Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Science and the illustrated book

You are invited to a seminar organised by the Centre for the Comparative History of Print (Centre ChoP) as part of the Cultures of the Book Sadler Seminar Series, with speakers Dr Eva Frojmovic and David Alexander.

Special Collections
Brotherton Library
University of Leeds

Between mysticism and science: Menasseh ben Israel’s printing work in 17th c Amsterdam
Dr Eva Frojmovic, School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, University of Leeds
The talk is prompted by the recently opened online display of Menasseh ben Israel’s imprints in the Cecil Roth Collection, Brotherton Library. Menasseh’s work as scholar and publisher was full of contradictions. His pedagogic project was to lead his fellow ex-conversos back to rabbinic Judaism. On the other hand, he also published the “Book of Elim” by Joseph Delmedigo, considered one of Spinoza’s teachers. Sefer Elim, a work of encyclopedic aspirations, is conspicuous by its rich scientific illustrations. The talk will consider the paradoxes of Menasseh’s work.

Scientific book illustration in eighteenth century Britain with particular reference to the work of Wilson Lowry (1760-1824)
David Alexander, Hon. Keeper of British prints, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Engraving is generally associated with the diffusion of paintings and other images of the fine arts, but the rapid progress of medicine, science and technology in eighteenth century Britain brought commissions for technical plates to fine art engravers such as the Basires: James Basire’s plate for the Philosophical Transactions in 1777 shows an experiment carried out in the Pantheon in Oxford Street by the Leeds-born painter Benjamin Wilson, FRS, who effectively abandoned painting to pursue his scientific interests. A number of engravers were encouraged to specialise in scientific illustration, and this paper will look in particular at the career of the engraver Wilson Lowry (c.1760-1824); not only did he specialise in producing scientific and technical plates he also made a number of technical improvements which helped engravers, e.g. in designing a ruling machine, he can also be regarded as a scientist in his own right, was a founding member of the Geological Society and was elected FRS in 1812.

Download the poster here.

Images (from left):
Printer’s mark of Menasseh ben Israel ©University of Leeds
A view of the apparatus and part of the Great Cylinder in the Pantheon ©Trustees of the British Museum

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