Reading Cosmographia: Peter Apian’s Book-Instrument Hybrid and the Rise of the Mathematical Amateur in the Sixteenth Century

Early Science and Medicine 21 (4):277-302 (2016)

The incorporation of paper instruments, also known as volvelles, into astronomical and cosmographical texts is a well-known facet of sixteenth-century printing. However, the impact that these instruments had on the reading public has yet to be determined. This paper argues that the inclusion of paper instruments in Peter Apian’s Cosmographia transforms the text into a book-instrument hybrid. The instruments and accompanying text in Cosmographia enabled readers to make their own measurements and calculations of both the heavens and the earth. Through the experience of manipulating the instruments, the readers became participants in sixteenth century mathematical culture, and thus mathematical amateurs. I conclude that the presence of these mathematical amateurs contributed to a much broader social base for the cultural shift towards an empirical understanding of nature from 1500 to 1700.
Keywords volvelles   book history   history of science   Peter Apian   sixteenth century   scientific instruments   paper instruments   cosmography
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DOI 10.1163/15733823-00214p01
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