JF Science Books Post 1464
I've written quite frequently on this blog about the forensic components of crowds, seeing the interesting bits of smallness inherent in virtually every crowd scene ever made. [For example, see Ephemeral Uniqueness of Large Crowds here, or just enter "crowds" in the "search" box at left.] Today's installment looks at some older representations of crowds, or people or things just packed tightly together.
It seems a little trite to lift this image from a superb example of Renaissance printing, and to attach it to a short post about crowds and being crowded, but so be it. The image in question is from the semi-great Hypnerotomachia Poliphili1 (from Greek hypnos, ‘sleep’, eros, ‘love’, and mache, ‘fight’, or something like Poliphilo's Strife of Love in a Dream), which was a dreamscape novel hat was richly illustrated and beautifully designed, if not well written. Be that as it may, whether or not it was/is a dripping romance of sodden accomplishments and drippy sentimentality, it did encompass a weird allegorical element that linked architecture and feminine appreciation of sexuality with Poliphlio's dream-search for his beloved Polia. The book seems to have everything going for it except for a good story line and an author.
Be that as it may, I liked this image of Poliphilo entering the woods in his search for love--crowded, dense, low growing branches, and so on. Visually it is very striking with lots of verticals; allegorically, it is extremely sweet.
Next (above) is this lively theatre image from Terence's Comediae, printed in Lyon in 1493. The Comedies of Terence were probably the thing that gave Latin a more-appealing public personae, something that was approachable to all and involved bits of life from all stations, much more so entertaining than a droning speech from the floor of the Roman Senate. (And in detail the crowded bit:)
And here's some jowl-to-cheek seating in "The Pilgrims at Table", from the Westminster edition of the Canterbury Tales, printed in 1484 by the great William Caxton:
There are no forks yet on the table--they wouldn't come about for another few decades.
And what are we to make of this scene--are these students as fearful of their instructor as they seem?
No--I think that its all about the book. Books were very expensive when this woodcut was printed in William Caxton's fantastic Mirrour of the World (1481), and so if there was one book allowed for the classroom it was a lot, and all these people were trying to do was to huddle together so that everyone could get a look at the printed page.
There's a certain stillness to the crowds above, much more so than most--there's definitely no granular behavior about them, no extra-sensory physics to the ebb and flow. They're mostly just sedentary, but packed closely together.
1. This book was printed almost at the last moment of the 15th century, in December 1499, by Aldus Manutius in Venice.