December 13, 2011

A Ground Plan of the Works and Buildings on the Wood Estate of Peter Langford Brooke, Esq., Situated in the Parish of St. John's, Antigua

In the colonial period, the Langford Brooke family of Mere in Cheshire, England, owned several properties on the British island of Antigua. This document is a detailed ground plan of the works and buildings on the family’s Wood estate. A lettered index at the left indicates the various structures, which include the boiling house, still house, windmill, blacksmith’s shop, great house, and others. The drawing at the bottom center shows how water was supplied from a pond to the works on the estate. At the upper left is a colonial coat of arms. An accompanying map, produced by the same surveyor, gives an overview of the whole property. Slaves did most of the work on these estates, which were devoted to the production of sugar cane.

Treatise on Geometry

Yuan rong jiao yi (Treatise on geometry) is an 1847 edition of a work dictated in 1608 by the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) to official and scholar Li Zhizao (1565–1630). Ricci, whose Chinese name was Li Madou, was one of the founding figures of the Jesuit mission in China. Li Zhizao was baptized by Ricci in 1610 and took the name Leo. He studied with Ricci and wrote prefaces to a number of his books. Ricci dictated several works to Li, who put them into acceptable Chinese. The treatise was first printed in Beijing in 1614, after Ricci’s death and while Li was posted to Shanzhou (present-day Puyang Xian, Hebei Province). It was reprinted by his friend Wang Mengpu, with a preface by Li himself. Ricci’s treatise was included in the collection of 19 works by missionaries, edited by Li, entitled Tian xue chu han (Preliminary works on astronomy), issued together with three other works by Ricci and Xu Guangqi. This 1847 edition is included in Hai shan xian guan cong shu (The Haishan Xianguan Collection), which was published in Fanyu circa 1845–49, based on the books in the private library of the merchant Pan Zhencheng (1714–88). Ricci’s source was a commentary by German Jesuit Clavius on the 13th-century work on spheres by the scholar, monk, and astronomer Johannes de Sacrobosco (circa 1195–circa 1256). The Ricci book discusses the sphere and its volume, beginning with the statement that everything on earth has a shape. It then explains these shapes, such as the circle, rectangle, polygon, and equilateral triangle and it notes that of all geometrical figures with the same surface area, the sphere has the greatest volume. The book contains 18 propositions, and the text retains the idea of the divine perfection of the celestial sphere.

The Elements of Geometry

In 1690, Emperor Kangxi summoned two French missionaries, Zhang Cheng (Jean Francois Gerbillon, 1654–1707) and Bai Jin (Joachim Bouvet, 1656–1730), to Beijing to teach him mathematics. The missionaries initially considered using for this purpose the early 17th-century partial translation by Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) and Xu Guangqi (1562–1633) of Euclid’s great work on geometry, Elements, but they found it too complicated. So they decided to translate instead Elements de geometrie by French Jesuit Ignace Gaston Pardies (1636–73), which drew on Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius. They gave their work, in seven juan, the same Chinese title, Ji he yuan ben (The elements of geometry), as Ricci and Xu had given their translation of Euclid. This very rare copy is handwritten. There are corrections in ink and numerous paper slips of corrections pasted on pages, and some editorial notes by the translators, one of which reads: “Zhang Cheng wishes to correct.” The work was presented to Emperor Kangxi, who added comments of his own in the upper margins. The National Central Library of Taiwan owns another edition of this work, the preface of which notes that the Ricci work was grammatically unclear and difficult to understand, which explains why this translation was made. The text of this other edition is the same as the one translated by Zhang Cheng and Bai Jin, except that it incorporates earlier corrections. Both copies were previously owned by the book collectors Mo Tang (1865–1929) and Wang Yinjia (1892–1949).

Summary of Astronomy

Tian wen lue (Summary of astronomy) is a well-known work by Yang Manuo, the Chinese name of Father Manuel Dias (1574–1659), also known as Emanuel Diaz. Diaz, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, arrived in China in 1610 and reached Beijing in 1613. He also spent time in Macao, Shaochuan, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Fuzhou, and other cities. He died in Hangzhou during the reign of the Qing dynasty Shunzhi emperor. Commonly known by its Latin title, Explicatio Sphaerae Coelestis, the book was first published in 1615. This copy is the original edition. It was the first work to introduce to China the telescope, invented and used in astronomical observations a few years earlier by the Italian mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei. Galileo supported the heliocentric view of Copernicus, holding that the sun was the center of the solar system, a view for which he was denounced and eventually tried by the Inquisition. Referring to Galileo, Diaz wrote that there was a European who had created a kind of instrument that “watched faraway places as if from nearby.” Although he mentioned the heliocentric theory, Diaz himself was not convinced and still supported the geocentric view. Diaz’s topics were astronomy and science, but his main purpose was to spread Christianity, proclaiming “the basis of knowledge of heaven is morality, and the basis of morality is to know God and serve God.” The book’s Chinese title, Tian wen lue, originated from Tian wen, the Chu poetry anthology by poet Qu Yuan (circa 340–278 BC). While Qu Yuan believed in nine spheres of heaven, Diaz introduced the 12 divisions. Following the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci’s method of explaining Christian concepts in terms familiar to the Chinese and taking into consideration the Chinese people’s familiarity with the nine spheres of heaven, Diaz repackaged and promoted the unfamiliar astronomy and religion by placing God in the 12th division, called Mountain of Paradise, thus in a visual and symbolic way strengthening the Chinese reader’s knowledge of God and Paradise. Written in the form of questions and answers to the Chinese queries, the book was studied and reissued into the 19th century.

December 15, 2011

Eiffel Tower, Full-view Looking Toward the Trocadero, Exposition Universal, 1900, Paris, France

This photochrome print of the Eiffel Tower is part of “Views of Architecture, Monuments, and Other Sites in France” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Built by Gustave Eiffel in 1887–89 as the centerpiece of the Exposition Universelle (Universal Exhibition) of 1889, the 10,000-ton, 300-meter iron structure is one of the best known monuments in Paris. The 1900 edition of Baedeker's Paris and its Environs, with routes from London to Paris: Handbook for Travellers: Paris and its Environs declared the tower “the loftiest monument in the world” and “an interesting specimen of bold and accurate skill in design and of the marvellous scientific precision of modern engineering.” Today the tower is universally recognized and widely appreciated, but initially it was quite controversial. Many Parisians admired its beauty and the ambition behind it, but others were critical and contended that the tower marred the face of Paris.

December 23, 2011

Report of the Constitutional Committee 1959

This four-part report was prepared in 1959 by a constitutional committee established by Sir Frederick Crawford, Governor of Uganda, as the then-protectorate of Uganda prepared for independence from Great Britain. The committee was chaired by John Wild, and included two other Europeans, two Asians, and ten Africans. It was “to consider, and to recommend to the Governor, the form of direct elections on a common roll for the representative members of the Legislative Council to be introduced in 1961, the number of seats to be filled under the above system; [and] their allocation among the different areas of the Protectorate….” Because of rising tensions among the major kingdoms of the protectorate -- Bunyoro, Ankole, Busoga, and especially Buganda -- the composition of and electoral procedures for the Legislative Council were matters of great political sensitivity. Britain granted internal self-government to Uganda in 1961. The first elections to the Legislative Council were held on March 1, 1961 under the procedures recommended by the constitutional committee. Uganda achieved full independence from Britain on October 9, 1962.