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The Use of Printed Images for Instrument-Making 
at the Arsenius Workshop

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Mathematical instruments in the early-modern period lay at the intersection of various knowledge traditions, both practical and scholarly. Scholars treated instrument-related questions in their works, while instrument makers and mathematical practitioners also put much energy into producing instrument books. Assessing the role of that literature in the exchange of knowledge between the different traditions is a complex task. Did it directly influence workshop practice? Here, I will examine instruments from a famous Louvain workshop ca. 1570, focussing on the role of printed images. I will suggest that woodcuts did indeed inspire instrument makers; that images were sometimes more important than the text; and that the viewer’s appreciation of the images depended upon his familiarity with an instrument’s mathematical structure.

Affiliations: 1: University of Lisbon


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