Tag Archives: JF Ptak Science Books

A Lovely Printer’s Device Honoring the Sciences (1724)

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

Newly arrived here and new to my experience are some volumes of the journal Suite des Memoires de Mathematique et de Physique tirez des Registers d e l’Academie Royale des Sciences, a significant and beautifully-designed series of books which are small (only about 16cm) and very light, and their fine binding makes the book feel “correct” in your hands. I’ll be writing quite a bit about what I find in them over the next weeks and months, but the very first thing that stopped me was the scientific instrument-laden printer’s device on the title page–this the work of Pierre de Coup, of Amsterdam. The original is only about 3″ square (35x60mm), but it presents an abundant allegorical punch in a tiny space:


An Infinity of Suns and Planets (1798)

JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2695

This is a relatively early engraving showing infinite numbers of solar systems ranged within an infinite universe. It is found as plate LXXVI from the first American edition of the Encyclopaedia published at Philadephia in 1798.The concept of multi-solar systems was not a terribly common theory, and to see them here, arranged as part of a structured and logical system was very striking–particularly since there is an inference that our own solar system is positively not unique, and located in a cluster of others, all of which are contained within an Ouroboros, an ancient Egyptian symbol signifying an endless universe of expanding possibility.


Prison Camp Music of Stalag VIII B (1944)

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I found this unexpected leaflet this morning, the title of which is enough to stop anyone: A Grand Concert by the Massed Bands & Choirs of Stalag VIII B. 80 Bandsmen, 80 Choristers. PRISON CAMP MUSIC and the Part Played by the Red Cross & St. John. It was printed in London in 1944, and printed by by the Red Cross and St. John War Organization and is a leaflet (20x13cm, 4pp, single sheet folded vertically) which I reproduce in full below.  (Provenance: Library of Congress, received by them September 1944, with their rubber stamp on the front cover.)


Think or be Damned–1899

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This work—“The Last Stand, Science versus Superstition”, a chromolithograph by Udo J. Keppler (close!)–appears in Puck in the issue of July 19, 1899.  It is a very strong statement and also one that I’ve never seen it before (my thanks to Thony Christie of Renaissance Mathematicus and Whewell’s Ghost for surfacing it), and appears to me on the day of the global marches in support of scientific thought against tyrannies of illogical and sodden belief.

Last stand

[Image: Library of Congress, http://j.mp/2pyY1bk]

I guess the greatest aspect of this print is the flag “Think or be Damned” that flutters in the background of The Fact Men as they prepare to defend themselves against the “Believe or be Damned” crowd, “Medieval Dogmatism”, just advancing. It is a voracious print, and leaves nothing to spare in the choice of science and facts and inquiry against not-so. Interestingly, the men fighting this battle aren’t scientists, but theologians.


The End of the War for Engalnd: Nazi Propaganda, 1941

JF Ptak Science Books    Post 2694

Blog--May 24--map2

The Admiralty Regrets to Announce… was for years the standard beginning to an official British announcement concerning the loss of ships and sailors.  The phrase is used as the title to this work (by an unattributed writer known only as “an expert”) to immediately introduce the reader to the failings of the British navy.  It is of course a piece of Nazi propaganda, issued some time in 1941. (My copy is he U.S. copyright deposit copy and is stamped with a transfer date of September 1942; the pamphlets reads to me as though the U.S. had not yet entered the war.)  The great strengths of the German air force and navy are extolled and the failings of the British mercantile elaborated at great—and sometimes greatly imagined—lengths.  The booklet was published in French (except for the title) and answers its own repetitive question: “quelle est donc la situation relle de la marine commerciale anglais?”


A Glorious Episode in Outsider Literature–“the Great Scope Ever to be Attempted in a Work on Paper”, and a Peep into the Year One Billion A.D…

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There are some things that stand to be admired simply because exist. They may be mundane, but they are the magnificent mundane, brought to life by sheer force of will. Such I think is the case of Mr. Hoerger’s Poemusicdramuraliterature Epic Poem the Immortal memory in the Glorious Tragedy of Life (1946). The work is billed as a “Valentine Day Classic, quintuple of Art”, the “greatest scope ever attempted in a work on paper”.  It is a big claim made by a little book–bound in red cloth, it measures 4″x2.5″ and is 86 pages long, though the word count for all of the little pages only makes it to about 8000 words, or about 20 type pages. I don’t think that the book ever actually catches up to itself, as for what I can see of it, it is always one step ahead of itself and one step behind.


A Technical Report on the V-1, January 1945

JF Ptak Science Books    Quick Post

I was  surprised to find this fairly-well documented piece on the V-1 published during the war, so I decided to reprint the report in its entirety. Some of the text runs off the side of the scanner, but that is the best I can do in scanning the pamphlet without taking it completely apart. 

The document: Moreau, Henri (1893-1978) and Paul Chovin.  “L’arme allemande de represailles V1”, offprint from Genie Civil, 1 January 1945.  9×6 inches, 8pp, printed in Paris (newly liberated from the German army 25 August 1944) in early 1945. Very good condition, printed on a decent paper stock. It is rare as an offprint, at least, with no copies located in the WorldCat/OCLC. 


Dumping Garbage in the Sky and Other Visions of the Future, (1906)

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Airship LC PuckGov. Jerry Brown (D, CA) once had a vision of getting rid of nuclear waste–load it into rockets and shoot it into space. Dumping radioactive materials in the sky was at least a novel idea though not a very good one, what with the possibility of imperfection built into sending the highly dangerous material from the ground and out of orbit. He was not the first to suggest getting rid of unwantables (excluding burning things) in the sky.

An earlier and perhaps weirder (though I doubt it) idea came in a section of this image of the future, found in the pages of Puck magazine in 1910.  The illustrator, J.S. Pughe1, had a pretty high time picturing the future, and was probably half-right, in a way. The cartoon came out at the time that the Panama Canal was under constructed (it was completed in 1914), and Pughe thought that–given the new advances in flight in the few years following the Wright’s first heavier than air flight–the canal would be made obsolete in short order. To that end he depicted what might be a common use of the airship, the most prominent being the touring vessel, offering its passengers a true “bird’s-eye” view of whatever there was to see.  There’s also the Cong Air Line just below it, dinghy in tow, and an conventioneer airship for “Hughie Ginty” whatever that might be.  There’s also a floating battleship, and up in the left-top corner there is a way off course Staten Island Ferry, thousands of miles from home, having missed its visual clues in navigating the Narrows. Oddly there are no depictions of freight aircraft, which is probably themost essential aspect of the canal (after military purposes). 


Department of “What is It?” (#8) What Monster-Pop Mega Thing Did This Become?




And the patent application (all patent images via Google Patents): 


The Department of “What is It?” (#3)

JF Ptak Science Books  

[I apologize for the fuzziness at the top of the image here but I couldn’t get the volume of Nature flat enough on the scanner to avoid the degradation.]

What is it thermometer

In the wonderland world of early applications of electricity to anything comes this marvelous image of an electrical thermometer from Nature for March 17, 1881.The original image is only about 3″ tall, and I could not resist reproducing it in what is almost a 3:1 ratio. As pretty as it was/is, the implementation was a bit of a picture of a soggy sandwich.

Evidently the platinum screws running up the side of the thermometer (at every 3 degrees, though it could be refined to <1-degree increments), were connected to an alerting operator like a bell or some such thing.  That way, if something was being heated to a certain temperature and the temp changed, an alarm would sound, and the whole process could be viewed remotely.  Why this would be necessary I am not so sure–even the author admitted that the whole thing would be very cumbersome with the large number of insulated wires being tracked into the observing station.  In any event, the image is striking, if not the idea.