Currently viewing the category: "Title Page Art, Beautiful"

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1930

In the 16th and 17th centuries it was not terribly uncommon to decorate a title page of a scientific/philosophical work with the portraits of standard-bearers and significant people in the field. This is particularly true in the Baroque era, when so much more of the title page seems to be decorated. I should have kept closer memory of examples of these works, but for right now two will suffice–they are rather good. The first is the work of Pergaeus Apllonius (ca. 260-200 bce) in the Opera, per doctissimum philosopphm Iohannem Memum, printed in Venice in 1537, which contains the first appearance in print of Apollonius' Conics.

Ortraits scientisits apollonius882Around the title of the book we find the half-length portraits of Pliny, Cicero, Quintiliius, Plutarch, Lucan, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Plato, Aristides, Euripedes, Aristophanes, Pindar, Theocritus, Vergil, Horace, Livy, Sallustius/Sallust and Apollonius–a big cast with differing shadows.

A great example of a title page dedicated to astronomers is that for Jan Luyts' (1655-1721, an instructor in maths and physics at Utrecht), text Astronomica Institutio, in qua Doctrina Sphaericaa atque Theorica… printed in Utrecht in 1692. It features a "action shot" of five major figures in astronomy: (from left to right) Galileo (who is rarely seen actually holding a telescope and here is brandishing one like a club, holding the instrument very weirdly), a ham-handed Hevelius looking slyly over Galileo's shoulder (though it sort of looks like Kepler in a way, I'm pretty sure that Galileo is Galileo), with Brahe, Copernicus and Ptolemy each holding elegant demonstration devices for their own particular model of the solar system. I'm not sure who the central figure is–perhaps just a generic philosophe.

Ortraits scientisits luyts887

Here's the frontispiece to Galileo's which features Copernicus at right and the seated figure as Aristotle, which bears some fleeting resemblance to the figure above.

Galileo two world systems[Image source University of Sydney]

In this 1641 edition there are some slight alterations:

[Image source and full text here.]

Galileo's Dialogo (1632) was the open invitation to trouble that Galileo no doubt expected and then famously received, the work being a defense of the Copernican system which at the time of regressive church wisdom posed a direct threat to Catholic belief systems. In the frontis to this work we again see some old friends, finding Aristotle, Copernicus and Ptolemy beautifully (and with realistic old-man slumpiness) portrayed by Stefan della Bella.

Galileo dialogo SYdney
(The full title of the Dialogo: Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems ( Dialogo
sopra i due massimi sistemi del
), in which the Copernican and Ptolemaic systems are described and
compared. Galileo almost worked within the Vatican’s matrix necessitating a balanced
presentation between the different systems, and evidently did so enough for the book to become a best seller, but
its ride on the list of the Vatican’s
banned (“Prohibited”) books lasted until 1835.

Details of the portraits in "continued reading" section below.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1900

As I've written about on this blog before, Blank, Empty, Blank and Missing Things can be of great importance. For example, if human conversation wasn't mostly filled with nothing, it would be difficult for us to process anything, everyone sounding like several mockingbirds calling away at once, all of the time. Music would be difficult if there were no silent interludes. And of course since existence is made up vastly of nothingness, to have it be filled would present a, um, problem. It also might be interesting to invent an 18th century board game based on the discovery of nothing through the ages…or maybe 16th century, when the idea of zero in mathematics was first coming into widespread use.

My interest in Nothing today comes along with design and epochal scientific publications–or at least highly significant appearances of great ideas. Sometimes the typography and design of the title pages of Great Works turn out to be very surprising–and sometimes that surprise in blankness is an unintentional result.

Also we'll just discuss relatively recent works of the past 150 years or so. Design changes quite a bit from the 18th to the 19th century so far as scientific and technical title pages go–the earlier design (and particularly the illustrated versions) are another matter.

First, the intentional bits, like this fine example of Niels Bohr's superb introduction to the rest of the world of modern atomic theory (based upon the Rutherford model and Planck's quantum theory), "On the Constitution of Atoms and Molecules" (in the Philosophical Magazine for July 1913). In this case (which actually is a three-part paper), the offprint to the publication has an upper part that is blank because it excludes the closing paragraphs of the preceding article–offprints being the separately-published and bound author's article that were meant to be distributed privately and prior to publication of the appearance of the contribtution in the journal.

Blank title bohr790
Before I proceed though perhaps it would be interesting to see an attempt at anti-nothingness in design, which in many cases can be a work of high design art in themselves. For example, even though most of the white page is filled up,

Blank title hahn788
this is still somehow quite balanced and pleasing. (Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann delivered a series of eleven seminal papers from 1933 to 1939, this being one of the most important, signaling the discovery of nuclear fission, an event that started its own sort of chain reaction in physicists who awoke with the sudden realization of how very doable all of this was, and how close so many other scientists were to having discovered this themselves.)

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

There aren't many other title pages in the history of mathematics that swing the doors of beauty and heaven and opportunity and logic and thought than the (appropriately-named) Bonaventura Francesco Cavalieri/Cavalerius. A Milanese (1598-1647) who taught at Pisa and who published eleven books and worked in wide fields in mathematics as well as astronomy and physics, published his Trigonometria… in Bologna in 1643, and sent a fabulous image to his new readers right there on his very illustrated and augmented title page.

Seldom have the doors of knwoledge been thrown open so wide and invitingly as this, with Trigonometria lightly awarding the reader with a new portal to fantastic opportunities–who wouldn't want to walk on in? The tools of trig are displayed on the ground at Trionometria's feet (arranged and not by happenstance), while five figures employ these same tools in the background hills, which are being bathed in a pure holy light of some sort, an inspiration from the sky. The doors are decorated with astronomical figures and light calculation, as well as polyons and geometrical drawings. And just to make sure that the author meant what he intended, we can see above the full/thick wind-blown hair of Trigonometria (which in itself seems very unusual to me, such a carefree adn tossled attitude) a fruit-garland, a horn of plenty in its way. Make no mistake–Cavalieri was making a king-sized offer to his reader to open their brains.


I did leave out a major part of the title–the section dealing with logarithms, which is basically a reprint of Cavalieri's early work (done in 1632), and which was the first work in Italian on that subject.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1438

Space flight379 Space flight378

I found these elements of sameness in design, spanning prehistoric flight and prehistoric space flight eras, separated by 170 years or so, and they just seemed fascinating. The first, by Boitard for Robert Paltock's (or Pultock, 1697–1767) The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a Cornish Man, Relating Particularly, His Shipwreck near the South Pole; his Wonderful Passage thro a Subterraneous Cavern into a kind of New World, his there Meeting with a Gawry or Flying Woman, was published in London in 1751 pictures the flying woman from the title (which also pretty much sums up the Robinson Crusoe-like story. Wilkins does become shipwrecked and then has an extraordinary adventure underground at the South Pole–which is interesting in and off itself, to set the stage at the South Pole, since the exploration of Antarctica is really a 20th century endeavor. (The first accurate summation of Antarctica as a continent isn't made until Charles Wilkes' expedition in 1839/40.)

Space flight378

The flying woman is striking, especially for the mid 18th century: she is quite lovely, muscular, and tall, and has her limbs attached to a flying/gliding canopy which seems as though it would be operated in a way in which the people of that time thought birds to fly.

The associated image is Walter Hohmann's prescient work on rockets and rocket flight, Die Erreichbarkeit der Himmelskoerper, Untersuchungen ueber das Raumfahrtproblem, which was published in that great heyday of German flight engineering, in 1925. It was published very soon after the important work of Hermann Oberth2, whose style, illustration and design are closely aligned. It is very interesting to note here that Hohmann (and Oberth) both suggested using teh Earth's gravitational field to orbit the spacecraft and then slignshot it off into space, rather than to try to simply lift of from Earth and then go directly into space.

Space flight379


1 . Biographical Dictionary of English Literature was not impressed by it saying: "The description of Nosmnbdsgrutt, the country of the flying people, is a dull imitation of Swift, and much else in the book is tedious.

2. Oberth's book, Die Rakete zu den Planetenraum was printed in 1923 by the same publisher as Hohmann, and was a cornerstone study of the issue of interplanetary space travel–the first of its kind, really, to address the full theoretical and practical aspects of rockets and space flight. Oberth–who wrote this at age 28–could not submit the work for his thesis because of its advanced treatment of a little-known subject.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1281


This series of drawings, published in the Illustrated London News 16 July 1938, by the incredibly prolific and detail-oriented G.H. Davies depicts one segment of the city defense program being formulated by the British government in the last year or two leading up to the beginning of the European end of World War Two. (I own 150 or so of these images by Davies–he never fails to provide the detail where you need it.) The overall plan for defending major British cities consisted of anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, R.A.F. fighter squadrons and interceptors, and the "Balloon Barrage". London and suburbs are featured here, all to be protected by a series of ten squadrons of fifty balloons each, handled by a crew of ten. The thinking was that it would make low-level bombing by fighter aircraft (?!) impossible, and force any aircraft attempting such an approach to a higher altitude where they would be theoretically susceptible to the interceptor squadrons.


I'm not terribly sure why the thinking was against low altitude attack, but my best guess is that the planners were thinking about the He-111Bs and Ju52s or other such aircraft that the Nazis checked and tested out against the Spanish Republicans during the Civil War. Perhaps freshest of all memories of the German operation Feuerzauber (Magic Fire) was the Guernica raid, just a year or so before the publication of these images, where that militarily insignificant town was attacked from the air in twenty minute intervals over three hours, destroying it in a terror blitz. If I was sitting around a big table at 10 Downing, I’d have that picture in my head. .


Be that as it may, the "air mine field" looks terribly inefficient and vulnerable to me, sort of like an exposed Maginot Defense Line, but without the very deep misunderstandings that went along with the horrible French effort.

Explanation of the Images:

a) The first image shows the incredible perimeter defense network, which extended ten miles around St. Paul’s; the balloons were moored at 100 yard intervals, making for 1100 or so balloons to “fence” the perimeter.
b) The second image shows London center and immediate suburbs, with another 500 balloons in a smaller circle inscribed in the larger.
c) The third image Bloglondonballoonsbotto is a close-up of the balloons, looking down; seems as though they were tethered at about 2000 feet or so
d) The last image is a close-up of London center. .

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1042

000 sky mail015

The booze-driven future as seen by Seagrams (written about earlier in this blog as Atomic-Powered Farms) that appeared in the pages of LIFE magazine from 1945 to 1947 were quixotically science fictiony in the waterproof-duck department brand of invention. Most of Seagram's visions were goofy even though they all seem to have been serious statements on the future. This example, the polywog air mail delivery system, seems to be as bad as any of them–worse even since the technology that the artist/designer was trying to circumvent was already far more sophisticated/logical/beneficial than this weird parachute delivery system for the mail. Once all the effort of packaging the mail into this contraption, retrieving it and then setting it up all over again for the next go is calculated, one would've been far ahead at all levels by just landing the bloody plane and getting rid of the mail. That, or of course, just pushing the mail out in a container with a standard parachute also would've been a better solution than the one pictured. here.

Obviously Seagrams didn't have their heart in futurology, except that which calculated the shortest possible time it would take to convince people to replace their empty Seagrams bottles.

Overall, this is just simply a very bad idea, no matter where you are in the timeline.

JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 976

(On seeing the morning’s rising sun): “Looks like light to
me.” SpongeBob SquarePants

“All the fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me
no closer to answer the question, 'What are light quanta?' Of course today
every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself.” A. Einstein

“Are not gross bodies and light convertible into one
another, and may not bodies receive much of their activity from the particles
of light which enter into their composition?” I. Newton, Opticks,
1704, Query 30.

Mar 12 #51

Depicting the capacity of sight and nature of light has been
both an easy and a knotty problem in the history of science. Over the
successive theories on the basis of light the artistic presentation of the
phenomenon has been generalized (generally) in a very simple way: by straight lines. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that,
the lines are just parenthetic place-holders suggesting direction, not actual
descriptors of what light “looks” like.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of images printed 1550-1850 to call upon to make this point, and I've selected but a few. The first belongs to Jesuit astronomer Christoph Scheiner and which appeared in his Oculusm hoc est: fundamentum opticum...,printed in Innsbruck in 1619. His work is an out-and-out landmark in the history of optics, physiological optics and ophthahlmometry, and provided a springboard for two generations following him, not the least of whom was Rene Descartes. The illustration above is the book's frontispiece, and features four camera obscuras demonstrating four principles of the eye, the middle ground of which is a beam of light

Rene Descartes depicted the interpretation (in his Principles of Philosophy of 1644) of light and its physiological reaction in the brain as follows:


the lines of sight depicting binocular vision, observed (and compressed) by the eye's "particles" and processed by the pineal gland which in turn manipulate the "fluids" in the control of nerves and muscles.

Another example of even greater fame than the iconic image by Descartes is that of the diagram showing the connection between color and its reflective index by Isaac Newton, appearing in his Opticae of 1706.

Mar 12 newton

Another fine example comes from Zacharias Traber's (1611-1679) beautifully illustrated classic of optics (and physiological optics) , Nervus Opticus sive Tractatus Theoricus..., published in Vienna in 1690. Traber is a great collector and synthesizer of the work done during and before his time, using the work of Descartes, Kepler, Schott, Kircher, Scheiner and Aguilon (for example), and then further implementing their ideas especially in the areas of color theory and light refraction. The image certainly reflects Jesuit Traber's religious training, depicting the holy source of light (originating with the almighty force) which directs it to the sun; the light then is left to the inquisitive and playful hands of cherubs who reflect and magnify it, as well as use it to start a fire (from the condensing lens) and observe it through a telescope. The main cherub empties a sack containing a number of different optical tools, no doubt for the playful brethern beneath.

Mar 12 trauber

And then of course there is the great, unstoppable, polymathic and sometimes incorrect Jesuit Athanasius Kircher. This image appears in his masterwork Ars Magna lucis et umbrae, printed in Amsterdam in 1671, which deals with light and shadow, optical illusions, color, refraction, projection and distortion, sundials, mirrors, as well as astronomical subjects. Most of these subjects are clearly seen in the engraved frontispiece to the work (below), the source of all of the "rays" of light coming from the godhead, relayed through a telescope, reflected from a mirror, and gathered in a camera obscura.

Mar 12 kirch

Other interesting images from the Kircher include this spotlight.

Mar 12 krirch detail long

Mar 12 krirch black detail

JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 946

Diggers, Manifestarians, Puritans, Muggletonians, Shakers, Quakers, Levellers, Seekers…terrific names all for religious or religioesque movements, most now
gone, though it seems that of the most-gone the Ranters are probably the
most-goned gone–which must’ve been a function of their unstated aims of not
having a particular course of action. As
an anti-movement their movement was tautologically doomed, as they flourished
for only a decade or so, sandwiched into the very full mid-17th

{The image above is an illustration from the book, Hell Broke Loose.. . below. It also is a pretty tame version of other images that show more nudity/drinking/sexual activities.]

were an English Free Spirited heretical group of wide interpretation of social
and moral value. Their questioning of the potency of the man’s fall doctrine
steamed together with a quasi-semi-millenialism evidently led to an
alehouse-based loosening of socially governed restraints. According to the many People magazine-like pamphlets and soft
porn reporting, their activities made for sugary eating by the bawdy-eyed ha’penny
people buying gossip in cheaply printed formats. Free of Sin and Law, the Ranter celebrations
were soaked in alcohol and nudity, which are ripe pluckings for any non-serious journalist, then or now.

Judging from the list of publications (listed below in the "Continued Reading" section) there must've been a very immediate lusty interest in the Ranters' lustily interesting ways. I've written this post for the simple interest in one particular, extraordinary title: [with apologies for the underlining, but I cannot convince the Typepad gods to remove it.]

Hell broke loose: or, the notorious design of the wicked Ranters, discovered on Sunday last at Black-Fryers Being a true relation of the strange proceedings of Mr. Vaughan, and his wicked proselytes; and their entring of Black-Fryers church in sermon time, like so many spirits from hell, with four damnable papers in the hands, containing such horrible, audacious, and abominable songs, the like not to be parallel'd in former ages. With the manner how this onsolent Ranter traced the streets from Black-Fryers to Saint Paul's Church-yard, in his Holland shirt, without doublet or breeches, a treble cap, like the Pope's miter, with silk fring, and white shooes, and stockings. With their damnable plots, and conspiracies against the ministers of the gospel: their examination before the right honourable the Lord Mayor of London; the sad and woful speeched, made by the ringleader of the Ranters, concerning the city magistrates, and golden chains: and the committing of them to Bridewell till the next sessions. 1650

See? That's just fabulous, and represents a Title Page Extravaganza that seems to be a 17th century feature–including as much as humanly possible on a title-page. As does this book, with all manner of detail in the title, not the least of which is the description of a man running around with no pants but with a Pope's mitre and white shoes and socks.

The 17th century "Hell Broke Loose" extended-title (but non-Ranter) category has a number of other entries in it, too, for published books, including the following lovilies:

Hell broke-loose; upon Doctor
S–ch–ve–l's sermons
or, Don Quevedo's vision, of an infernal cabal of Whiggish papists and
popish Whigs in Utopia; upon a mock-tryal of the doctor. Translated from the
original; by Jack the Spaniard.

Hell broke loose, or, An answer to the late bloody
and rebellious declaration of the phanatiques, entituled A door of hope,
wherein their horrible conspiracy against our gracious soveraign, and the
city of London, in their late rebellion is discovered : together with a brief
view of our lives, manners and malice of those desperate and unparallel'd
. 1661

Hell broke loose : or an history of the Quakers both old and
new. Setting forth many of their opinions and practices, published to antidote
Christians against formality in religion and apostasie

Some of the other big-title Ranter titles from this time include the following:

The Ranters creed being a true copie of the examinations of a blasphemous
sort of people, commonly called ranters, whose names are herein particularised,
together with the name of their pretended God almighty, and their false prophet
: taken before Thomas Hubbert Esquire … with a declaration of their fantastic
gestures and deportments as they were coming before him, and in his presence :
and now committed to the New Prison at Clarkenwell.

The great mistery of the great whore unfolded, and antichrists kingdom
revealed unto destruction in answer to many false doctrines and principles
which Babylons merchants have traded with, being held forth by the professed
ministers, and teachers, and professors in England, Ireland, and Scotland,
taken under their owne hands, and from their owne mouths, sent forth by them
from time to time, against the despised people of the Lord called Quakers, who
are of the seed of that woman, who hath been long fled into wildernes … in
this answer to the multitude of doctrines held forth by the many false sects,
which have lost the key of knowledge, and been on foot since the apostles
dayes, called Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyters, Ranters, and many others,
who out of their own mouths have manifested themselves not to be of a true
descent from the true Christian Churches : but it's discovered that they have
been all made drunk with the wine of fornication received from the whore which
hath sitten upon the beast, after whom the world hath wondred /


The Ranters reasons resolved to nothing. Or, the fustification instead of
the justification of
the Mad Crew Being, a serious answer returned to one who in his letter desired
an unlawfull and wicked book to be sent unto him, call'd the Justification of
the Mad Crew. Instead of vvhich, the author of this letter sent him the Act of
Parliament made against the Ranters; and did also both justifie their way, and
ingratefully asperse some, who in Christian love would have reduced them to the
life and truth of Christianity. Wherein the people called by themselves god and
by some others, the Gods of Godmanchester, may, as in a glasse, behold, that
they are a deluded and defiled people, if not incarnate Devils.


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JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 921

Blog jan 28 protext women

{This continues "The Coming Sex War of 1919")

Theodore J. Goe, the author of “Let’s Protect our Women”, must
have been a synesthete, with the ability to smell the future. My copy of this pamphlet used to be the
Copyright Deposit copy, and is dated January 18, 1936, and what Mr. Goe was
smelling were the winds of the November presidential election; and since he was
a Republican—or at least an anti-Rooseveltian—what he smelled was outrageous
defeat for his cause.

And so he wrote this elegantly-produced little oddness,
trying to dip into the wellspring of the enfranchised female vote (just sixteen
years old at this point), trying with fatherly will to scoop women out of the
harmful ways of Roosevelt’s policies.

The “protection” that women needed was for uncertainty which
led to nervousness and which attacked their youth to send them into a slavery. The
thinking here went sort of like this: women were being attacked by FDR, who was “cruelly
prolonging the depression” by not helping people with jobs, thus depriving their men of a fair wage which is what made
women happy; without the “happiness” of a husband with a good job, “life
becomes more serious than it should be”; this fights against “national
influence which tends to rob [women] of their youth”, making women older
sooner. And it was this premature aging that the women are to vote against in

Mr. Goe may well have been a crank, but to him and his
readers this thinking might’ve made some sort of contemporary sense, after a
fashion. He did forget that women made
up more than 30% of the workforce at this point, and had more sources of
happiness and youth than a man with a decently-paying job, plus having a life
and opinion outside of serving home/hearth/husband, but no matter. (This, by the way, is where Mr. Goe thought American women lived:)

Blog jan 28 protext women det Women didn’t rush to aid FDR’s competition in the ’36 race,
when Roosevelt redefined “landslide” by crushing
his Republican challenger, Kansan Alf Landon.
There wasn’t any election like it since the two-party system became nationalized
80 years earlier, Landon loosing to Roosevelt by
an electoral balance of 523-8. Landon swept Vermont
and Maine,
with FDR taking everything else. (No one
would quite clear the plate like this ‘till Reagan turned Walter Mondale
inside-out in 1984, 525-13.)

Landon was a decent man who had an interesting
post-political career—even so, it’s a good thing that he lost.