This paper examines the discrepancy between the attitudes of many historians of mathematics to sixteenth-century geometry and those of museum curators and others interested in practical mathematics and in instruments. It argues for the need to treat past mathematical practice, not in relation to timeless criteria of mathematical worth, but according to the agenda of the period. Three examples of geometrical activity (cartography, surveying and warfare) are used to illustrate this, and two particular contexts (the wider world of human affairs and the discipline of natural philosophy) are presented in which mathematical practice localised in the sixteenth century takes on a special historical significance.
An Account of the Instrument and Its Place in the Tradition of Chaucer-Type Astrolabes
Jim Bennett and Giorgio Strano
The so-called “Chaucer Astrolabe” from the Koelliker collection, Milan, is a remarkable 14th-century English instrument. In addition to recounting its recent story and expounding its detailed description, this article offers a multi-sided approach to the object. The instrument is examined in relation to some of the early manuscript copies and to other astrolabes that have most commonly been seen as linked to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe. In particular, the article provides stylistic and astronomical analyses through comparisons with the illustrations in the early copies of the Treatise, a selection of very similar instruments, and the data of the Pseudo-Messahalla star table. This multi-sided approach has some implications for existing scholarship on the astrolabes in the Chaucer tradition.
Edited by Jim Bennett and Sofia Talas
Collections of physical instruments for research and demonstration appeared throughout Europe in the eighteenth century and the coverage of the book is correspondingly broad. While collections in different cultural and geographical locations had much in common, there were significant local modifications. The essays in this book illustrate how science, sometimes thought to be monolithic and universal, can maintain core intellectual characteristics and practical techniques while adapting to particular sites and circumstances.
Contributors include: Jim Bennett, Sofia Talas, Huib J. Zuidervaart, Hans Hooijmaijers, Ad Maas, Tiemen Cocquyt, Inga Elmqvist Söderlund, Paola Bertucci, Marta C. Lourenço, David Felismino, Ivano Dal Prete, Ewa Wyka, Martin Weiss, and Paolo Brenni.