The Paris-based instrument maker Michael Butterfield publicised novel and fine quality instruments through the Journal des Sçavans from the journal’s early days on (between 1676 and 1684). The descriptions or advertisements of Butterfield’s instruments were not restricted to textual presentations only, but often included engravings. The reasons for including such images and the role played by the visual aspects of the presentation of instruments are the focus of the present paper. The earliest historical records of Butterfield’s work are provided by the Journal des Sçavans and the Philosophical Transactions during their first two decades of publication. The significance of these records for the historian, however, extends further than the bio-bibliographical aspect. Indeed, the presence of Butterfield’s instruments in periodic journals provides a case study of the conspicuous traits of the visual part of knowledge in such media. The periodic format for erudite and technical content was still in its experimental phase. Hence this essay will focus on the codification of knowledge about technical devices for this serial format. It will also show that these illustrations seem to have played an ambivalent role on both the cognitive and the commercial levels. Finally, it discusses the ways in which images influenced the dissemination of such knowledge, particularly through these two journals. The example allows us to characterize the particular mode of visual representation adopted under the specific constraints of these early periodicals, including its pleasures and problems.
Samuel Gessner, “The Use of Printed Images for Instrument Making at the Arsenius Workshop,”Early Science and Medicine, Special Edition: Images in Comparative Perspective: Visual Forms in Astronomy, Medicine and Mathematics, 1470–1650, 2013, 18/1–2:124–152.
Giovanni-Domenico Cassini, “Description du planisphere royal,”Procès-verbaux. Registre de mathématique / Académie royale des sciences, 15 juin 1680, 18 Nov. 1679–29 Juin 1683, 9:62r–68v, gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k556852 (accessed 1st June 2013).
Marc J. Ratcliff, “Le premier canal d’ importation d’ instruments à Genêve: les Fatio de Duillier et le fabricant Michael Butterfield,” in Mémoires d’ instruments: une histoire des sciences et des savants à Genève, 1559–1914, edited by Marc J. Ratcliff, L.-I. Stahl Gretsch (Genève: Ed. Suzanne Hurter, 2011), pp. 58–62.
See for instance: Frank Fehrenbach, “The Pathos of Function: Leonardo’s Technical Drawings,” in Theatrum scientiarum, vol. 2, Instruments in Art and Science: On the Architectonics of Cultural Boundaries, edited by Jan Lazardzig, Ludger Schwarte and Helmar Schramm (Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, 2008), pp. 78–105; Steffen Bogen, “Fließende und unterbrochene Bewegungen: Linien bei Taccola,” in Öffnungen: Zur Theorie und Geschichte der Zeichnung, edited by Friedrich Teja Bach (Munich: Fink, 2009), pp. 241–260.
Martin Kemp, “Temples of the Body and Temples of the Cosmos: Vision and Visualization in the Vesalian and Copernican Revolutions,” in Picturing Knowledge(cit. note 1), pp. 40–85; Sven Dupré, “Visualization in Renaissance optics,” in Picturing Knowledge (cit. note 1), pp. 11–39.