JF Ptak Science Books Post 1386
Okay, it wasn’t really the internet, or ARPANET1 or any of those things—the invention did however deliver reading material to a waiting reader/researcher in a novel way, bringing twelve already-opened books into the line of sight within seconds. And insofar as the internet delivers reading material in such a way, well, then, so does this, so long as you chose the right twelve books. This was a great innovation though I cannot say how many might have been constructed via the representation of this machine in Agostino Ramelli’s (1531-1600) :masterpiece Le diverse et artificose machine, which was published in 1588, the same year that England sent the Spanish Armada to Davy Jones' locker.
The book was a wonderland of contrivances and engineering feats of pumps, fountains, logging mills, mining materials, bridges, hydraulic material, dredges, derricks, metal-working machinery, bellows, looms, foundry materials and (my favorite) cranes—they were all of Ramelli’s design, and the book, which contained 198 engraved plates of these splendid illustrations, had a remarkable and deep impact on engineering in the 17th century. There really wasn't anything else quite like it in the whole of the Renaissance, except for Agricola's book on mining. Ramelli touched on so many subjects and in such great detail that I believe he simply had no equal.
As it turns out most of the devices in the Ramelli book had to do with raising water, which included piston pump machines, rotary pumps, well buckets and a host of other more unusual devices. The faintest majority of these devices were powered by water itself, the other 49% ere powered by people, people walking on treadmills, or turning a giant wheel, or using a hand crank, and many other such energy-transfer devices. Of the 198 plates, fully 110 displayed water-raising devices, and of these 54 were powered by man. The rest of the deices were grain mills (21), sawmills (4), machines for dragging heavy objects (7), machines for raising and moving excavated earth (2), and cofferdams (2, both absolutely beautiful engravings). Rounding out the rest of the book were 15 engravings of military bridges, 14 images showing lockbreaks/barspreaders and other means of gaining entry through re-enforced doors and window coverings, 4 images of fountains, 1 of a gunner's quadrant, and 4 of some very impressive military hurling machines. (One of the throwing machines was specifically designed ot hurl barrels of dirt and other debris so as to fill up moats.) And of course there was one entry for a movable, rotating bookshelf, our first wooden internet.
Ramelli’s attention was fixed by the growing solidification of the use of mathematics in engineering as the basic structure of construction, as found in such earlier works as was greatly influenced by the increasing importance placed on mathematics and geometry as an important tool for engineers and artists, and particularly by the writings of Guidobaldo del l Monte (1545-1607) and Petrus Ramus (1515-1572).
What I particularly like about these images is that Ramelli shows us the guts of the apparatus—if you really wanted to build this thing, you actually could, given the details in the engravings. And in spite of the fact there there was only one edition of this book--and that it was the only book of Ramelli's to make it into print, regardless of the fact that as he states on his title page the book press was in his own house--there must have been a fair number of them printed, because there are so many examples of the work existing today. So, it was a popular book I have no doubt--it was easy to use, displayed its data splendidly, and there were no other books quite like it. Why didn't it go into a second edition? Perhaps Ramelli felt no need, perhaps he felt he got things right, perhaps there were so many books printed in the first edition that there was no need for a second. And perhaps it was that Ramelli would be dead in a dozen years. One thing is for sure, though--the book did get reprinted, or many of its images did, as publishers and authors seemed to steal his work and images with some regularity...maybe these people filled the need gap.
Returning to our reader in his high-tech biblio-turntable--it was hardly the stuff of the internet, but it was adventurous, and it did allow folks to have a good, quick look at twelve books at a sitting--which as Ramelli points out would be good news to sufferers of gout. But everything that you needed to build this thing is shown int eh engraving, and if you had some gifts in woodworking and a few tools this device could've been your's for the doing, as all of the key ingredients are shown. .
1) I’ve got to point out that it also wasn’t the 1961 paper on packet switching theory, Leonard Kleinrock’s , "Information Flow in Large Communication Nets.", (RLE Quarterly Progress, Report) or his 1965 Communication Nets--both of these were foundation works for the construction of the Internet.. Nor was it J.C.R. Licklider & Welden Clark’s "On-Line Man Computer Communication", which was the first true paper on the Internet concept; nor was it the Lawrence Robert’s (MIT Lincoln Lab) 1965 experiment on the first actual network experiment; nor was it Douglas C. Engelbart’s 1963, "A Conceptual Framework for the Augmentation of Man's Intellect," in P.W.Howerton and D.C.Weeks, eds., Vistas in Information Handling. Washington.D.C.: Spartan Books, 1963, but you get the idea.
A nice chronology lives here.
Later we’ll get to a much more bona fide aspirant for the Very Early pre-Internet Internet status: Vannevar Bush and the Memex Machine of 1945.
2) See Ron Brashear’s (Smithsonian, Dibner Library) article on Ramelli for a good introduction to the man and the milleau.