Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Talk at the Antiquarian Horological Society

I will be giving a talk ‘Almost at a Single Glance’ – Visualisation of Historic Time in the Eighteenth Century as part of the Antiquarian Horological Society’s London Lectures series on Thursday 22 January 2015.
Barbeau de la Bruyere. 1750. Mappemonde Historique. Detail. Collection: Bibliothèque municipale. Dijon (Fonds Ancien). Photo : Stephen Boyd Davis. Collection: Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon (12990).
I will be looking at the increasing influence of metaphors of the machine, and at mechanical approaches to knowledge, on the information design of chronographics - charts of history.

Joseph Priestley, pioneer of chronographics, wrote in 1780 of his way of organising biblical history, ‘I venture to say that, by the help of such a mechanical contrivance as this, a person of a very moderate capacity, or critical skill, will have an advantage over a person of the greatest genius and comprehension of mind without it.’ Unfortunately, Jonathan Swift had written, entirely sarcastically, in 1726 about Gulliver’s encounter with a professor who possessed a machine with which ‘the most ignorant person at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, may write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, law, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.’

I am hoping that the expertise of my audience in the history of actual time machines - clocks and related machines - will make up for my ignorance in that area.

The 2015 AHS London Lecture Series is supported by the kind sponsorship of Carter Marsh & Co. Guests are welcome. In order to reserve places, non-AHS members are kindly requested to email in advance.

Priestley, J. (1780). A Harmony of the Evangelists in English.
Swift, J. (1726). Gulliver’s Travels. Part III, Ch. 5.