JF Ptak Science Books Post 2105
I think that a pre-proto-neo-antiquarian or whatever Cubist representational form is very clear in the 1812 engraving, which was a relatively simple formulaic presentation of ship/sail construction found in Rhees' Encyclopedia. "Clear" of course to someone here in the print's future, seeing what that form could actually become apart from showing the naval necessaries. But it always puzzles me how an image like this could appear and someone didn't take the next step and turn the thing into "art" of some sort. That would all happen soon enough, the loosening of form and its representation via impressionistic and geometrical ways--Mr. Turner was already 37 years old when this print was published, and on his way (at least intellectually) to his magnificent Romantic career.
Why wasn't this art in 1812, aside from people not being quite ready for it? Maybe there is no other "thing" apart from that. It would take nearly another hundred years before the representational form of say a ship was lessened and stripped away, softened , modified, rubbed, erased, into something that is the object but really isn't.
Perhaps what we have here is a peep (like with Durer's geometric man) into the future at modern art, a dissonance between abstraction and realism. There is a regeneration of form taking place in this image, but it is only something on its way to creating a more idiomatic engineering representation of naval needs, and not a new art form--that would have to wait for Braque and Gris and Leger and Delauny and Villon and Picabia and Duchamp and the rest. So this pre-non-Cubist engraving is not a key to a new vocabulary of vision--it is just a drawing of ship's sails.
Here's another example of pre-modern art peeping out from the pages of this same encyclopedia, this one being a Prehistoric Rayograph, or a proto-non-photographic example of Man Ray, but from 1810 (and which I wrote about here):
Which is a detail from:
The engraving below is another fine example of futuristic bubbles, this one a possible example of Steampunk Dada, and appears innocently (and beautifully, and importantly) in Architectura Hydraulica (1740), and titled "Demonstration of Friction". I've simply inverted it and removed some of the numerical notation--and then, suddenly, it becomes a sort of Steampunk Balloon Machine--a lovely collection of small balloons lifting large wheels and cogs, assembling some sort of something in mid-air, demonstrating very little friction, of lightness and airiness.
Seems to me that if you look hard enough that these examples are, well, kind of everywhere. They just aren't yet what they could've been.
Here's another example: Geology of Images: Finding Pre-biotic, Neo-Dadaist Images in Antique Astronomy Prints (here)