1st Edition

Mathematics and the Craft of Thought in the Anglo-Dutch Renaissance

By Eleanor Chan Copyright 2022
    240 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    The development of a coherent, cohesive visual system of mathematics brought about a seminal shift in approaches towards abstract thinking in western Europe. Vernacular translations of Euclid’s Elements made these new and developing approaches available to a far broader readership than had previously been possible. Scholarship has explored the way that the language of mathematics leaked into the literary cultures of England and the Low Countries, but until now the role of visual metaphors of making and shaping in the establishment of mathematics as a practical tool has gone unexplored. Mathematics and the Craft of Thought sheds light on the remarkable culture shift surrounding the vernacular language translations of Euclid, and the geometrical imaginary that they sought to create. It shows how the visual language of early modern European geometry was constructed by borrowing and quoting from contemporary visual culture. The verbal and visual language of this form of mathematics, far from being simply immaterial, was designed to tantalize with material connotations. This book argues that, in a very real sense, practical geometry in this period was built out of craft metaphors.

    Introduction: Crafting Thought

    1. The Early Modern Picture/Beeld

    2. Point

    3. Line

    4. Surface

    5. Body

    Conclusion: Thought Crafted


    Eleanor Chan is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Music department at the University of Manchester. Her work focuses on the interaction between word, image and notation in early modern Europe, with a particular interest in the musical and the mathematical. She received her PhD in History of Art from the University of Cambridge and has published widely, with articles on the visual implications of the English cadence, the interdisciplinary interaction between music and art in the English Renaissance, Anglo-Dutch geometry and realism, the Amsterdam city harpsichord case and mathematical visual culture, and the competing editions of Descartes' anatomical treatise.