The future is everywhere and nowhere, hidden and obvious, localized and distant; and sometimes it is there when it really isn't, and vice versa. This image of the future is the last of these descriptions, though perhaps not even that, because it is a peep at a peep into the future, a reference to a reference.
First, the cactus, seen here, from G.B. Ramusio's (1485-1557) Navigationi et Viaggi, printed in Venice in 1565 (and finally in three volumes, links to which are below). Ramusio was a geographer and largely a scholar/reader/armchair-traveler, who collected travel accounts of explorers and published them together--the first such effort of its kind.
The second image works better if you squint somewhat while looking at the cactus--it comes from the great and slightly problematic Thomas Nast, the Harper's Weekly social/graphic warrior. The image appeared in 1881, and depicts New York City in the near future, he result of newly-advanced building techniques, including the elevator (and importantly!) the elevator safety brake, which allowed the construction of buildings to great and fabulous heights. Nast saw a little bit of overeager sky-scraping in it, and pictured variegated but probably dark future from the architectural commotion.
I'm well aware of this being an enormous stretch, but I couldn't think of anything else to get these two images together on a single post. (Original article here for the Nast.)
Full text for the Ramusio volumes from the Internet Archives site:
- Volume I: Primo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi
- Volume II: Secondo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi
- Volume III: Terzo Volume delle Nauigationi et Viaggi