On the Nature of Things: Modern Perspectives on Scientific Manuscripts
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PublicationPanel Report: Scientific Manuscripts in the Digital Age(2009-09-02) Brey, GerhardThe 1st Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age was concluded by a panel discussion under the title "Scientific Manuscripts in the Digital Age". The members of the panel comprised both digital humanities specialists and scholars working in the history of science. This report summarizes the discussion. PublicationManuscripts of Latin Translations of Scientific Texts from Arabic(2009-09-02) Burnett, CharlesManuscripts of translations give one the opportunity not only to compare texts in two different languages but also to compare the formats of those texts and to consider whether any features of the source manuscript have passed over into the target manuscript. Though it is very rare to find the very manuscript that a translator used when making his translation, there are translations in which, in one way or another, the Arabic Vorlage has influenced the way the translator has set out his material. By examining the manuscript evidence from scientific texts, this paper explores various ways in which translators dealt with certain formal challenges posed by the translation from Arabic into Latin. PublicationArchimedes in Bits: The Digital Presentation of a Write-Off(2009-09-02) Noel, WilliamThe Archimedes Palimpsest is considered by many to be the most important scientific manuscript ever sold at auction. It was purchased at a Christie’s sale on October 1998, by an anonymous collector for $2,000,000. The collector deposited the Palimpsest at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, for exhibition, conservation, imaging and scholarly study in 1999. Work has been ongoing ever since. The Archimedes Palimpsest contains seven of the Greek mathematician’s treatises. The manuscript was written in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) in the 10th century. In the 13th century, the manuscript was taken apart, and the Archimedes text was scraped off. The parchment was reused by a monk who created a prayer book. The Archimedes manuscript then effectively disappeared. Since 1999, intense efforts have been made to retrieve the Archimedes text. Many techniques have been employed, including multispectral imaging, x-ray flourescence imaging and synchrotron x-ray scanning at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California. The imaging efforts have led to a re-evaluation of the work of Archimedes, and to the retrieval of entirely new texts from the ancient world. PublicationSpoken Text and Written Symbol: The Use of Layout and Notation in Sanskrit Scientific Manuscripts(2009-09-02) Plofker, KimBecause of the traditional reverence for oral composition and recitation in Sanskrit literature, most Classical Sanskrit treatises, including scientific ones, were composed in verse and intended (at least in theory) for memorization. Written versions of Sanskrit texts are often presented in imitation of their ideal oral form, as an almost continuous and unformatted stream of syllables. Manuscripts of technical works on subjects such as mathematics and astronomy, however, had to combine this “one-dimensional” text stream with graphical and notational features generally requiring two-dimensional layout, such as tables, diagrams, and equations. This paper looks at how the ways in which this synthesis could be achieved posed several significant challenges for Sanskrit scribes. PublicationSpectacles of Erudition: Physicians and Vernacular Medical Writing in Early Modern Spain(2009-09-16) Solomon, Michael RThis electronic presentation explores the curious typography in the sixteenth-century Brocar edition of Luis Lobera de Avila’s vernacular hygienic treatise The Garden of Health or Otherwise Called The Knights’ Banquette with a Regimen for Living in Times of Health as Well as in Times of Disease [Vergel de sanidad que por otro nombre se llamava Banquete de cavalleros, y orden de Bivir: ansi en tiempo de sanidad como de enfermedad] ( Alcalá de Henares 1542). Whereas sixteenth-century vernacular medical treatises written for laymen avoided the extensive use of Latin, which vernacular medical authors believed impeded the usefulness of their treatises, the Brocar edition surrounds the Spanish text with abundant commentary and gloss in Latin that often overwhelms the vernacular. I argue that the widespread presence of Latin in this layman-oriented treatise was designed as an indexical device that helped the reader image the physician. Rather than distract or discourage the patient, as many vernacular authors believed, the Latin commentary created a visual residue of the physician/author and an uncanny sense of his lingering presence. This textual presencing of the physician was designed to comfort and reassure non-professional readers, confirming for them that the medical information in the vernacular was grounded in the knowledge of a competent and learned medical professional. PublicationUnderstanding the Language of Alchemy: The Medieval Arabic Alchemical Lexicon in Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms Sprenger 1908∗(2009-09-02) Ferrario, GabrieleThe editing of medieval alchemical texts poses a number of challenges to the modern scholar. Problems such as the lack of source identification, complicated compositional structures, and a tendency toward intentionally obfuscatory language make the task of reconstructing the original letter of text a practical impossibility. This paper will argue that an alternative approach toward editing alchemical texts must be considered. This approach will be determined by focusing on issues related to the technical lexicon of practical alchemy, and in particular, to the problems related to the understanding of the words used by the alchemists for describing the substances used in their operations.