Monday, January 28, 2013
carpenter squares in 1503
The print comes from Robert Lawlor's Sacred Geometry, Philosophy and Practice, p. 7. The wood cut by Gregor Riesch is from his book Margarita Philosophical, published in Baden,1503. Lawlor's description reads
"Geometry as a contemplative practice is personified by an elegant and refined woman, for geometry functions as an intuitive, synthesizing, creative yet exact activity of mind associated with the feminine principle. But when these geometric laws come to be applied in the technology of daily life they are represented by the rational masculine principle: contemplative geometry is transformed into practical geometry."
I add this to the posts on carpenter squares, geometry, and regulating lines to follow up on some ideas I'm thinking about.
a) Carpenter squares were in regular use centuries before Silas Hawes of Shaftsbury, Vermont, made his first steel square in 1815, beginning what became The Eagle Square Co. Local lore wants Hawes to be the inventor of the carpenter square, but it isn't so.
b)The practice of geometry has since its beginning been an intellectual, philosophical process - 'contemplative' in the words of Lawlor - as well as a practical skill called Practical Geometry.
c) The intertwining of design - contemplative and theoretical - and practice in construction unraveled during the Industrial Revolution. As the master-carpenter and master-mason evolved into the separate professions of architect, engineer, and builder each lost parts of the knowledge and skills, as well as the understanding and appreciation of what the others was doing.
d) Notes added 1/7/2019:
The woodcut is a wonderful window into geometry, crafts, tools, even education in late Middle Ages.
The woman is using a compass, a tool that historians often overlook.
The famous Geometers (Google it!) were men - some of our best thinkers: Plato, Archimedes, Pythagoras, etc., not 'contemplative' nor 'feminine' as Robert Lawlor writes. I would describe them excellent, theoretical, logical, careful thinkers who also understood how to use Geometry for Practical purposes..
The word 'feminine' has little relevance in a discussion about Theoretical and Practical Geometry.