Archive for ‘early modern’

December 7, 2011

Map of France as a ship

This is the post where many of my enthusiasms collide: France converted into waterborne transport – the Ship of State in 1796, Napoleon ascendent, the departements outlined, apparently foundering on the rocky Pyrenees. The caption text is in English, which means it’s probably wartime propaganda, but of or for what? Frank Jacobs points out how it’s not always easy navigating this kind of thing: The map was produced in London, where an interesting ambivalence towards the French Revolution prevailed.

Brittany’s excluded from the ship because of the failed counterrevolution (1793-1796) emanating from the Vendée, so at the time of production it could not be seen as part of France’s geo-body. Is that the revolutionary tricolore, as Jacobs claims, flying from the main, or a reference to the recent annexation of the Netherlands? It says “departement du nord” and there’s something oddly ragged about the two departements just under it, roughly making a sail. Paris is a battleground, of course, but what’s Corsica doing, breaking the frame there in the corner? The strangest detail: the ship’s bow and stern don’t agree – like it’s bent bananawise toward us, and the stern itself is unlike any contemporary vessel – it’s maybe something like a French stern from a hundred years before. Where is the wind coming from? Is it sailing forward or backwards? Why are the mizzen sails reefed or ragged or flapping? I have no idea. I’m sure it’s deliberate, though.

June 8, 2011

Astonishing set of online resources from Huygens ING for Early Modern History

The thing with this digitizing business, you check in early, there’s nothing there. You forget about it for a year or two and then something prompts you to go back and woah.

INGhist, one of the major Dutch research institution/partnerships, have been busy, and they’ve been smart. They’re putting whole archives up, Old Bailey style, for page-by-page browsing, machine searching, because the whole thing is OCR’d, and pdf dowload (!) of massive scan files.

Of chief interest to me is Stapel’s 1932 edition of Pieter Van Dam’s 1700 magnum opus, Description of the Dutch East India Company (4 vols, but really 7: a state-of-the-company statement for the use of the directors when it was at the height of its power) and the General Missives from the governors-general in the Indies to the Ruling council of the VOC or 17 Gentlemen. But there’s loads more: 17th century Italian sources on the Netherlands, the collected papers of individual East India factories, Pieter Van Os’s “History of The Hague from Adam to 1523“, letters and diaries by folks like Hugo Grotius and this little titbit: the collected papers of two English ambassadors to the Hague at the time Charles II suddenly cozied up to France. Here, I’ll let the original editor explain –

On March 28, 1681, Charles II dissolved, at Oxford, his fifth and last Parliament. This event marked the end of his policy of opposition to France and of his attempts to secure supplies from Parliament. He now turned to the easier, if less honourable, method of securing from Louis XIV the money which was needed to meet the expenses of his government and concluded verbally with Barillon the secret treaty of 1 April 1681 n. s.

This secret change in England’s foreign policy made necessary certain substitutions in the diplomatic service and an alteration in the course of diplomatic negotiations 2). Great care was taken, however, that the secret should not be let out by too sudden a break with the old policy. One by one, during the following year, the English envoys, who in certain Courts of Europe had worked zealously to checkmate the designs of
Louis XIV, ware recalled. Their places were either held vacant or filled by men who, though not cognizant of the strict alliance between their master and the French king, would nevertheless work zealously for the personal interests of Charles II and the Duke of York and would, without question, do their bidding.

February 22, 2011

Port Cities website

Of course, my favourite building in London is a ghost, and something of a cliche: the shell of Battersea Power Station. But it’s long been stripped of all its glorious industrial age guts and has had an afterlife mostly as a set of fever dreams for urban planners who think “museum” will elevate their shopping mall plans. Greenwich Power Station, on the other hand, is still working. And, although clearly inferior as an icon, is still awkwardly mesmerising.

This post, though, is about the remarkable website I stumbled across while trying to figure out what the building was: Port Cities is the kind of project I love. Deep-time history (though not very deep resources) on Britain’s major ports. I just wish there were more of it.

…although I can’t complain about the 6 page article on London prostitution. Which itself stands as an interesting social document on what we look for out of history.

November 1, 2010

flickr 2: models of the musee national de la marine, paris

So I finally made it to the National Maritime Museum in Paris (Palais de Chaillot, a remnant of Paris’ own “white city” of 1889, still linked to the Eiffel Tower) to see the remarkable and oddly moving Tous Les Bateaux Du Monde, (no direct stable link! look over on the left side for a link, at least until the current expo is over…) and I was struck dumb by the collection of models of ironclads on the floor above.

It made me think of steampunk, and the improvisational nature of invention. It also made me aware of the Jules Verne Trophy (which is made mostly from aluminium, floats on magnetic repulsion and is based on the radii of the Earth, the moon and the sun – it’s the most geekycool object I’ve seen in some time, and it’s awarded to whoever sets the world record for sailing around the world in the shortest time).

Also of incredible interest: a trio of tiny dioramas showing how the obelisk in Place de la Concorde was transported from Egypt. And a bunch of other models made out of god knows what. And this Japanese boat with accompanying (unique, I think) 19th century plans and sections.

October 7, 2010

Where the trouble began

If anyone were to ask me what my influences were, after I’d finished laughing I would probably come up with the usual – Piranesi, Gilbert Scott, Borges, Calvino, Banham, Soane, Paolozzi – but the shameful fact is that perhaps the single biggest influence on my whole trajectory so far has been Pieter Brueghel’s uber-famous image of the Tower of Babel. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that the thing that struck me hardest about Vaux le Vicomte (1) was not the harmonious proportions of the house, nor the geometrically calming effect of the garden, nor even the weirdo video-waxwork exhibits inside (on which more later) but these:

I guess they’re 19th century: there’s a whole cabinet of them in the basement kitchens of the chateau, and they are just magical. Some recall The Tower (and I picture them shivering into ruin, like the Tarot card), others look like exotic bits of machinery out of Metropolis;

like oilmen’s drill bits or car gear transmissions. At least one looks like a submarine data cable, its delicate fibre core surrounded by shark-proof high tension wire and corrosion-proof cladding.

Really, between the Brueghellian sweep of the power station cooling tower and the foursquare citadels that haunt my dreams you really don’t need to know any more about me as a designer than can be found right here. And at last, and belatedly, I understand my truer, deeper calling.

I was born to make jelly moulds.

1) of all right then. Vaux le Vicomte:

May 10, 2010

Simon Stevin

on the art of war (camp building) – from digital library full text of Stevin’s major works. Slow but searchable.

De Huysbou‘ A reconstruction of an unfinished treatise on architecture, town planning and civil engineering by Simon Stevin

April 29, 2010

de zuipschuit: the demon drink and the second East Indies voyage

De terugkomst in Amsterdam van de tweede expeditie naar Oost-Indië, 1599

de zuipschuit

Apropos of nothing: The apotheosis of V&D, Leiden.

April 22, 2010

Turmoil and Tranquility: site of an NMM show on Dutch maritime painting full of gems

“Gallery” site allows access to large number of images. Especially valuable: grisaille of the port of Surat, Dutch ships in a gale (that appears to support Goedde’s thesis that these are allegorical paintings of maintaining control in a stormy world), merchantman attacked by an English privateer off La Rochelle, a Battle of Gibraltar, 1607 by Van Wieringen, from 1619, a French ship attacked by Barbary pirates, 1615, and ships trading in the East, sometime during the 12 years’ truce, and 2 VOC ships coming to anchor. Best of all The wreck of the Amsterdam (prob. of 1597). Check for others.

April 20, 2010

Tous les bateaux du monde

On now at Musee de la Marine, Paris

virtual exhibition here (nicely done). Organised by Eric Reith, with some consultation from Pierre-Yves Manguin.

March 23, 2010

Ship models from the national maritime museum, Paris

nice set of photos taken in Quebec, when the models were traveling there. Includes a xebec, a flemish galliot and a nice galley, alongside the usual 60, 74 and 100 gun warships.

Musee national de la Marine in the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. Must go there next time I’m in town…