The history of science is riddled with genius ideas, complex inventions, and bizarre theories, but one thing that has stayed consistent for centuries is the use of images to communicate these difficult concepts. Though the power of images has always been honored as a teaching tool, around the 14th-century, western European scholars began to actively incorporate diagrams and illustrations into their scientific writings as a way to make these texts more accessible for non-academics. This trend was part of a larger cultural movement to make science more practical for laborers, craftsmen, and other professionals through the development of scientific instruments, tools, and explanatory writings.

This exhibition explores books and manuscripts that exemplify historical trends in visual scientific communication and analyzes the ways in which these practices were or were not effective in their efforts to aid readers in understanding the books’ contents. As you explore the exhibit, consider the ways the images and visuals you see everyday aid you in understanding the social, cultural, and physical world around you.

True Discourse of the Admirable Appearances, Movements, and Meanings of the Prodigious Comet of the Year 1618. With Demonstrations of its Celestial Location, Grandeur, and Distance from the Earth. Image 1.
Gilles Macé

Discours Veritable des Admirables Apparences, Mouvemens, et significations de la prodigieuse Comete de l’An 1618. Auec les demonstrations de sa situation Celeste, grandeur, & distance de la Terre(True Discourse of the Admirable Appearances, Movement, and Meanings of the Prodigious Comet of the Year 1618. With Demonstrations of its Celestial Situation, Size, & Distance from the Earth)Gilles Macé, French (1586-1637)Caen : Chez Iacques Brenouset, demeurant á sroide ruë, á la cour au Sens, 1619

On Solar Clocks and Quadrants. Image 2.
Oronce Fine

De Solaribus Horologiis & Quandrantibus(On Solar Clocks & Quadrants)Oronce Fine, French (1494-1555)Parisiis: Apud Gulielmum Cauellat, 1560

De geheele mathesis of Wiskonst: herstelt in zijn natuurlijke gedaante. Image 1.
Abraham de Graaf

De geheele mathesis of Wiskonst: herstelt in zijn natuurlijke gedaante, 1694(The Whole of Mathematics: Restored to its Natural Form)Abraham de Graaf, Dutch (1635-1717)Amsterdam: J. de Veer, 1734

Ioannis de Sacrobusto Libellus de sphaera : accessit eiusdem autoris computus ecclesiasticus, et alia quaedam in studiosorum gratiam edita / cum praefatione Philippi Melanthonis. Image 1.
Johannes de Sacro Bosco

Ioannis de Sacrobusto Libellus de sphaera: accessit eiusdem autoris computes ecclesiasticus, et alia quaedam in studiorum gratiam edita, 1230(The little book of John of Sacrobustus on the globe)Joannes de Sacro Bosco, English (1195-1256)Impressum Vuitebergae: Apud Iohannem Cratonem, 1550

Opera mathematica: in unum volume congesta ac recognita. Image 1
Francois Viete

Opera mathematica: in unum volume congesta ac recognita(Mathematical works: congested and revised in one volume)Francois Viete, French (1540-1603)Lvgdvni Batavorvm : ex officinâ Bonaventuræ & Abrahami Elzeviriorum, 1646

Christiani Hugenii Zulichemii, dum viveret Zelemii Toparchae, Opera Varia. Image 1.
Christian Huygens

Christiani Hugenii Zulichemii, dum viveret Zelemii Toparchae, Opera Varia(The works of Christian Huygens of Zulichemius, while the life of Zelemius the Toparch)Christian Huygens, Dutch (1629-1695).Lugduni Batavorum : Apud Janssonios Vander Aa, Bibliopolas, 1724

View of the Heavens, being a System of Modern Astronomy. Image 1.
Richard Turner

View of the Heavens, being a System of Modern AstronomyRichard Turner, English (1724-1791)London : Printed for S. Crowder, in Pater-noster-Row ; and S. Gamidge, bookseller, in Worcester, 1765.

Dialing: Plain, Concave, Convex, Projective, Reflective, Refractive. Image 1.
William Leybourn

Dialing: Plain, Concave, Convex, Projective, Reflective, RefractiveWilliam Leybourn, English (1626-1716)London : printed by H. Parker, for A. Bettesworth, 1728.

The Poeticon astronomicon : being the illustrious astronomer's exposition of the lore of the world and the heavenly sphere, together with the stories of the planets and constellations. Image 1.
Gaius Julius Hyginus

The Poeticon astronomicon : being the illustrious astronomer’s exposition of the lore of the world and the heavenly sphere, together with the stories of the planets and constellationsGaius Julius Hyginus, Latin (1st c. AD)Original: Erdhard Ratdolt, Venice, 1482Facsimile: Greenbrae, California : Allen Press, 1985.

Four Books on Human Proportions. Image 1.
Albrecht Dürer - Anatomy

Della simmetria dei corpi hvmani, libri quattro(On the symmetry of Human bodies, book four)Albrecht Dürer, German (1471-1528)In Venetia : Presso Domenico Nicolini, 1591.

Unterweisung der Messung. Image 2.
Albrecht Dürer - Geometry

Unterweisung der Messung(Instruction on Measurement)Albrecht Dürer, German (1471-1528)Parisiis : Ex officina Christiani Wecheli, sub scuto Basiliensi, 1535

The Mirror of the World (facsimile). Image 1.
William Caxton

The Mirrour of the World (Facsimile), 1481Original text by Gautier de Metz (French, 1245)Translated and printed by William Caxton (1422-1491)Westminster, EnglandFacsimile printed by the Allen Press. Kentfield, CA, 1964.

This exhibit was made possible with support from the Caine College of the Arts and the USU Honors Program.