JF Ptak Science Books Post 151
J.G. Heck wrote and compiled a fascinating and complex work entitled The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, and was published in America for the first time in 1851 following Spencer Baird’s translation from its original German.
The key to his work is the amount of data displayed on each of the 500 engraved plates illustrating this work and the way in which it is arranged. The design and layout of the 30,000 items on these 500 plates was a work of genius, and for my money it is easily the best-presented complex means of the display of data and objects that was published in the 19th century.
Take for example this illustration in the technology section (a subdivision of the applied arts which is a sub division of the plastic arts) and, continuing in this complicated scheme, was Plate 1 from Section X Number A1 with a description found in the text on a dozen pages in Section 2 of Volume 2 on section pages 134-150 and overall page numbers 835-851 (!). The plate contains 35 figures, very finely executed and rendered (many of the other of the 500 plates have 100 or more figures), and is in general related to the construction of roads and tunnels (and further, part of the “communications” section).
This of course would be a perfect Hypertext candidate.
The illustration itself contains an enormous amount of information. The row along the top third or so is dedicated to street construction and paving stone, showing stones in plan and profile, as well as a cross section and ground plan of a “typical” street (including sidewalks). It is interesting to note the detail of the cross section and the stonework that is placed beneath the horse and wagon section of the street. There are some other beauties here as well--details of wooden paving blocks, the plan for a Laves of Hanover road, different ways of cutting stone blocks—but we won’t deal with those right now, except to point out that there are several renderings of street cleaners and road rollers (of Shettenmann and another of Schaefer) used to border the street section from the tunnel section.
The middle section of the engraving is of course a cross section of the Thames tunnel of the beautifully-named Isambard Kingdom Brunel (begun in 1825 and completed 1843, the tunnel 35 feet wide (11 m), 20 feet (6 m) high and 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running between Wapping and Rotherhithe at a depth of 75 feet (23 m)). The representation here is only one inch high and ten inches long but is loaded with just fabulous detail, no the least of which are the (less than) 1mm tall workmen that can still be seen in the tunnel.
The enlarged detail shows a section of the tunnel being built according to Brunel’s new specifications: a larger, shielded tunnel being constructed around the interior construction of 12 individual tunnels (each about tall enough to allow a (short) man to stand erect.
In short, the engraving is a superb example of *correct* design of great artistic ability, all accomplished while displayed heaps and gobs of interconnected, complex information.