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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

Steampunk inventions984

I found these images browsing through The Illustrated London News for April (date obscured) 1853. In my experience seeing articulated, steam-driven robots in the mid-19th century is pretty unusual. There’s an earlier image (from about 1849) that shows a robot like the one pictured above, though it was actually a man in a robot suit, a person driving a machine–the image above of “the Stream Ploughman” is clearly a stand-alone robot, as we can see through the thigh area, though it does have human attributes, like a semi-face and the capacity to whistler while it worked.

Other posts on early robots in this blog include: Mall-Mortuary Faces on Patent Drawings of Robots, 1936-1976; The Edenless World, the First Female Robot; Endless Eve, 1936; Durer’s Beautiful Monsters, for example.

The caption may idetify this as an airship, but there are no signs here of ho wthis thing would get aloft. And I have no idea what the dog is doing there.

Steampunk inventions990

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1959

Blog--vegetius
The name of Flavius Vegetius is not so much popularly known today, though his influence is felt through the hands of other, more famous, writers and thinkers. He was seen as the most adept writer on the Roman mind in warfare, and his De re militari libri quator… was his masterpiece. It was reprinted in 1532 by Christian Wechel from sources reaching back to the original, which was written around 390 ACE, and found a wide readership not only for its authority on all things military/Roman but also for his iconic insights and aphorisms on warfare in general. It was Machiavelli who came under his spell and who adopted some of Vegetius, who became further disseminated through the military followers of Machiavelli, and so on.

I came to this work much more simply than all of this – I liked this image of the underwater warrior, who was somehow able to breathe while submerged. I get the importance of this sort of undercover, guerrilla maneuver, but what I really like was the rarity of seeing a Renaissance illustration of human submarine life, which is pretty uncommon. Also, the use of the lines to represent the underwater quality of the image—giving the woodcut an overall grey tone—is also very scarce in the history of illustration, at least before 1600. And very neat! One of the hallmarks of this printing of Vegetius was the liberal use of white space in many of the (119) woodcut illustrations, though it is clearly not on display in the woodcut that I’m sharing here.

00-blog-Oct 28 vegetius939

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

There's the Big Bang, Big Ten, big fall, big dream, Big Band, big shot, Big Apple, big picture, Big Bird, Big Brother (and Sister), Big Lebowski, Big Sur, big year, Big East, Big Kahuna, big ego, (really) big show, big money, Big Shot and big deal, and many others, all sorts of "big" things. And then there are the Really Big things, like these astoundingly big things from the pulpy covers of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, from the 1940's to 1971. [The source for all of this artwork is at Coverbrowser.com, sourcehere.]

Astounding Stories 129 - Jurisdiction - Nat Schachner - Science Fiction - Future - August 1941

Gigant things astounding tank

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1789

I suspect that J.J. Grandville must be remembered as the proto-father of the proto-Surrealists, and probably more. He was a very prolific illustrator during his short life (1803-1847), producing many images across a very wide field of imagination that would probably be referred to as speculative fiction. Early in his stunted career he had some considerable influence as a satirical punisher in a number of superior-level magazines before a censorship law prohibiting such social observations criminalized that sort of imagination, and so Grandville moved on to illustrating some great classics in literature.

In 1844 Grandville (a pseudonym for Jean Ignace Isidore Gerard) published his (literally) fabulous Un Autre Monde, a very creative work of transformation and visionary exploration, which was a parody and critique of the worlds of the present and the possible. Its sharp edge ha been lost to time as much as most any satire or caricature of a dusty political past might be (like farming jokes and James Buchanan in 1861), but when you look at the hundreds of illustrations for this work (as well as its underlying ideas) that is really all you need. The images speak for themselves, and can speak to most anything, in any language. This is one of the place where Grandville has writ his name large in the pre-history of Surrealism, an Andre Breton/Ernst Mach approach to lit and art about 70 years early.

The images are simply fantastic. And you might be ready to see them–with modern eyes–when you read the subtitle head for his book, which reads so: Un Autre Monde/Transformations, Visions, Incarnations, ascensions, locomotions, explorations, peregrinations, excursions, stations [I'm not sure what this translate to], cosmogonies, fantasmagories, reveries, folatreries ["follies"], lubies ["fads"], metamorphoses, zoomorphie, lithomorphoses, metempsycoes, apotheos, et autre choses… By the end of the title, the reader would suspect that something was "coming".

And so I'm going to post a number of different bits on the images from Un Autre Monde–the first gathering some views of musicians and instruments which take on a definite steampunk variety. Next we'll have a look an interesting use of perspective as Grandville looks almost straight down on his subject–but not quite so, which to me is quite surprising; then there will be posts on weather morphologies, metallic pyramidal flowers, meta-artists, and of course flying machines.

Numerous Grandville images may be found at Visipix; a full set of Un Autre Monde's illustrations at Flickr, and a full copy of the book at the Internet Archive.

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