JF Ptak Science Books Post 1960
I was shocked to investigate this seemingly magically-produced engraving under magnification–it was a small piece of inset work used to illustrate an idea within a much larger overall engraving. The detail is about a 5% cropping of the full image:
It is a subset of this detail:
Which in turn is a detail from this beautiful work which is itself a four-by-four inch detail in a larger engraving, the footprint of an elevation of the Sepolcro di Caio Cestio, which was printed in 1840.
The craftsman who produced this engraving incised 250 lines on one side of this 4-inch-square, then proceeded to incise another 250 lines on the other–or so. This means that there are something on the order of 62,000 (or thereabouts) squares produced by the draftsman in order to make a mostly-black background for the image.
The plan is for the pyramidal tomb of Caius Cestius who was a monied Roman who demanded that for the disbursement of his will to be complete had to have this tombstone built to himself in a prescribed period of time–mostly very quickly. The result has been captured by Piranessi and others–a very sharp-pointed pyramid about 130′ at its base and 145′ tall. When finished the builders incised their victory and documented it on the side of the pyramid so:
Opus absolutum ex testamento diebus CCCXXX, arbitratu (L.) Ponti P. f. Cla (udia tribu), Melae heredis et Pothi l(iberti). (“The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by
the decision of the heir [Lucius] Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia, and Pothus, freedman”.)
All I really wanted to comment on here though is the craftsmanship of producing this finely-lined and remarkable detail