JF Ptak Science Books Post 1893
The series of posts on this blog, The History of Holes, has generated several sub-series, including the History of Filling Holes Up, and of course The Great Efficacy of Deciding the Differences Between Hole and Circles.
And now: Filling Holes Up.
This post really started as an exerecise in noticing invisible differences in old prints. Unfortunately I've lost the reference for the woodcut I'm working with tonight (a terrible thing losing it to nothingness), though I'm sure it is a book illustration and early 16th century, and I suspect that it is German, and I believe it would have appeared on the title page or very soon thereafter, possibly in the dedication of the work.
In the image we see the presentation of a book (the book, the book in which the image appears), a large volume, bound probably in tooled pigskin with brass or wooden tacks on the covers, there to protect the volume over long usage. The scene itself probably depcits the book's author presenting his work to his patron, or to the decicatee of the work, the person who made the printing and publication possible--hence the author kneeling, presenting the work with two hands; the receiver is seated, and with a hat and wide collar, accepting the book in a noble posture, nobly, with one hand. (I wonder if the action is taking place in the bedroom, as would not be uncommon at the time--there is a tapestry pulled back and away from an enclosure to the left-rear of the patron. It could be a bed. But it is definitely a private room, what with the ceiling not much higher than headroom of the doorframe.)
What attracted my attention though were the windows and their double shutters. The word "window" goes back a long, deep way, mainly in Scandanavian languages, and there coming to mean, mostly, "hole" or "opening" in the ceiling (for fireplace smoke and ventilation). Noah Webster gives "window" a nice turn in the 1828 edition of his dictionary, defining the word as a "wind-door", which is poetic but not very much in keeping with the word's etymoloigcal history so far as I can tell.
The coverings for windows are natually as old as the window, though sometimes it received some very fancy covering--in Rome, for instance, there are examples of glass windows, though there the glass is largely opaque. But here, in this image, in the high Renaissance, the window coverings were wooden, which is a long way home from hide or cloth or other such material. It is a little curious to see the shutters opening inwards--I'm no window/fenestration/architectural expert, but it seems now in cozy memory that these sort of shutters are not usual to my experience of Renaissance interiors. (One quick source for looking at a number of these scenes is Jost Amman and Hans Sachs' Standebuch ("The Book of Trades"), published in 1568. It shows people at work at their craft, mostly inside; and of these dozens of woodcuts, when the windows are shown with coverings they are depicted with glass. When not, there is simply nothing to see--but being merchants, and these places being "stores" of a sort, there were probably exterior shutters fixed either at the top to provide an awning when open, or at the sides. )
In any event, it is always interesting to go back and look at familiar objects and images, and see what your brain comes up with with the newest iteration of recognition. I've known this print on-and-off for a long time, but I don't think I 've ever thought of it in terms of holes. Until today. And then it became a new image.