In 1737, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus bitterly complained about the haphazard naming practices of his contemporaries. “The names bestowed on plants by the ancient Greeks and Romans I commend,” he wrote, “but I shudder at the sight of most of those given by modern authorities: for those are for the most part a mere … Continue reading The Limits of Book Learning
No matter how clear the exposition of the principles may be [in a lecture], no matter how fresh and striking the illustrations, it still remains that the student is relieved by the instructor from carrying on the mental processes which he ought to conduct for himself.
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Johan Östling's Humboldt and the Modern German University has been translated from Swedish into English. Even better, this Lund University Press publication is OpenAccess and can be downloaded as a PDF.
From the abstract:
By combining approaches from intellectual history, conceptual history and the history of knowledge, the study investigates the ways in which Humboldt’s ideas have been appropriated for various purposes in different historical contexts and epochs. Ultimately, it shows that Humboldt’s ideals are not timeless—they are historical phenomena and have always been determined by the predicaments and issues of the day.
The earliest extant Chinese mathematical writings include two types of components of particular interest for our discussion on manuals and handbooks. On the one hand, there are mathematical problems that often evoke tasks carried out by officials working in the imperial bureaucracy. On the other hand, there are mathematical “procedures,” or “algorithms” in today’s parlance, … Continue reading Reading and (Re-)Classifying Canonical Instructions of the Past: Commentaries on ‘The Nine Chapters on Mathematical Procedures’ from the 3rd to the 13th Centuries
The Effects of Nuclear Weapons was by far the most popular handbook of nuclear defense during the Cold War. Adapted from an original publication of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (1950), the handbook was amended and made commercially available for popular use (1957), revised (1962), reprinted (1964), expanded (1977), and even illicitly translated into Russian … Continue reading Spinning the Risk: ‘The Effects of Nuclear Weapons’ Handbook
On November 4, 1646, Sir Theodore de Mayerne (1573–1655), first physician to Charles I and the English Aristocracy, decided to spend his day away from his demanding patients and to devote his attention to the vibrant world of colors. He took a good handful of bilberries and carefully inspected the color of their peel and … Continue reading The Manual as Artifact: On Artists’ Manuals and Craftsmen’s Handbooks
In 1878 Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800–1882), probably the most famous nineteenth-century German-Jewish painter, created a work entitled The Heder, or Jewish Elementary School, which re-imagined his first school in Hanau near Frankfurt am Main in the early 1800s. In his memoirs, written only a few years later, he described this school as a longish chamber … Continue reading The Duty to Know: Nineteenth-Century Jewish Catechisms and Manuals and the Making of Jewish Religious Knowledge
The first volume of the massive reference book series Handbuch der Architektur (Handbook of Architecture) was published in 1880. At this time, the population of European cities was growing at a hitherto unprecedented scale, industrialization outside of England was reaching its peak, and traffic infrastructure was taking on global dimensions. The building boom of the … Continue reading ‘Handbuch der Architektur’ (1880–1943): A German Design Manual for the Building Profession