Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Theatre of Machines, 16th Century

Tromba o' schizo per alzar aque in grand altezza
Human powered pumping device to raise water to great heights

Vittorio Zonca (1568-1602) was an Italian architect. Was hard to find information on the net about his life, beyond the fact that he lived in Padua and wrote an illustrated technical and practical handbook on machines (from wikipedia, link provided). His codex “The Theatre of Machines” (original title "Novo Teatro di Machine and Edificii") wasn't released until four years after his death. Note: (All illustrations seen in this post are from the 3rd edition, published in 1656).

A levar aque con un moto perpetuo
System for raising water based on a "perverted siphon". It had a large, sealed inverted U-tube with larger diameter on one side. The figure shows the larger tube (A) on the left emptying water at a higher level than the water intake on the right. This water then powered a horizontal turbine at the bottom, which drives a millwheel for grinding grain. The sealed port at the top was to facilitate the initial filling of the tube with water.

Zonca's work was important and original because it came closest, among contemporaries in the emerging field of technical manuals, to showing how the mechanical systems would function in the real world. In other words, Zonca's manual was more practical than theoretical

Codex is available via the European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO) portal at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Previews are organized in three groups, each page can be zoomed up to a highest resolution of "3x", even for a nice print out ;) -seriously I tried with a laser color printer with amazing results-. 

Other sites I could find that hosts part or the whole codex:

  • This post has a strong relation with previously published (Nov 2011) post on facsimilium: The various and ingenious machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli (16th Century). <circular reference provided>
  • KMODDL: a collection of mechanical models and related resources for teaching the principles of kinematics--the geometry of pure motion, at Cornell University college of engineering. Original -complete- title is mentioned here as "Novo teatro di machine et edificii per uarie et sicure operationi : Có le loro figure tagliate in rame é la dichiaratione, e dimostratione di ciascuna. Opera necesaria ad architetti, e a quelli, ch' di tale studio si dilettano, di Vittorio Zonca".
  • Istituto Internazionale di Storia economica "F. Datini" has titled illustrations from Zonca's book (in Italian). They included all engraves with their title (italian), according to the machine depicted: link here. Link to the foundation main website (no other than italian version available :( here.
  • There's a nice & funny description for the "perverted siphon"concept above (image #2 of this post) on the virtual Museum of Unworkable Devices I really enjoyed this compilation of fascinating devices! there's a specific article by Donald E. Simanek titled "Perpetual Futility: A short history of the search for perpetual motion" I do recommend, both links provided. 
 Some other pages:

Trombe da rota per cavar aqua
Human-powered water pumping system
Porte per sostenner l'aqua d'alcun fiume per bisogno della navigation et altro
Mitre gates on a navigational river or canal lock
Molino teragno d'acqua
Standard water powered mill for flour making
Molino fatto col moto degli animali
Animal powered mill