A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3 million hits| History of Science, Math & Tech | Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
This lovely image of the possibilities of future aerial flight was made by the celebrated caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank, and was printed in 1836. The aircraft at top is a massive affair (the selling of the "beautiful Castle in St. Cloud") offered great possibilities along with "no ground rent". It is absolutely a castle int he sky, literally and figuratively, and must've seemed to be something of a possibility to Cruikshank in the fifth decade following the first balloon ascension. Of course he was having a turn at aviation, but I think he also saw the bits of the feasible within his hopeful caricatures.
[Source: E. Seton Valentine, Travels in Space, a History of Aerial Navigation, 1902. Here.] Details below:
"Where is abstract without solids, I ask you?" -- William Gaddis, on the solids in Uccello, The Recognitions, 1955
Actually, I think that there's plenty of abstract without solids, so long as you've seen solids before.
I've returned to a slightly recurrent theme in this blog dealing with the great Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) and his study of perspective--but most directly as he was observed by William Gaddis in his Great American Novel The Recognitions. (I am forever grateful to my brilliant Patti Digh for really hooking me into Gaddis so many years ago--Patti was long intrigued by Gaddis and wrote her UVa master dissertation on his Big Book. Gaddis' book can be found here.) Among other things Uccello is recognized as being one of the greatest and among the earliest artist to re-discover the science of perspective, and was throughout his life a passionate student and practioner.
[Much of Uccello's work can be found at Paolo Uccello Complete Works website, here.]
"Painting is exquisite as the punishment for the thinker."--William Gaddis, The Recognitions
The “solids’ recognized by Gaddis (and not really
discussed, and mentioned only twice in the book I believe) are incredible to me. Looking at his painting Battle of San Romano
(1457) we see Perspective in her place; but when we look at, say, the rumps
of the horses, we see almost no detail, just a mass of color, a solid,
with spectacular plainness. What in the world was he thinking? He could
certainly have painted the horse and the other solids with texture and
detail, but he didn’t, and to me it seems antithetical to the painting.
What in the name of all motherly things was he thinking? And who else
on earth was using such huge amounts of plain solids in their
paintings? I’m not aware that anyone else was, and I am relatively
clueless as to why he did it, abandoning detail in order to raise awareness of the surrounding parts of the painting, or perhaps heightening a sense of the not-yet-existent abstract, or drawing attention to the perspectival aspect of the work?
[A detail of the missing detail, above.]
But the solids are not just limited to Uccello, though they may have appeared there first, especially as the "exhibited" variety of this thinking. Jacopo Bellini (ca. 1400-ca. 1470) was a contemporary, living pretty much during the same period of time as Uccello, and who was responsible as much as anyone else for introducing oils in painting and establishing the Venetian style. He was a brilliant artist, the teacher of Mantegna, ran a fabulous studio, and was the father of two great artists. (One son, Giovanni, was a highly regarded artist who was also the teacher of Girgione and Titian.)
In looking through two volumes of Jacopo's drawings, I was struck by the number of times that horses and other objects appeared without detail, as solid solids, or mostly solid, quite outside the way in which these things were painted in the 15th century. Pacing though the books flipping through the open pages is like looking at a pop-up book in reverse--each set of pages opened are like looking into, looking through, the book, into space. They are collections of perspective. And they are populated by those other solids, which was surprising.
His horses appear very much like those in Uccello--except of course that these images were personal, workbooks for the artist, idea-machines and memory devices. There was plenty of detail in other aspects of these drawings, but the lack of the detail int he Uccellian manner really struck me.
Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier's "Jacopo Bellini's Interest in Perspective and its Iconographical Significance" found in Zeitschrift fuer Kunstgeschichte (1975)
makes a very learned and eloquent case for the overwhelming interest
that Belinni had in the study of perspective--not to the exclusion of
all other things, because there were still patrons to be satisfied and
religious and triumphal scenes that needed to be painted--and
concentrated on that interpretation focusing on Bellini's stylebooks.
(Most of Bellini's output has been lost, but there are two volumes of
manuscript studies that have survived.)
many of Jacopo Bellini's drawings are reminiscent of model-book notions
in that they illustrate a variety of suggestions for the representation
of traditional themes - for example Flagellations, Adorations, Davids,
and animals -they are, taken as a whole, entirely different from model
book drawings. Jacopo rarely concentrated on a subject for the sake of
its thematic content. Almost never does a bald statement of fact appear
to describe, for example, a biblical event. Rather than focusing on the
event itself, Jacopo's compositions characteristically are concerned
with other things. In the vast majority of cases the subject is set
within the context of a variety of architectural motifs or in that of an
extensive naturalistic world. It would appear that for Jacopo Bellini
biblical subject matter was a justification for his participation in a
variety of other new interests. Primary among these was the special
attention given to perspective..."
No mention of course of the Uccello horses. And perhaps they're really not there there, but it certainly looks like they are, at least to me. They might not have been there for Gaddis, either, as Bellini doesn't show up in the book, Gaddis thinking more about Uccello, and then even more so of Hieronymous Bosch, Hugo van der Goes, and Hans Memling.
And here it is, Bellini's solids, an example:
There are others as well, examples of what, I am not sure--fantastic visions into blankness and into the future of what painting would become 450 years hence.
Perhaps they were just place-keepers, to be filled-in as neededm just a shrt-hand expression of a horse rather than a transcendental imperative. After all, Bellini knew horse muscles, and decided in his workbooks that he just didn't need to draw them, or that in the sense of Bartleby the scrivener that he'd prefer not to.
I stumbled upon these very inventive, peep-into-the-future of imagination images by Theodor Hosemann in journal Exlibris Buchkunst (for the year 1910). Hosemann's (1807-1875) name came into a blurry recognition as a leading genre painter and very busy illustrator in mid-century Germany, but certainly not for these images, which remind me very much of J.J. Grandville, one of the leading imagist illustrators of the 19th century. (Grandville has been a subject in this blog quite often; for example, see here.)
The originals were completed in 1847 and depict some of the trials demanded of future vision, looking into the year 1947. I particularly like the steam-driven horse-mobiles and the steaming-hatted Mercury laughingly outrunning a grimaced Time.
A while ago I wrote a post on Herman Soergel's plan for extending the landmass of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea by damming the straits of Gibraltar, lowering the sea and irrigating the Sahara--an original, interesting but not very good idea, filled with briney cultivation and racial politics. In the past on this blog I've written about other city plans--and in particular, for New York City--that have involved floating Manhattan into the harbor, or filling up large chunks of the Narrows, or floating the city on an enormous anti-gravity platform, and so on. Some of those plans were real, some science fiction, and some were plainly beyond both. The plan presented above is another monster, but at least this one could work, if not for the doing of it, and the expense. And the will.
But the bottom line, according to the engineer doing the thinking on this project, Kennard Thomson, would supposedly net the city a cool billion dollars after everything was said and done, and that would be 1916 dollars--that was equal to about 5% of the American GDP (!) in 1916, which would be about $400 billion in terms of 2010 GDP. I'm not sure how Thomson came up with this very big/very round number, though it must have been done for effect--I can just imagine him standing before a smokey room filled with civil engineers talking about his massive plan for enlarging NYC and throwing out the billion-dollar figure, watching the cigars glow red in exhaled disbelief.
Thomson did know what he was talking about--he was a busy (and "leading" according to the NYT) Manhattan civil engineer of stature, working on the Canal Barge and being the principal engineer for the Municipal and Singer buildings, for example--and his project seems to be well within the scope of possibility. Their sensical aspects however are, well, questionable.
Here's the story--around 1911, while examining proposals to repair and extend New York's wharves, Thomson came upon the idea--a magnificent, fabulous idea--of adding new wharves by adding new lands to the city. In short, the overall plan was to fill in the East River (!!) and reclaim the new land for city living, dam Hell Gate, construct a New East River (from Flushing to Jamaica Bay), extend the tip of Manhattan Island from the Battery to within a quarter-mile of Staten Island (!), create a new 40-square-mile island between Sandy Hook and Staten Island, extend the Jersey shoreline, add two new Manhattan-sized appendages to the east shore of Staten Island, and more. All of this would be connected by various new bridges and roads and tunnels, as well as a 6-track elevated railway that would circumnavigate the city. The purpose of all of this would be to add 100 miles of new docks, an enormous amount ("50 square miles of reclaimed land") of new land and the capacity for NYC to house 20+ million people, all of which would be worth a billion dollars.
Thomson really meant "really" in the title for the proposal. There have been reclamation projects undertaken in New York Bay since then of course, and I think that virtually all of what Thomson talked about could be done. I think it would be a very interesting project for a class of some sort to undertake an estimation of what such a thing would cost today (and I would guess to duplicate the idea in real terms now would take up a sizable chunk of the GDP). Maybe all of this will make sense at some more future point.
And along this line of thinking I include a very interesting drawing made by architect Lebbeus Woods, showing the bedrock part of Manhattan. He empties the East River and damns (?) the Hudson, and also builds some new port extending from Staten Island or out from Jersey...but the effect of the dry river bed between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Andthen some--he empties the river, and then deepens/excavates, heightening the depths (?!) of Manhattan Canyon. The depth of the river where we can see it in the drawing is maybe 100 feet, and certainly (judging the depth against the heights of the structures in the lower island) the canyon is deeper than that--maybe an order of magnitude deeper.
This is a quick addition to the Extra-Earth category of this blog--and an amazing one. In the other examples the extra-Earths appear simply appear , with little or no interaction between the two. In this instance we have one Earth attacking the other.
There is no necessity for this to make much or any sense, what with the purple sky and, of course, the extra-Earth--but the attacking rocket taking off from the extra-Earth extra-Florida (or thereabouts) seems to grow in size as it gets closer to its target. After all, the attacking extra-Earth is less than 300' away from what has become an enormous and marauding space vehicle (judging from the distances in relation to the buildings) which is now longer than the extra-Earth-America is wide. But in the world where a miniature extra-Earth can attack a standard-sized-Earth, this would be a minor quibble.
Honestly, I think I like to write about such things for the joy in having to think of a title for the post.
This post is a part of overlapping categories, including:
Duplicate Earths (including Mondo Bizarro, Science Afflictions and the Dubious Mind—Bad Science, Part 1. NYC in Space (?!) here and Extra-Earth Humano-Alien Souls From Outer Space Repopulate Earth-Hell!!(??)here)
In the five years or so of collecting information and stories for the odd-bits section of this blog I have never encountered so many choice visual examples in one place for strange/weirdly-imagined/impossible/high-SciFi of the Earth than with the comic book, Mystery in Space. The very dedicated keepers of Coverbrowse.com website have reproduced thousands (?) of covers of pulpily-published science fiction and exotic-thinking comics books, including the home base in which all sixteen-plus years of Mystery in Space live.
I've just found another Earth-halved image, this from the comic Strange:
Written from 1951-1966, Mystery in Space very freely uses words like "astounding" and "astonishing" and "amazing" and "strange" to describe itself--on its cover (!)--and then lives up to it in so many astounding/astonishing/amazing/strange ways. Keeping simply to odd representations of the Earth, we find it halved, duplicated,cubed, miniaturized, dragged, tugged, targeted, canaled, and bullseyed; it is also the background to a WWI biplane attacking a spaceship in space, a flying skyscraper, and an alien craft lifting the United States from its geological moorings--in short, a very high and filling feast. And this, again, is just judging this book by its cover, which might actually be the best thing to do as the covers tell enough of the story to let your imagination tell the rest of the adventure. The covers tell fabulous stories of such highly unexpected ideas that they may be the only part of the book that we need to bother with, the cover doing away with the need for the printed narrative; and it may be the case that it saves the reader from the interior eye-splitting out-of-time writing.
The artwork and promise of the story are almost always (issue-after-issue) compelling, and there are a number of superb examples of simple jaw-dropping, belief- suspending, flabbergasting and mostly bad but very unexpected science fiction. But this is so potentially high-bad that the "bad" looks good, a tried-and-true badness the content of which is so surprising that its high degree of creativity and difference transcends everything else. And since we're just looking at pictures/cover art, there is no time-sink involved wading through turgid/florid/bad-bad prose for hours to only discover that the story is only getting simpler and lost and the writing even worse (worser). So Mystery in Space is a great visual luxury, a bookmark for ideas rendered in artwork that is obviously deadline-dependent, swirling in bad color and modest skill seemingly steeped in smoke and alcohol, and which delivers joyful incredulous surprises time after time.
This image of an electronmicrscope for 1950 gives a new "twist" in thinking about smart machines, the metamorphsis taking place in a front-line microsocpe more so than in the regular metalman of the period.
Images of Hell do not often appear graphically depicted right on the title page of books, even though books speaking to Hell and warning us of its coming number in the hundreds of thousands, if not more, particularly if you interpret religion as the means for keeping people away from the ring of fire. Few people are shy about depicting Hell in general, though there evidently is some reluctance (or forbearance, or oversight) to showing it front-and-center on the title pages of books.
A terrific exception to this rule is Jacobs de Voragine’s Passional, Hyr hewrrey sick an dath winter deel, printed in Basel in 1511, and illustrated by various and unidentified Strassburg woodcut masters. In this extraordinary title page we see the vision of the adoration of the Virgin Mother and child supported in a rose of light, aided by guiding winds and various floating saints, and shown lowering the holy book directly to the city of Strassburg. In either corner positioned above the temporal city and below the firmament are two visions of hell, one less vicious and the other more so: to the left we see some of the pious praying for better judgment as they are about to be consumed by the background flames, while to the right is a far more ambitious and morbid vision of hell featuring the famous Hellmouth. The Hellmouth makes appears all throughout the history of art (as we can see in this Brueghel painting, for example), but it is a little curious that, outside of the mention of Leviathan (translated from Hebrew, Job 41:1), Hellmouth (as the entrance to hell) doesn’t make an appearance in the Bible.
What is more easily found, at least in the artwork on title pages throughout the Renaissance and the Baroque, are images of people about to be sent to hell. A good and chilling example of this can be seen in the artwork for Thomas Murner (1475-1537) De quattor heresiarhis ordinis Praedicatorium de Observantis nuncupatorum…, printed (again) at Strassburg in 1509. The pamphlet tells the story of Johannes Jetzer and his accomplices (including four monks) who were tried (under torture) for blasphemy after it was revealed that they colluded to defraud people with a bogus story of religious visions, employing the bloody tear of Mary. All were found guilty and the four monks were burned alive at the stake—Jetzer having escaped—and sent immediately to the deeper, more fiery, pit.
This isn't quite showing the coming of hell as in the first case, but it is getting close. In any event, I found it interesting to see the depiction of the Bad Place right there on the title page of the Murner bokk.
This is one of those images in search of a story, and as it turns out the story is actually pretty long and involved. The image is this fantastic lithograph from Valentine's Manual of the City of New York (a sort of annual review/directory of the city that ran on-and-on from the 1850's to the 1920's), this one being from the 1868 edition.
It also is a very stark reminder about how we still deliver power and communication in the United States, still via insulated wires strung along cross beams on what are mostly dead trees--pretty much the way the business has been done for he last 160 year.s That the backbone of the American energy and communication grid is still transferred on wire/cable strung over the street and exposed to everything on cultivated and treated sticks from the forest is an irony that we live under every day, and that beginning with telegraph poles.
That said, I like this image because the pole n the picture is so curved. Perhaps it was the way the tree was; perhaps it was rendered that way when it was treated with creosote. I don't know. But the folks at Valentines liked it, otherwise they could have ignored its crookedness or used another angle on depicting the Old Halfway House.
Judging from many other examples, it seems that the artists at Valentines had a taste for the subtle and obscure. There are plenty of cases of the depiction of the quietly uncommon, as with another unusual image, showing Church street looking north and showing a long line of telegraph poles, all of which are squarely behind the other so that only the initial pole is visible, though you can see the cross-beams and insulators of the others, the brace getting "lower" and "smaller" behind the first pole. It is just extremely uncommon (in my experience) to see a long line of anything depicted in this way.
The artists/lithographers at The Manual seemed to enjoy their work. For example, in the above image in addition to teh lined-up telegraph poles we have some other very uncommon small elements. No doubt the view was true--which was the intent of the book, to accurately portray the city--but the small elements were creative, quiet and incisive. Perhaps it is also just exactly what the artist saw when the view was made. For example, the woman
crossing the street us stepping up on the curb and raising her skirts slightly--it would've been easier to just have her standing there, as with the gentleman immediately in front of her, but for some (creative) reason she is shown in an unusual pose. Ditto the guy leaning against the building at right--he's out of proportion with the other two figures, unless he was a giant, but he's just, well, leaning there. He's also standing next to a shutter, which is down and also leaning against the building. A peddler makes his/her way across the street in the background with a large cart. And the windows in the buildings are unequally decorated, with interior window dressings at different stages of being drawn and not, and with different treatment, and in different states of repair. In short, the image is really a snapshot.
I imagine that somewhere here in this country there could still original telegraph poles standing--the originals started out generally as chestnut, and then force treated with creosote, and were intended to stand for 50 to 100 years. Under favorable conditions in which they were just simply not replaced, it is conceivable that some could have lasted for 150 years.
Among graduated indicators the semi-physical allocations of measurable units time must be the most significant--or at least in modern times, over the last few hundreds years, when the popular class was able to afford time-keeping devices so that they could have a greater appreciation and control over time past and future. Simplified articulations of long periods of time is generally not a topic of illustration, however--art and illustration showing the development of a story is generally not a common occurrence in published form.
It is not terribly uncommon in ancient and early modern times, though. Trajan's Column is an excellent example of a sequential story, this told in stone; legends and myths and other stories are told in vases and friezes in Greece, and in various codices and altars in Mayan and Mixtec cultures.
But in more modern times the telling of the sequential stories in published form, again, is not a common thing. Even the telling of the story of the development of, say, a tree or the life cycle of a bird is just not a common occurrence, in spite of the more-popular appearance of graphical and expressive modes of displaying quantitative data in the mid-19th century.
Perhaps the most common of the early transitions in displaying these stories since the Renaissance have been in the telling of the lives of the Saints, or in the Passion of the Christ, or in the depiction of the legend of Adam and Eve (as in the work of Lucius Cranach, above). There are interesting cycles showing the Christian mythic formulation of the creation of the world, as in the case of Thomas Burnet's (illustrated title page to his) Sacred History of the Earth where there is a glorious seven-sphere display of the beginning and ending of our planet.
I wonder though if one of the most popular and common sequential depictions of an important and shared story is that of the ages of man/people: generally they show a pyramidal showcase of silhouettes or full-body portraits of one person as that body develops and decays over the major decades of a life.
They would normally appear in a configuration like the following:
And earlier on, very famously, like so:
(I've written about and identified these and other related depictions of the ages of man here.)
I came to think about all of this again after reading an interesting post in the excellent Public Domain Review blog where I found this absolutely delightful "barometric" rendition of the stages of life, a sequential, top-to-bottom graphical display of the stages, but without illustration. I cannot remember seeing such a "list" before, and was not familiar with the book from which it came (The art of invigorating and prolonging life, by food, clothes, air, exercise, wine, sleep, &cand peptic precepts, pointing out agreeable and
effectual methods to prevent and relieve indigestion, and to regulate
and strengthen the action of the stomach and bowels ... : to which is
added, the pleasure of making a will ...which was printed in 1822 by Constable for Hurst/Robinson in London, the full text of which can be found at the Internet Archive).
And the "Rule of Seven" which precedes the longer list above:
It is interesting to note that this was the fourth edition of this work, and that the end of the book, the very synopsis for ideas of full life and longevity, the whole is topped off by a chapter on happy-making and your personal will.
There were many admonishments that made and still make perfect sense found in these pages: early to bed and early to rise sort of material. Plain, but sensible. Eating early. Dressing sensibly. Eating (for the time) modestly. Interesting recipes. Pure air making for "a diverted mind". Good advice for the mature bookbuyers there in first quarter 19th-century England. I imagine that most of those readers were no doubt born in the second-to-last decade of the 18th century, which means that their instructions on Daily Life business was from their parents who got their information from their parents, which means by 1822 much of the handed-down wisdom relating to diet and exercise was from the early 18th century. Perhaps this work was the breath of fresh air that people needed, making it popular enough to find its was into at least four editions. (Also worth noting is that the average resting pulse rate for the readers of this book was said to be 60, which I think is lower than the American national average today.)
There is of course a suffocating number of ill-advised recommendations, like for athletes, where the consumed foods should not include veal, lamb, pork, fish or cheese puddings, "or vegetables", which leaves little room for anything besides red beef, which was to be had in quantities, including beef pudding, jellied beef, and "beef tea". There was also a lot of beer and malt liquor drinking, with suggestions for "three pints of home-brewed" to be had with dinner, followed by three glasses of wine ('the less, the better")--then again, clean/drinkable water was a tough go at times, so beer was a common-enough stand-in. All things being equal, the advice utilized whatever was the good data for the time.
The long list from birth to death of supposed and impending accomplishments is interesting particularly for the "decaying" part (which is outlined in the second chart) of life, where we find that at age 54 a person should be conducting their mathematical works, after which (from 55 to 60) one is relegated to pursuing "former works". (After all, the period of general decay according to the Rules of Seven chart begins at age 6x7.) And it is here that the creative life ends, because from this point to the preparation for eternity the life is spent enjoying one's earthly works.
In any event, I just wanted to point out the unusual nature of the "William Jones' Andrometer", which is a display of information that is outside my usual experience.
I briefly considered including "logic trees" in this description, as they do tell a story, in a way. Particularly Porphyry's Tree came to mind (which was a classification in diagrammatic form on different kinds of being) and then Pacioloi's summary of ratios from his Summa de arithmetica (1494). They do certainly represent a structured depiction of thought, but they are not a narrative, though they would provide the structure for one. Anyway, I'm convinced tonight at least that these diagrams don't belong in the sequential illustration discussion. (And in a weird way these diagrams enter the modern conversation so far as their overuse is concerned. Even in the Middle Ages the idea of the logic tree was being so over- and mis-employed that they would remind the modern reader of the "Top 15 (or whatever number) Photographs of Butterflies (and again, whatever he counted thing might be).)
[Image source: Popular Mechanics, September 1936, page 400.]
Robots, or mechanical beings, or mechanized forms of humanity or from the animal kingdom have been around in popular literature for many decades by the time this giant robot appeared in Texas in 19361. (The idea is old though the name "robot" didn't appear until Karel Capek invented it for his book on the future called R.U.R in 1920. Actually the human-like forms created by Capek in this early scifi work were biotech, and not fully mechanized.) The form of the robot stretches back hundreds of years, in a way--if not the exactly the idea of a robot, but at least with the appearance of one.
Such is the case with Albrecht Durer's (1471-1528) revolutionary drawing of a geometrical man, compartmentalizing the bodyd into distinct chunks--these and other woodcuts appeared in his Symmetria partium…humanorum corporum and must have been an amazing, startling site for the new reader to such things in 1537.To me this looks like visionary thinking in trying to understand the motions of living beings with no actual way of capturing the image in motion.
[This and many other images from the fabulous Bibliodyssey website, here.]
All of which are retro-reminiscent of early robots, like this from The Fantast in 1939:
[Image source: the wonderful Cybernetic Zoo website, with loads of images and timelines, here.]
Seven years late in Nuremberg Erhard Schoen published Unnderweissung der proportzion unnd stellung der possen, liegent und stehent..., which followed Durer showing that the human form was reducible to connected but discrete Euclidean solids:
[Source: 50watts.com, "Tetrahedra in Space", Frank R. Paul series, here.]
See also an earlier post, "Things out of Place Department: the Moon", here.
This is certainly the work of a delightful and bouncing imagination, more so with the illustration by the great Frank R. Paul. The image is found on the back cover of the August 1953 issue of Science Fiction Plus for the short story "The End of the Moon". And what we see--at least from the artwork as I cannot find an online version of the text--is a not-convincing result of the Moon going away. I'm not an historian of the idea of the vanishing Moon and how early writers have imagined it ailing/disappearing/exploding/imploding, though I'm fairly well sure that the scifi wasn't keeping up with the 1953 science of it all, at least with what I can see and understand.
If there was no Moon. What if the Moon never existed? What if the Moon existed but vanished? I guess it would all depend on what exactly happened to the Moon to figure out the disposition of its remaining assets. The Moon removed certainly would effect changes in the tides, though I think not in the way depicted above. There would substantial changes though I think not enough to cause a new continent to rise out of the middle of the Atlantic, or to flood all of northeastern Africa. "If We Had No Moon", an essay by Bernard Foing in Astrobiology Magazine, here, provides an interesting tidal change map (below) which shows a projection of the main hotbeds of tidal change.
Since I have no access to the text of the scifi article I don't know if the story addressed changes to the weather and migratory patterns of animals in response to tidal changes, or what happens to large coastal cities, or the influence of a more volatile seasonal change, or changes to the Earth's orbital parameters, and so on.
Its the "and so on" part that is the most interesting left-out bit.
Bottom line here is that I just like the great cover art for the story
Another interesting article from ScienceNordic, here.
The Binder brothers (Earl Andrew [1904-1965] and Otto Oscar [1911-1975] under the pseudonym Eando Binder (E and O Binder) wrote "Where Eternity Ends", a story which appeared in the June 1939 issue of Science Fiction magazine. The cover illustration was by the great Frank R. Paul, and it depicted a savage attack upon the iconic New York City World's Fair building, the perisphere (the trylon is in the background), and what looks like the rest of NYC as well.
It is also part of a continuing subseries on this blog relating
images of antique images showing NYC destroyed, and include the
This blog has long hosted a series of posts on "accidental" or "unintended" works of pre-modern modernist art found in displays of information and statistics in the sciences and mathematics, and even occasionally in art and design. One such work--a 1904 triumph of accidental art issuing from an usunal work on color theory--belongs to an aesthetician named Emily Vanderpoel. It is extraordinary in a narrower sense, and that extraordinary might not actually be positive for its original intent--the extra-intent of the book, what has come out of it for me, was something that was unintentionally accomplished by the author. The images that she used to illustrate her color theory ideas--the basis of which are not really omprehensible to me--turn out to be artwork in themselves, a found art, the artistry of the images taking over the original intention for the arrangement of their color. She had introduced (though to no one, not really) a concept of beautifully arranged spatial color, artwork without a subject that could be recognized as any sort of natural object--non-representational art, finding publication several years before what is seen as the first inentional attempt at that genre, by Vassily Kandinsky in 1911. (Images below.) And when one strolls through the history of scientific illustration it becomes easier and easier to find such things, fabulous precursors to non-represnetational art, and Dadism, and Cubism and Surrealism.
These elements seem to be most populous in the illustrated sections of early encyclopediae, and dictionaries, and even encyclopedic dictionaries, where a number of different elements are displayed on the same page, different and generally unrelated images on the same engraved sheet, references for articles found in different parts of the book.
Here is a good example of that, with unintentional Surrealist images found in the image refernce pages of Horace Benedict de Saussure's Voyages dans les Alpes....(published in Neuchatel in 1803):
[There are a number of other examples that I've written about on this blog: here, for example, in "On the Paper Sculpting of Nothing".]
And then there are examples like Vanderpoel, where the entire image from one sheet is the pre-modernist image in question--to my experience this is the more uncommon occurrence.
Which brings us to today's installment: the infographic displays found in Francis Walker's Statistical atlas of the United States based on the results of the ninth census 1870 with contributions from many eminent men of science and several departments of the government, which is the atlas of data to accompany the 9th Census of the United States, published in 1874. This is a beautiful work, and a pioneering challenge. Walker was one of the earliest to produce a statistical atlas, and was perhaps the earliest to display this huge and broad amount of data in so many different ways--it must have seemed a semi-miracle to see the information displayed so, like going froma black & white television to color, or color to infared, and so on. It may well have represented anentirely new way of looking at data.
The first image (above) in this post is from the illustration showing proportions of the white/non-white population, and the following image shows a detail of that, offset against Mark Rothko's 1959 Black on Maroon.
Francis Walker's statistical mapping, above, 1873; Mark Rotko,
[Black on Maroon (1959) by Mark Rothko, part of the Seagram mural series, via Tate Modern.]
The first and third images are details from this full-page illustration:
It is easy to see the similarities between the data display and the Rothko, though it would really not be within anyone's power to identify the Walker diagrams as "art" in the modern sense for another five decades. But it certainly seemed there, ready to be of influence and service, though I'm not aware offhand of artists being influence by these images as they were with, say etienne Marey's photographs. I'm not sure that these statistics images ever came into the service of art in the beginning of the modern era. And maybe that's the biggest question here.
"...stars...Numerous, and every star perhaps a world Of destined habitations"--Milton, Paradise Lost (1668)
In spite of a fairly long (if not light) and ancient history, it seems as though Christian Huygens might have thought more to the shaping of extraterrestrial life than any writer to his time. [The idea of extraterrestrial life is very old, stretching far back into Hindu cosmology, and even deep into the (eighteen worlds) of the Talmud. Thales, Anaximander, Democritus, Aristole, Ptolemy all thought about and agreed on the possibilities of life being lived on places other than the Earth--infintely more life, in the case of Epicurus. Bruno, Copernicus, Fontenelle, Henry More, and Cyrano de Bergerac.] In a way, in a Asimovian way of rules, Huygens may have laid out the first real template for describing what life-not-on-Earth might look like. And in the long run, he finds that the possibilities for life Elsewhere are enormously high (and not in doubt in any way), and that it should in no way be any lesser life-formed than what we know here on Earth--and that includes "life" in all of its great complexities.
[One of the few images made during this time or earlier on the possibilities of world systems outside our own appeared in Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle--who almost but not quite gets there in his 1682 book Entretriens sur la pluralite des mondes, as follows, though it really has not much at all to do directly with Huygens:]
Huygens (1629-1695) worked across many fields, including astronomy, biology, math and physics, and was extraordinarily productive, making numerous contributions in the physical and theoretical areas, as well as being a prolific author and correspondant. But towards the end of his relatively short life (he died at age 56) Huygens embarked down the science fiction road in pre-science fiction days, writing a wonderful and provocative book entitled Cosmotheoros, The Celestial World Discover'd: or, Conjectures Concerning the Inhabitants, Plants and Productions of the Worlds in the Planets (available online in English here) where he establishes the groundwork of this extraterretrial life. (The book was nearly published during Huygens' lifetime, but it didn't quit ework out; left to his brother to published, he, too died before the book was finally in print in 1698. Shortly after the Latin edition of the Cosmotheoro was published by the The Hague publisher Adriaan Moetjens, translations appeared in English (1698) and in Dutch (1699). In the following years, translations also appeared in French (1702), German (1703), Russian (1717) and in Swedish (1774).)
Hugens set out his description by arguing that extraterrestrial existence of life is perfectly in keeping with the Bible, and that his"conjectures are not useless" or "overcurious", and that are justified in and of themselves as a useful pursuit because of the display of logic in his arguments. He states that the inherent sinfulness and "villany" of man on Earth does not perclude life elsewhere, and these lifeforms coul dbe everywhere else, and no different from our own, with no differences in ability to reason and explore. Lifeforms exist much like us, with at least five senses (and here Huygens makes an interesting play for more-than-give senses, though he doesn't understand what they might be), and are capable of all of the supporting capacities for enjoying astronomy, and logic, mathematics, physik, arithmatic, and all of the rest, including all possible skills that could be called upon in the production of instruments of science necessary to pursue any endeavor, and all enjoyed in a society as expectently rich as any on Earth, enjoying all of their plants and animal lifeforms, all of their own creations and the rest of the creations of Nature, all while listening to a universe-wide application of music ("everywhere immutably the same", which Huygens states beautifully here:)
“It's the same with Musick as with Geometry, it's every where immutably the same, and always will be so. For all Harmony consists in Concord, and Concord is all the World over fixt according to the same invariable measure and proportion. So that in all Nations the difference and distance of Notes is the same, whether they be in a continued gradual progression, or the voice makes skips over one to the next. Nay very credible Authors report, that there's a sort of Bird in America, that can plainly sing in order six musical Notes: whence it follows that the Laws of Musick are unchangeably fix'd by Nature, and therefore the same Reason holds valid for their Musick, as we even now proposed for their Geometry"--(page 86)
Cosmotheoros' pages are filled with such reasoned arguments--remarkably so for the end of the 17th century, barely 90 years after the great publication of Galileo and 40 aftre the work of Hooke (in exploring infinities at the other end of the optic scale).
I've included some interesting parts from Book One of the Cosmotheoros; the subject/section headings are in red, and the page number (which usually appears mid-sentence) is related as . Huygens occasionally referes to the other non-Earth life forms as "Planetarians". Here's a sample: