Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Printing Mathematics in the Early Modern World

 I shall be making a presentation in Oxford on 16 or 17 December 2013 at a symposium on Printing Mathematics in the Early Modern World. Here's the abstract:
'If an idea bear any relation to quantity of any kind' - devising and printing historical time in the eighteenth century

The early eighteenth century saw the earliest 'mathematical' representations of historical time, particularly in France by Barbeau de la Bruyère (1710-1781) and Barbeu du Bourg (1709-1779), and in England by Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), whose phrase is quoted in the title.
      The significance for mathematics lies in the model of chronology employed, derived from the concepts of number and of time advocated by Descartes and Newton. Previous representations offered by Eusebius and Scaliger, among many others, had sought to capture the entire chronology of the world, but only as lists or tables: history as an accretion of events. Now such events were conceived in a quasi-spatial, measurable continuum, and presented as such graphically.
      The significance relative to printing lies in the techniques for these early 'data visualisations', a shift from letterpress to engraving in a truly spatial layout enabling patterns, clusters, outliers and lacunae to be shown for the first time. Anticipating later practice in quantitative visualisation, metaphorical, pictorial conceits began to be stripped away, but metaphor of course was never completely absent, and the paper will highlight the contribution of mapmaking as both metaphor and technique.
      Questions arising include the affordability of paper, concern with imprecision and error, tension between rhetorical and mechanical approaches to knowledge, and the issue of orientation: if time is mapped to rectilinear space, which axis should represent time? In a recent publication, Stephen showed that for Barbeu du Bourg and Priestley - and as far back as Oresme (c.1320-1382) - this issue of orientation troubled graphical inventors.
 It is at All Souls College. Here is a version of the call for papers.

Provisional programme, added 29 September 2013 
Authors and readers
  • Richard J. Oosterhoff, Notre Dame: "Printing Proofs in Paris c. 1500: Communal Authorship, the Typography of Enunciations, and the Point of Demonstration".
  • Leo Rogers, Oxford: “Printing Mathematical Texts in England in the 16th Century”.
  • Katherine Hunt, Birkbeck: tba.
  • Dagmar Mrozik, Wuppertal: "Mathematical authorship and its display in the Society of Jesus: Between individual and Jesuit".
  • Gregg De Young, The American University in Cairo: "Early printing of mathematics in Arabic".
Collections and collectors
  • Renae Satterley, the Middle Temple Library: "Robert Ashley (1565–1641): collecting and using mathematical books at the Middle Temple"
  • Tabitha Tuckett, London: tba.
  • Renzo Baldasso, Arizona: "The Technical Dimension of Early Printed Mathematical Diagrams, 1474–1482".
  • Stephen Boyd Davis, Royal College of Art: "'If an idea bear any relation to quantity of any kind' - devising and printing historical time in the eighteenth century".     
  • Matthew Eddy, Durham: "Appropriation or Invention? Chemistry, Ratios and the Visual Anthropology of Matter".
Space and aesthetics
  • Robin Rider, Wisconsin: "The power of negative space: 18th-century French mathematics in print".
  • Travis Williams, Rhode Island: "Managing Notational White in Early Modern Printed Mathematics".
  • Alex Marr, Cambridge: "The Aesthetics of Early-Modern Printed Mathematical Instruments".
Error and correction
  • David Bellhouse, Western Ontario: "Errors in mathematical tables".
  • Richard Kremer, Dartmouth: "On Printing 'Meaningless' Numbers, or Controlling Errors in Incunable Astronomical Tables".
  • Benjamin Wardhaugh, Oxford: "Error and its handling in Georgian mathematics books".

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