banner above the main circular image reads "For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any
understanding in them," and then below "O that they were wise, that they
understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"
This magnificent and mega-heavy beast-aeroplane (a "steam aeromotive machine") appears in the pages of Engineering, and is the creation of Joseph M. Kaufmann of Glagow, and makes a splashy show of itself back there in 1868 when not-too-many airplanes were gracing the pages of technical journals. But here it is, a very heavy dream of a Scottish engineer, a massive and underpowered vehicle of questionable design and imponderable consequence. One thing is for sure--it certainly looks pretty.
The plan for the aircraft measured 12' from stem to stern (plus another few feet including the tail), with the body about 5'x6', and with wings that spread out 35'--each. The aircraft weighed in at an extraordinary 7,000 pounds and was supposed to be powered by a 40 horsepower steam engine that looked like a locomotive boiler that in theory would keep The Beast afloat at 40 mph for an extraordinary four hours.
As surprising as these images look from the modern perspective, perhaps the most unexpected aspect can be seen in the detail under the wing in the drawing on the right (below)--it seems that the motive power was that the wings "flapped", like a bird's. This was asking a lot from those wings. And that engine.
There was a lot of "flapping" going on in the experimental thinking for flight at this period, though many of these designs were human-powered ornithopters (like those of Bourcart in 1863, Trouve in 1870, and Wenham from 1858), and which in general didn't last much past the 1870's. There was another class of proposed flying vehicle that adopted bird-wing qualities though the wings didn't flap, like the Le Bris glider of 1868 and the beautiful and graceful patent of the Du Temple monoplane. These designs seemed to last much longer, perhaps most famously in the designs of Otto Lillienthal's gliders of the 1890's and the Vuia machine of 1906.
Here's an interesting, short timeline that I found and and which I reprint below--it was part of the appendix to the book by J.-P. Luminet, L'Invention du Big Bang (Editions du Seuil, Paris), which was printed in 1997. "Ce texte est l'introduction de l'ouvrage A.Friedmann, G.Lemaître : Essais de Cosmologie , traduction et notes de J.-P. Luminet et A. Grib, Le Seuil, collections 'Sources du Savoir' ".
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful engravings found in the military textbook by Johann Choura, Lehrbuch der Geometralzeichnens fuer id K.K. Militar-Realschulen, which is a work printed in Vienna in 1879. Its actually from the second volume, which is Darstellende Geometrie, a course on applied geometry for the engineering student in a military-minded advanced school. It is not-so-simple and a lovely work of techArt.
The progress of man/humankind has, in our dim antiquarian past, been represented in art in stages of ascending a mountain. The fine arts and sciences have been shown, in their various intellectual pedigrees, at various points on the mountain of the mind, usually with Philosophia sitting supremely at the top (with Astronomia and Mathematica generally not far underneath). This is mind, I came across another sort of progression to the Olympian heights, though it has no people in it, just the mountain, and a curious idea, ascending to faith, or truth.
The image is on the title page of a curious, little, early work by the pseudonymous “Grappa” (well-named for the drink), Cicalamenti de Grapps intorno al Sonetto…though its real nature is revealed in the subtitle,“dove si’ Cliarala allungo delle lodi delle donne et del mal francioso”, or “where one chats at length about women with The French [venereal] Disease”. It is also dedicated to a non-existent courtesan who was heralded as being lovely, generous, and deep in the seat of this same disease. Indeedy! This ribald, blustery, frank, coarse innuendo-laced tract (28 leaves long) was not terribly unusual when it was printed in 1545, celebrating as it does the low- and high-cultural private life of Renaissance Italy. Doctors, poets, gluttons, cheats and of course lots of beautiful women romp around ostensibly in an attempt to prove the usefulness of their sinful vices, relating it all somehow to the disease-improved poetic capacities of the STD-bestowed Petrarch, master of forlorn and unrequited love poetry and the father of Humanism (It relates in a way that I can’t explain to Petrarch’s Canzoniere, sonnet #88, mostly written, I think, about a girl/woman that he fell in love with in church, which is why we can see he needed to invent Humanism. He seems to say that the needs of love are strong, stronger than he could stand, evidently, and that one should flee, renounce it; he seems to for himself, the girl across the pew or across the great open space in the cathedral never weakening to him a bit. He pines over her, and announces his own amoroso intoppo, or "amorous fumblings", and would take flight from himself as well. Evidently the people in this work by Grappa do not take his warnings to heart, though they do seem to renounce the "love" part but not the "sex" part. I could be really wrong on this god knows; all I wanted to do was look at the pretty picture on the cover!)
Stumbling into things like this makes you remember that the Renaissance wasn’t all stuffy and main-springy; perspective-this and techno-that; they had their fun, too, even in 1545, and put it into print.
Back to the woodcut on the title page: it features a small, winding route up a mountain, the top of which is sanctified “fide”. Now considering what these folks were doing in this work I wouldn’t necessarily christen the end of the adventure with this word, particularly if it meant (as it does) the name of the World Chess Federation (FIDE). Seriously though fide means “faith”, as in bona fide (on good faith, by good authority), as opposed to mal fide (bad faith). I cannot determine what in the world the structure is on the top of the mountain, or what is in it.
This was a surprise, finding M. Bollee's article (Sur une nouvelle machine a calculer) in this 1889 Comptes Rendus, pecking around in that big 10-pound volume looking for something else. It was very easy to miss if you weren't looking for it, just a few pages long in a 1000-page book. But there it was, nestled comfortably in pp 737-739. It these few pages Bollee describes his machine and with particular reference to his innovative approach to direct multipilication--a fine addition (ha!) to the long line of contributions by Babbage and Clement, Scheutz, Wiberg and Grant and Hamann.
Léon Bollée: "Sur une nouvelle machine a calculer", in Comptes Rendus de l'Academie Sciences (Paris), volume 109, 1889, pp. 737-9.
An image of the machine from The Manufacturer and Builder:
This beautiful, home-made pamphlet was pieced together in 1847 or thereabouts, bits of an article on Attica by Professor A.L. Koeppen, cut from the North American and U.S. Gazetteer, and then pasted onto and covering the pages and cover of a chapbook. Everything about this little (5"-tall) book is stiff--the flexible paper wrappers of the pamphlet and its pages had been soaked with glue to such a degree that they're all like boards, but with the feel and sound of paper. All in all the feel of the book is very satisfying, and very comforting, somehow.