The first printed collections of technical illustrations were made in the sixteenth century by independent scholars-engineers, starting with Jacques Besson’s Theatrum Instrumentorum (Theater of Machines) (1572) or Agostino Ramelli’s Le diverse et artificiose machine (The various and ingenious machines) (1588). In the eighteenth century, much larger collections were accomplished under the sponsorship of academic institutions, such as the British Royal Society or the French Académie des Sciences (Science Academy). Their aim was to stimulate the public to improve the national economy by adopting and perfecting the published inventions. The Académie examined the inventions, promoted the approved ones and gave a patent to the inventors.
Jean Gaffin Gallon was an engineer charged by the Académie to publish the inventions approved from 1666 to 1754 in a series of seven volumes published between 1735 and 1777. They document the technological explosion that occurred in France during this period, in the areas of the arts, sciences, engineering, and manufacturing. New scientific instruments, clocks, textile machinery, paper-making machines, hydraulic engineering devices, steam shovels, street lights, umbrellas, and calculating machines are among the many inventions covered. The work includes the first published illustrations of Pascal's calculating machine. Gallon supplied illustrations of all the inventions to ensure “that one could understand them perfectly, and also have them reproduced, if it was necessary,” and his text served “to offer an understanding of each machine with its parts, to reveal its construction method, and to indicate its use.” (Margócsy 2014: 193).
The image here shows a cart on four wheels used for transporting heavy materials, such as stones, to be put on top of the cart (Q), which is moved by means of a crank (F) operating a circular jack consisting of a series of gears under the cart (E, G and M) transmitting the motion to the four wheels of the cart. The text preceding the image gives a detailed description of the mechanism as well as a calculation of the force to be applied to F and the resistance opposed by the cart in proportion to the radius of the gear E.Sources
- Wolfgang Lefèvre, Picturing Machines 1400-1700, MIT Press, 2004
- A.P. Usher, “Machines and mechanisms”, in Charles Singer (ed.), A History of technology, New York : Oxford University Press, 1957, vol. 3
- Mario Biagioli, “From Print to Patents: Living on Instruments in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800" History of Science 44 (2006):139-86
- Dániel Margócsy, Commercial Visions: Science, Trade, and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age, 2014