May 4 through August 27, 2010
An Exhibition designed by
The Students of History of Science Seminar 215r: Science & Culture in Late Medieval & Early Modern Europe, Spring '10
in collaboration with
Professor Katharine Park &
Fogg Museum Print Curator Susan Dackerman
(Click on images for a closer look.)
What are the qualities of the printed image and how do they allow it to construct and communicate knowledge? What new forms of knowledge did prints allow to emerge in the early modern period, when the bright line between science and art had yet to be drawn? More broadly: what did prints make possible?
The images and objects in this exhibition, loaned from Harvard collections and grouped into themes that cut across disciplinary boundaries, offer a range of answers. One section shows how time, a phenomenon that leaves its mark on nature yet is itself invisible, was eloquently visualized in both prints and instruments. Another suggests the imaginary basis of all knowledge when it is structured by visual means - from a 'city of memory' in whose edifices a student stores and retrieves abstract concepts, to the map of an imaginary land symbolizing a French literary society, to the exoticizing allegory of a continent.
Prints were never sheer reflections of their subject matter, even in ostensibly more empirical kinds of scientific illustration. A section on scale shows how this factor was necessarily involved - or cleverly manipulated - in representations of natural phenomena lying outside the normal field of vision, such as
Galileo's images of the lunar surface. Another section explores anatomical prints in the wake of Vesalius, arguing that artists lent authority, objectivity, and palatability to their representations of cadavers by playing on the contemporary fascination with classical sculpture.
A range of techniques and uses are in evidence, from woodblocks to engravings and from loose-leaf
sheets to book illustrations - not to mention a small but impressive selection of scientific instruments,
whose making indeed often required engraving. A section on technique reveals the collaborations and
physical operations that lay behind these "paper worlds," displaying, among other things, an actual
sixteenth century woodblock.
What comes across throughout is that prints did not simply disseminate the knowledge projects of early modern Europeans; rather, they were instrumental in creating them.
Download Gallery Guides for Paper Worlds:
Printing Knowledge in Early Modern Europe
Patent Republic: Materialities in Intellectual Property in 19th-Century America
Science Center 136
Monday - Friday
11:00am - 4:00pm
Special Exhibitions Gallery
Monday - Friday
9:00am - 5:00pm
Foyer Exhibition Space
Science Center 371
CLOSED FOR INSTALLATION
Free and open to the public.
Children must be escorted by an adult.
Both the Putnam Gallery and Special Exhibitions are closed on University Holidays.
The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments is located inside the Science Center, 1 Oxford Street, on Harvard's Cambridge campus.