JF Ptak Science Books Post 2011 Paper Microscope series
There is a particular class of illustration in which, among the secondary figures of the image, there is a small happening, an everyday trifle, that has been captured by the artist and included in the overall communication for no necessary reason. (for example, see here ). I’ve written about this a little before on this blog in posts about finding images-within-images: the unecessaries among the unnecessaries, the bits and pieces of everyday human existence that in and of itself is not worth commentary but which nearly everyone experiences. Small bits, they are, of a tremendous human nature, the things that are done in private, or are so universal but inconsequential that they are shocking to see when illustrated in print. Another fine example of the unexpected story enclosed in great detail is found in this earlier post, On Antique Waves and Dropping Your Hat in Them, based in an engraving in Romische Historie…, published in Mainz by Johann Schoeffler 1450 years later in 1514, which was one of the most beautifully illustrated books ever produced in that city.
Today's example under the paper microscpe is a magnificent and complex recording of the procession of the Doge of Venice by Jost Amman (1539-1591, Swiss, Procession of the Doge to the Bucintoro on Ascension Day, with a View of Venice), and printed ca. 1565, (the full version of which is found here).
Its the worker leaning on the spade (above) that attracted my attention--just a worker taking a moment out of his worday to watch the procession, caught in the act by Amman...and here we see him still, 447 years later, a wonder occupying 1% or less of the engraving.
There are many of these small vignettes laced throughout the engraving, like these upper-echelon folks having a few liberties with each other from the roof of one of the buildings:
And the full engraving:
A full, searchable version is available here from the Metropolitan Museum of Art