Category: Exhibitions

These posts comment on or review history of science related exhibitions.

Astronomy and Printing

The Printing Museum in Tokyo has what looks to be an amazing temporary exhibit right now on astronomy and print, aptly named “Astronomy and Printing. In search of new world vision.”[1]

Astronomy and Printing, a special exhibition at the Printing Museum, Tokyo.

The exhibit brings together nearly 100 printed objects stretching from the 1450s to the 1870s.[2] In addition to showing an impressive range of items, the flyer and brochure are truly beautiful.[3]

The amazing flyer for the “Astronomy and Printing” exhibition.

The museum also hosted some lectures on the history of astronomy, alas now all past.

On the back of the flyer were listed the various lectures that accompanied the exhibit.

The brochure lists the objects, a list that includes all the expected authors and works, e.g., works by Pliny, Ptolemy, Hyginus, Albumasar, Peurbach, Regiomonatus, Dürer, Apian, Fine, Brahe, Kepler, as well as a number of Japanese authors,[4] etc. It also has a nice timeline with authors and references to the books on display as well as cosmological diagrams.

The brochure listed the items on display and provided this nice timeline that keyed to the objects on display.

The exhibition runs until January 20, 2019. If you find yourself in Tokyo with nothing to do, I recommend an afternoon at the Printing Museum.


  1. That is the English title. Since I don’t know Japanese, I can only assume the Japanese title is the same. If you do know Japanese, you can find out more at the Japanese page: 天文学と印刷  ↩

  2. As my Japanese hasn’t improved in the last sentence or so, I should acknowledge that I might have missed some object.  ↩

  3. For reasons I don’t understand, the English page does not have a link to the flyer. A PDF is available from the Japanese page linked in note 1.  ↩

  4. My Japanese is still, regrettably, nonexistent.  ↩

Astrology and Medicine at the College of Physicians

There is a nice little exhibition on astrology and medicine at College of Physicians of Philadelphia (CPP): “Under the Influence of The Heavens: Astrology in Medicine in the 15th and 16th Centuries.” They selected about a dozen books from their rich and often unexplored collection of early printed books. One case displays some incunabula ranging from relatively well known books.

The College's exhibit:
The CPP’s exhibit: “Under the Influence of The Heavens: Astrology in Medicine in the 15th and 16th Centuries.”

One of the earlier books in the exhibit is the 1496 edition of Marsilio Ficino’s De vita libri tres, replete with annotations:

Marsilio Ficino, De vita libri tres (1489).
An annotated copy of Marsilio Ficino’s De vita libri tres (1496).

Another early text is Giovanni Abiosi’s defense of astrology (for some of Abiosi’s other works, see here):

Giovanni Abiosi, Dialogus in astrologiae defensionem (1494).
Giovanni Abiosi, Dialogus in astrologiae defensionem (1494).

The other case holds sixteenth-century books, including a nice copy of Gregor Reisch’s widely read Margarita philosophica (for more on Reisch’s views on astrology, see this post):

Gregor Reisch's Margarita philosophica (1517).
Gregor Reisch’s Margarita philosophica (1517).

A couple of these later books have elaborate volvelles—sort of paper instruments with moveable wheels that allowed a reader to carry out various operations.

The elaborate volvelles in Giovanni Paduani's Liberalium artium professoris Viridarium Mathematicorum (1563).
The elaborate volvelles in Giovanni Paduani’s Liberalium artium professoris Viridarium Mathematicorum (1563).

These few books don’t begin to scratch the surface of the medico-astrological books at the CPP. Fortunately, many of the early works, at least through the sixteenth century, were identified by Alexandra Waleko, a recent history major Haverford College who interned at the CPP a couple summers ago, thanks to support from the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities at Haverford.

Alex Waleko helped catalog the College of Physician's books on medical astrology.
Alex Waleko helped catalog the College of Physician’s books on medical astrology.

After spending a semester in Granada studying abroad and conducting research in the archives for her thesis, she returned and spent the summer digging through the collection at the CPP looking for early books on astrology and medicine. These provided much of the foundation for her interesting thesis on how astrology served the political agenda of King Alfonso X.

If you are in Philadelphia you should stop by the CPP and look at the exhibit.

A LEGO Turing Machine?

Science geeks are at it again. They’ve built the Antikythera Mechanism and Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine out of LEGOs. Now to celebrate Alan Turing’s birthday they’ve constructed a functioning Turing Machine:

Davy Landman and Jeroen van den Bos constructed a Turing Machine out of LEGOs.

The video at the original post shows the machine blazing through the difficult mathematical problem: 2+2.

What will these science geeks build next, a functioning astrolabe? Maybe an Armillary Sphere? Or maybe Mechanical Turk?

“You are Here”—A Special Exhibition on Maps

Haverford College’s Special Collections is about to open a new exhibition titled “You Are Here: Exploring the Contours of Our Academic Community Through Maps” (more information is here). I was asked to write a caption for James C. Prichard’s ethnographic maps that accompanied his Natural History of Man (1843). Here is the draft of my caption. The exhibition will also feature some student work from my Introduction to the History of Science course, see here.

Mapping Racial Variations

Prichard’s ethnographic map of Asia (Source: Quaker and Special Collections, Haverford College)

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