Sunday, July 29, 2012

The "Comic history of Rome", 19th Century

The "Comic History of Rome, from the founding of the city to the end of the commonwealth" was written by Gilbert Abbott à Beckett (1811 – 1856), an English humorist born in London and educated at Westminster School. Gilbert was an active journalist on The Times and The Morning Herald and contributed with series of light articles to The Illustrated London News that conducted in 1846 to The Almanack of the Month. He is perhaps best known as the author of Comic History of England and the Comic History of Rome.

(This edition -available on facsimilium collection- was printed by Bradbury, Evans and Co. -whitefriars, 11 Bouverie street-)

Romulus and Remus

This edition was illustrated (10 steel engravings and 100-odd wood engravings) by John Leech, and indefatigable worker, true humorist and student of human life. I found a complete collection of drawings from Mr Leech on wikimedia commons, regarding a different edition of this "Comic history of Rome", and posted some below (average resolution is good, with full res option 1,997 × 3,403 pxls). Mr Leech also supplied illustrations for a number of magazines and books, most notably the plates in 'A Christmas Carol' by Dickens.

The Mother of the Gracchi

Terrific Combat between Titus Manlius and a Gaul of gigantic Stature

Tarquinius Superbus makes himself King.
Appius Claudius punished by the People.
Some related external links:
  • The John Leech Sketch archives from Punch, surprising collection of sketches (more than 600) issued from year 1841 to 1864. 1st click on "enter the archive" then navigate to "year index", most prolific year was 1851 with a total of 96 sketches, ordered by title. I was surprised about this website, no official logo, no reference to webmaster... ¿?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book of hours (use of Rome), 15th Century

Massacre of innocents

Probably the best illuminations I've never seen before in a conventional Book of Hours. This use of Rome Book of Hours was partially illustrated by Jean Fouquet and Jean Bourdichon (his pupil). Jean Fouquet, also referred to as Souquet, is considered the master of both panel painting and manuscript illumination during 15th Century. Born in France (Tours), decided to travel to Italy and experience at first hand the Italian Early Renaissance (his first work here was aportrait of Pope Eugene IV, who died in that year). I'll not extend on Fouquet's bio as he's well known. Only remark his -probably- best work: the Melun Diptych, a two panel oil painting stored in the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame in Melun (link goes to the official website of the city in french).

This amazing codex has 227 vellum folios in small format (116x110 cm) and has a total of 37 full page illustrations (which is over average for this type of manuscripts during 15th Century), some of them posted below:

St. Luke reading, wearing primitive glasses

The Death (armed with a lance and riding a bull)
Calendar section represents each month on two pages, with header written in silver letters; major festivals written in letters of gold. At the end of each month, a Latin phrase written in golden letters summarizes the activity of the month as follows: Janus Pocula amat. Februarius clamat Algeo. Arva fodit Martius. Aprilis prodit florida. Mayo sunt amorum floras. Junius fena dat. Julius resecatur avenam. Despicat Augustus [sic: Augustus Spicas colligit ]. September colligit uvas. Seminat October. Spoliat virgultam November. Querit cibum amare, porcum mactare December.

Month of December

External references related I could find:
  • English version of online exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, I do recommend the "manuscript paintings" section -res fair- link
  • Further lectures as follows: Paul R. Wescher, "Jean Fouquet and His Times" (1945; trans. 1947). Trenchard Cox, "Jehan Foucquet, Native of Tours (1931)". Klaus G. Perls, "Jean Fouquet (1939; trans. 1940)".
  • Wikipedia link to "Melun Diptych", link here
For a high resolution, pdf version of this manuscript, contact me (facsimilium AT gmail DOT com).

Monday, July 9, 2012

Robert Hooke's Micrographia, 17th Century

Always felt the profoundest admiration for Robert Hooke. Probably was for me the better representative of that golden-crazy age of science revolution in all Europe during second part of 17th Century. Unfortunately Hooke was contemporary of Isaac Newton, who did more than much -his best- as president of the Royal Society to obscure Hooke's legacy and even memory (no authenticated portrait of Robert Hooke exists, and even this fact is attributed to Newton).

Hooke deduced that gravity follows an inverse square law, and that such a relation governs the motions of the planets, an idea which was subsequently developed by Newton. The complete compilation of correspondence between Hooke and Newton has been recently published: when Hooke started this letter exchange, he provided Newton a complete list of matters of his interest, and most important was about "compounding the celestial motions of the planetts of a direct motion by the tangent and an attractive motion towards the central body".

I always thought that the experiment related by Neal Stephenson on his historical fiction in which Hooke demonstrated that a dog could be kept alive with its thorax opened, providing pumped air in and out of its lungs was only fiction, but the real thing is that Hooke made this experiment with a helper and stayed pumping air during more than 20 hours, manually. Was in this experiment where Hooke noted difference between venous and arterial blood.

Robert Hooke´s experiment on the respiration of a dog. Looks cruel but there's a marvellous consequence: the first clinically useful ventilator equipment was used, for pumping air into the trachea via tubes, based on Hooke’s principle 250 years later (two bellows to produce a positive pressure through rapid pumping). Experiment paper with conclusions should be available here. (Until July, 9th this link was broken. I reported to London Royal Society).

Other investigations and discoveries attributed to Hooke were about mechanics, microscopy (Micrographia), palaeontology (supported the theory that extinction was a fact, that was theologically unaccepted then), astronomy (studies about measuring distances to stars, using gamma draconis; studied lunar craters, observed rings of saturn, etc), and also Architecture (helped to tebuild London after the great fire of 1666).

For a high resolution, pdf version of this manuscript, contact me (facsimilium AT gmail DOT com).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spanish cryptography, 16th Century

Original title for this codex is "Discursos de la cifra", and is basicly a complete treatise on cryptography, including technical description of different methods for enciphering and deciphering using tables, volvelles, movable sleeves, and grilles. Codex was written by an unknown (at least for me so far but my investigation is still on progress) cryptographer in the service of Martin de Cordova, viceroy of Navarre, and dedicated to Juan Fernandez de Velasco, Condestable de Castilla, a Spanish official who held also government posts in Italy, under domination of Spain in that age.

Delicious poem that serve as a preface for first volume: In this borrowed life/ where good life is the key/ the one that is saved knows/ that the other knows nothing.

This codex is complex, because it's composed of two different books or treatises. Cryptography is the second volume. The first is more theoretical and describes ciphers based on subjects such as arithmetic, non-Roman alphabets (Greek, Hebrew) and writing systems (Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, the writing of Indians of New Spain), astrology, musical notation, geography, currency, orthography, armorials, emblems, and enigmas.

Codex was sold by Martayan Lan -New York office- in Sept. 2001 and donated to the Pennsilvania University by Lawrence Schoenberg, an active philanthropist founder of the computer firm AGS.