Friday, September 05, 2008

The Most Delicate Art

Arte subtilissima d

Arte subtilissima a

Arte subtilissima

Arte subtilissima b

Arte subtilissima c

Arte subtilissima e

Arte subtilissima f

calligraphy typography spain

spanish 16th century calligraphy manual

Arte subtilissima i

Juan de Yciar calligraphy copybook

handwriting manual

'Arte Subtilissima, por la Qual se Enseña a Escreuir Perfectamente' (The most delicate art of teaching a perfect hand), 1550 by Juan de Icíar (Juan de Yciar) with (?wood) engravings by Jean de Vingles from Lyon is available online from Biblioteca Complutense at the University of Madrid. [click on 'Láminas' in the margin for links to the illustrated pages]

To quote the Britannica Online Encyclopedia:

"From the 16th through 18th centuries two types of writing books predominated in Europe: the writing manual, which instructed the reader how to make, space, and join letters, as well as, in some books, how to choose paper, cut quills, and make ink; and the copybook, which consisted of pages of writing models to be copied as practice.

In Rome in 1540 Giovanni Battista Palatino published his Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere (“New Book for Learning to Write”), which proved to be, along with the manuals of Arrighi and Tagliente, one of the most influential books on writing cancelleresca issued in the first half of the 16th century. These three authors were frequently mentioned and imitated in later manuals, and their own manuals were often reprinted during and after their lifetimes.

The first non-Italian book on chancery was by the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator. His Literarum Latinarum (“Latin Letters”), published in Louvain, Belg., in 1540, was written in Latin, then the universal language of scholarship; that fact must have increased the work’s appeal to northern European scholars who associated chancery with humanist learning. Mercator expanded on the Italian teaching method of showing, stroke by stroke, how each letter of the alphabet is made; like his Italian contemporaries, he grouped letters according to their common parts rather than alphabetically.

Thus c, a, and d are presented together since they all begin with a common stroke c and are completed with a dotless i or l. His manual goes further than any previous one in presenting the order and number of strokes in making chancery capital letters. (The Italians merely presented examples of such letters to be copied.) Mercator also introduced the 45-degree pen angle for writing cancelleresca, something never suggested or practiced by Italian writing masters.

Juan de Yciar was the first in Spain to publish a copybook, the Recopilacion subtilissima (1548; “Most Delicate Compilation”). Two years later he published his Arte Subtilissima (1550; “The Most Delicate Art”), in which he acknowledged his debt to the printed books of Arrighi, Tagliente, and Palatino. Like them he showed a variety of formal and informal hands and decorative alphabets. His manual differed from theirs in its inclusion of advice for teachers as well as for students."

Juan de Icíar (~1520-1590) was a Basque painter and mathematician and the most important calligrapher of the Spanish Renaissance. He settled in Zaragoza where his two calligraphy manuals were published. His 'Arte Subtilissima' introduced the chancery script - cancelleresca corsiva - to Spain and although it is described as a copybook, it is more intended as a manual for an engraver rather than the hand scribe.

I liked a couple of small quotes by Icíar - not out of keeping in attitude towards cursive scripts from some of his contemporaries - from Jonathan Goldberg's 'Writing Matter' (1990) :
"There are some letters so unforthcoming that they refuse to enter into any sort of friendship or conversation with others" [..]
"other letters are naturally amiable and of good concord and do not deny their intimacy to any other letter".

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya

birdseye view maps of Toldeo and Valladolid

Birds-eye view maps of Toledo and Valladolid, Spain. IN: 'Civitates Orbis Terrarum', 1572 by Georg Braun with illustrations by Joris (Jovis or Georg) Hoefnagel [previously: Middle Earth and (tangentially) Archetypal Nature]

Gibraltar (scales)

I can't quite properly comprehend all the text at the bottom of this allegorical print (dated 1782) featuring Gibraltar as the backdrop. It seems to be weighing up, I suppose, the relative virtues or intentions of nation states with a role or interest in the region; but the mention of 'Rodney' must refer to Admiral George Rodney:

"On 1 October 1779 Rodney was again appointed to command the Barbados and Leeward Islands Squadron beginning the most celebrated period of his career. He left Plymouth on 29 December 1779 with twenty ships-of-the-line, his first objective being to relieve Gibraltar. In a great piece of good fortune on 8 January 1780 his fleet sighted a twenty-two strong Spanish convoy, including seven warships of the Caracas Company. All were captured and the merchant ships became a British convoy to supply the Gibraltar garrison."

Jewish Woman of Gibraltar

A Jewish Woman of Gibraltar in Fine Dress (1800)

View of the New Square and one of the Antique Gates of Barcelona

View of the New Square and one of the Antique Gates of Barcelona (~1820)

The drawing is by Jacques Moulinier and *may* have been commissioned at the beginning of the 19th century by the French writer/politician, Alexandre de Labord, who published two massive volumes on Spain that included nine hundred engravings by a host of artists. {et en français}

Rade et Plan de Cadix et des Environs

'Rade et Plan de Cadix et des Environs' (1700 - Cadiz, Spain)
[What does 'rade' mean?? A: harbour]

Canary Islands

Insula de Gran Canaria: Allagoena, Gracyosa
by Jan Orlers, 1657. {Canary Islands}

"A very busy battle scene showing Allagoena in Gran Canaria and the attack of the Dutch fleet in 1599. Ships in the foreground send smaller boats to the coast and fighting figures with their muskets raised are identifiable on the land." [source]

The Kremlin, Moscow

The Kremlin, Moscow (1814)

This hand coloured aquatint engraving appeared in 'An Illustrated Record of Important Events in the Annals of Europe, during the Years 1812, 1813, 1814, & 1815. Comprising a Series of Views of Paris, Moscow, the Kremlin, Dresden, Berlin, the Battles of Leipsic, etc.' by Robert Bowyer. {Christies; see also: The history of the Moscow Kremlin [homepage]}

Bakt-Chi-Serai Crimea - Tartar Khan

Bakt-Chi-Serai (1855) [lithography by T Packer]
"Sketched from the Ancient Palace of the Tartar Khans - Now the Russian Headquarters"
[Crimea is part of Ukraine these days]

In the book, 'The Sabres of Paradise' (2004) [preview/amazon], Lesley Blanch advises that the descendants of Genghis Khan, the Krim Khans of Crimea, had a palace in their capital, Baktchiserai. The fairly austere life of the Khans meant that, although they generally eschewed worldly riches, they chose magnificent locations to live:
"The luxury of the Khan's palaces were not so much dependent on riches as on the voluptuous beauty of their setting. At Baktchiserai nightingales sang in the flowering trees; there were pearl-shell fountains and an insidious mixture of sacred and profane love, of harem and mosque."
The palace became a hospital during the Crimean War (1854-1856) and is best remembered as the inspiration for Pushkin's poem, 'The Fountain of Baktchiserai': "the story of a Polish Contess and her lover, a Tartar Khan." [see also: The Crimea IN: Illustrated Description of Russia from 1855]

Kherson, Ukraine

Kherson, on the River Dnieper, from the Quay of St Paul
1855 [lithography by T Packer] (Ukraine) {wikipedia}

Hormoz (Iran)

Ile Dormus ou de Jerun (~1748)

Hormuz Island (Iran) [sat-map] is situated in the Persian Gulf near the coast of Iran. About 30% of the world's oil supplies passes through the Straight of Hormuz, a stretch of water less than thirty miles wide between Iran and Oman. Consequently, it is one of the most strategically important and politically volatile waterways in the world. See the extensive dataxinfo site on Hormuz.

Cairo Canal

Egypte moderne: Khazins sur le Khalyg (canal du Caire)
[Cairo canal] by Lemaitre, 1821.

The Pharos of Ptolemey King of Egypt

The Pharos of Ptolemey King of Egypt
Engraved for the New Geographical Dictionary, 1790

Built in the 3rd century BC at the order of King Ptolemy I, the 400-450 ft. Lighthouse of Alexandria (one of the seven ancient wonders of the world) was severely damaged by earthquakes in the 14th century and the ruins incorporated into a fort built on the same site. Remnants of the lighthouse stonework are visible if you go scuba diving in Alexandria's Eastern Harbour.

The Temple of the Sun in Nineveh (Iraq)

The Temple of the Sun in Nineveh
Engraved for the New Geographical Dictionary, 1790

Nineveh was/is located adjacent to the present-day city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. It was said to have been a magnificent capital city of the ancient Assyrian Empire. Vast palace structures were discovered in the 19th century and their contents have of course been serially plundered by the upstanding keepers of the world's cultural institutions ever since. [one, two, three]

Colossus of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes
Engraved for the New Geographical Dictionary, 1790

Another of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes was built on the island of Rhodes in Greece in the 3rd century BC. The ~100 ft. structure was made of marble, brass and bronze and it's fairly unlikely it straddled a waterway, as legend records it. An earthquake destroyed the monument less than sixty years after it was completed.

Paris en ballon

Excursions aériennes. Paris en ballon
Vue Prise du Pavillon Marsan (Château des Tuileries)
by Jules Arnout, 1846
Arnout seems to have done a series of tinted lithographs of panoramic views from a hot air balloon in (at least) France and England although I didn't discover too much searching. [for instance]

Observatoire de Peking tiré du Pere le Comte

Observatoire de Peking tiré du Pere le Comte

"Showing globes, astrolabes and armillary spheres. The Peking Observatory was equipped by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Flemish Jesuit missionary in Peking in the late 1660s. Rather than building the latest models he worked from Tycho Brahe's 'Mechanica', published eighty years before." [source]

The Beijing Ancient Observatory was actually built in 1442, making it one of the oldest observatories in the world. [flickr]

Each month or so, Xavier from the French site, Lexilogos, sends out an email notice advising of the new resource sites he has added to his extensive catalogue of useful internet destinations. While the main interest of Lexilogos is language related material, Xavier also happens to find and collate links to a wide variety of subjects, and I'm always interested to see the latest maps (mostly of the antique variety) and manuscripts he has found.

This month I was directed to an excellent site, the Institut Cartogràfic de Catalunya in Spain (there's a button for english there somewhere). The images above were drawn from the 'Place views of Catalunya and the world' (16th to 20th centuries) section which has over nine hundred birds-eye view perspectives, scenic engravings and lithographs and the occasional map, relating to a host of European, North African and Asian locations. I think the selection above ought to give a fair indication of the eclectic nature of their catalogue. Spanish places only make up about 30 percent of the total, at a guess. It's definitely worth having a wander.

All of the images above were cleaned up to one extent or another. I'm *assuming* they look alright. This is something of a 'blind' post: for my video crimes against bandwidth my ISP has throttled me back to dial-up speed (again) for the next couple of days so I can't properly load either this site or the flickr page. It took a couple of hours just to upload the images. Irony, meet my soft derrière. Ouch.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae

The Great Art of Light and Shadow

"The truth is, this Jesuit, as generally the most of his order, have a great ambition to be thoughte the greate and learned men of the world; and to that end writes greate volumes, on all subjects, with gay pictures and diagrams to set them forth, for ostentation And to fill up those volumes, they draw in all things, by head and shoulders; and these too for the most part, stolen from other authors. So that if that little, which is their owne, were separated from what is borrowed from others, or impertinent to their present arguments, their swollen volumes would shrink up to the size of our Almanacks. But enough of these Mountebankes*."
[Robert Payne in a letter to Gilbert Sheldon, 1650]{*mountbanke = charlatan}

"Whatsoever Mr. Huygens & others say of Kircher, I assure you I am one of those that think the Commonwealth of learning is much beholding to him, though there wants not chaff in his heap of stuff composted in his severall peaces, yet there is wheat to be found almost every where in them. And though he doth not handle most things fully, nor accurately, yet yt furnishes matter to others to do it. I reckon him as usefull Quarries in philosophy and good literature. Curious workmen may finish what hee but blocks and rough hewes. Hee meddles with too many things to do any exquisitely, yet in some that I can name I know none goes beyond him, at least as to grasping of variety: and even that is not onely often pleasure but usefull."
[Sir Robert Moray in a letter to Henry Oldenburg, 1665]

Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (frontispiece)

Frontispiece: 'Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae'
"Angels form an arc under the central light, which is YHWH, the Hebrew letters for God. Daylight is the source of direct light, refracted light, and light reflected by night (on right). Divine authority, a hand writing a book that absorbs light directly from the source of all light, oversees the daylight, and it is a little higher than Reason, the hand writing a book above the night, which receives a more modest eye's light. Below daylight is Profane Authority, which receives only a lantern's light; below Reason is Sense, which points to an image produced by a telescope. Emperor Ferdinand enters the picture as one of Kircher's patrons." [source]

moon phase representational figures

‘The Selenic Shadowdial or the Process of the Lunation’
"The spirals show the length of the Moon’s appearance in the sky, with its rising and setting. The scheme gives the Moon twenty-eight phases and the engraver, Pierre Miotte, has reversed the appearance of the waxing and waning moons for the northern hemisphere."

archimedes death ray

anamorphosis - eagle



devil fountain

figura literarum

gun and crossbow

horoscopium catholicum

Universal horoscope of the Society of Jesus
"Composite sundial in the form of an olive tree. When hung vertically, with pins placedat the nodes of the tree, this allows the time in each Jesuit province to be read. The base of the tree represents Rome. Additionally, the shadows of all the pins align to spell "IHS", the logo of the Society of Jesus."

horoscopium geographicum

icon wheel

mors ultima linea

quadrans horarum

sciatheric astronomicum

sciathericon medicinae coelestis

sciathericon microcosmicum

sciathericon motus saturni

speculum planum

tempora labuntur

water clock

{click on the image then click 'All Sizes' for enlarged versions.
There are a few more illustrations saved in this set}

Whether you consider Father Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) to be the embodiment of polymathic inquisitiveness or an overrated plagiarist who contributed nothing but 'chaff' to the intellectual life of the 17th century, the abundance of illustrations throughout his works remain enigmatic curiosities nevertheless.

Kircher's massive treatise from 1646, 'Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae', contains observations on the nature of light, lenses, mirrors, sundials, astrology and (Ptolemaic) astronomy and related topics. It also includes some of the earliest descriptions of the camera obscura and the magic lantern.

It is no coincidence that this site periodically revisits the many and varied works of Fr. Kircher, for BibliOdyssey would not exist had it not been for my chance discovery of his eccentric legacy about three years ago. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

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