JF Ptak Science Books Post 1665
Earlier in this blog there appeared an entry on the death of Archimedes--actually, it was a piece on an image depicting the killing of the great mathematician. It is a pretty gruesome affair, even by the very early 18th century standards under which the engraving was made--gruesome still by today's standards, what with the man's head being cleaved laterally in two by the summoned Roman Centurion. I'm not an historian of these images of Archimedes, but I can say that for whatever I am, I have not seen anything quite so graphic dealing with the man's death.
The usual images of Archimedes coming to his end show him working a problem in his dust/sand/earth "chalkboard", absorbed to such an extent in his thinking that he doesn't hear the chaos outside his rooms, and doesn't sense the approach of the soldier who finds Archimedes unresponsive to his calls and therefore a threat, and so kills him.
Looking at this image (above) brought to mind another in the history of anticipation--not knock knock knocking on Heaven's door, but the opposite, and the opposite of that, the opposite of knocking on Death's door, or at Death's door: Death knocking at our door.
The title of this emblem--Cunctos mors una manet/death is all that remains--is meant to remind us
of our common foe. It is the work of one of the great engravers of his time, Otto van Veen (teacher of Rubens), and appears (along with next image and 100 others) in his Q. Horati Flacci emblemata. Imaginibus in acs incisis notisque illustrata, printed in Amsterdam in 1607 by H. Verduss.
--All images and most translations courtesy of the splendid work at The Emblem Project/Utrecht, here.--
Part of the legend (which appeared in four languages) of the image leaves us with the following reminders, choice bits on the folly of forgetting our common end:
La terre embrasse tout comme mere commune --Mother Earth embraces us all
Moritur sutor eodem modo ac Rex.--The King died the same as the shoemaker
Death is the thing that sucks the rivers of lives, "Del rico al pobre, del soldado al Papa", From rich to poor, soldier of the Pope.
and so in image and word telling us that death will seek us out, whether king or shoemaker, rich or poor--and that in the coming end the Earth will take us all. Archimedes didn't hear that one coming; nor did he care, I think.
THis last image brings to mind Archimedes' work in the dust, though the intent of teh emblem ("Estote prudentes" //Be ye therefore wise // Be Cautious) wouold have been completely lost on him.
The legend translates (Thanks to the Emblem Project for this):
When the serpent sees that it is going to be attacked with,
Lethal wound, it protects its head with artful care.
Here lie the dwellings of the soul, the sanctuary of the truth.
Hence comes life that is to be hoped for by every body.
Surely Archimedes could relate to his lines and the expressions of his thought as the dwellings of his soul (if he actually believed in a soul), though I guess you could say that the artful deception of the serpent's head finally wound up killing him via the Roman soldier.
Letali serpens cùm se videt esse petendum
Vulnere, sollicita contegit arte caput.
Hîc animæ sedes positæ, verique recessus: (here placed the seat of the soul, in artful covering...)
Hinc spiranda omni corpore vita venit