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Let us Calculate!: Leibniz, Llull, and the Computational Imagination |...

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Three hundred years after the death of Gottfried

Wilhelm Leibniz and seven hundred years after the
birth of Ramon Llull, Jonathan Gray looks at how their
early visions of computation and the combinatorial
art speak to our own age of data, algorithms, and
( artificial intelligence.








A project of:




Drawing of Leibnizs calculating machine, featured as a folding plate in

Miscellanea Berolensia ad incrementum scientiarum (1710), the volume in
which he first describes his invention Source

Magnificent A
model of digital

ach epoch dreams the one to follow wrote the

historian Jules Michelet. The passage was later
used by the philosopher and cultural critic Walter
Benjamin in relation to his unfinished magnum opus The

One of our

The Guardian

The Paris Review

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The Many Lives of

the Medieval
Wound Man (/2016
Sliced, stabbed,
punctured, bleeding,
harassed on all sides by
various weaponry, the
curious image of Wound
Man is a rare yet
intriguing presence in
the world of medieval
and early modern
medical manuscripts.
Jack Hartnell explores

Arcades Project, which explores the genesis of life under

late capitalism through a forensic examination of the
dreamworlds of nineteenth-century Paris.1 In tracing the
emergence of the guiding ideals and visions of our own
digital age, we may cast our eyes back a little earlier still: to
the dreams of seventeenth-century polymath Gottfried
Wilhelm Leibniz.
There was a resurgence of interest in Leibnizs role in the
history of computation after workmen fixing a leaking roof
discovered a mysterious machine discarded in the corner of
an attic at the University of Gttingen in 1879. With its
cylinders of polished brass and oaken handles, the artefact
was identified as one of a number of early mechanical
calculating devices that Leibniz invented in the late
seventeenth century.
Supported by a network of professors, preachers, and
friends and developed with the technical assistance of a
series of itinerant and precariously employed clockmakers,
mechanics, artisans, and even a butler Leibnizs
instrument aspired to provide less function than even the
most basic of todays calculators. Through an intricate
system of different sized wheels, the hand-crank operated
device modestly expanded the repertoire of possible
operations to include multiplication and division as well as
addition and subtraction.2




Astral Travels with

Jack London
On the centenary of Jack
Londons death,
Benjamin Breen looks at
the writers last book to
be published in his
lifetime, The Star Rover
a strange tale about
solitary confinement and
interstellar reincarnation,
which speaks to us of

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this enigmatic figures

journey through the
centuries. Continued

the dreams and struggles

of the man himself.

Harry Clarkes
Looking Glass

Out of Their Love

They Made It: A
Visual History of
Buraq (/2016/09/21

With their intricate line

and often ghoulish tone,
the works of Irish artist
Harry Clarke are
amongst the most
striking in the history of
illustration and stained
glass design. Kelly
Sullivan explores how,
unknown to many at the
time, Clarke took to
including his own face
in many of his pictures.

Unlimiting the
Bounds: the
Panorama and the
Balloon View

Illustration of Leibnizs calculating machine (based on the sketch above),

featuring in Theatrum arithmetico-geometricum, das ist (1727) by Jacob
Leupold Source (

Three centuries before Douglas Engelbarts Mother of All

Demos received a standing ovation in 1968, Leibnizs
machine faltered through live demonstrations in London
and Paris.3 Costing a small fortune to construct, it suffered
from a series of financial setbacks and technical issues. The
Royal Society invited him to come back once it was fully
operational. There is even speculation that despite
Leibnizs rhetoric spanning an impressive volume of letters
and publications the machine never actually worked as
Nevertheless, the instrument exercised a powerful grip on
the imagination of later technicians. Leibnizs machine
became part of textbooks and industry narratives about the
development of computation. It was retrospectively
integrated into the way that practitioners envisaged the
history of their work. IBM acquired a functioning replica

Although mentioned
only briefly in the
Qur'an, the story of the
Prophet Muhammad's
night journey to heaven
astride a winged horse
called Buraq has long
caught the imagination
of artists. Yasmine Seale
charts the many
representations of this
enigmatic steed, from
early Islamic scripture to
contemporary Delhi, and
explores what such a
figure can tell us about
the nature of belief.

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The second essay in a
two-part series in which
Lily Ford explores how
balloon flight
transformed our ideas of
landscape. Here she
looks at the phenomenon
of the panorama, and
how its attempts at
creating the immersive
view were inextricably
linked to the new visual
experience opened up by
the advent of ballooning.

The Secret History

of Holywell Street:
Home to Victorian
Londons Dirty
Book Trade (/2016
Victorian sexuality is
often considered
synonymous with
prudishness, conjuring

for their antiques attic collection. Scientist and inventor

Stephen Wolfram credits Leibniz with anticipating
contemporary projects by imagining a whole architecture
for how knowledge would be made computational.5
Norbert Wiener called him the patron saint of
cybernetics.6 Another recent writer describes him as the
godfather of the modern algorithm.7
While Leibniz made groundbreaking contributions towards
the modern binary number system as well as integral and
differential calculus,8 his role in the history of computing
amounts to more than the sum of his scientific and
technological accomplishments. He also advanced what we
might consider a kind of computational imaginary
reflecting on the analytical and generative possibilities of
rendering the world computable.

For the Sake of

the Prospect:
Experiencing the
World from Above
in the Late 18th
Century (/2016
The first essay in a
two-part series in which
Lily Ford explores how
balloon flight
transformed our ideas of
landscape. We begin
with a look at the unique
set of images included in
Thomas Baldwin's
Airopaidia (1786) the
first real overhead aerial
views. Continued

Detail from the frontispiece to Miscellanea Berolensia ad incrementum

scientiarum (1710). At the bottom of the image can be seen Leibnizs
calculating machine, the first description of which features in the volume
Source (

Frankenstein, the

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images of covered up
piano legs and dark
ankle-length skirts.
Historian Matthew
Green uncovers a quite
different scene in the
sordid story of Holywell
St, 19th-century
London's epicentre of
erotica and smut.

Francis van
Helmont and the
Alphabet of Nature
Largely forgotten today
in the shadow of his
more famous father, the
17th-century Flemish
alchemist Francis van
Helmont influenced and
was friends with the
likes of Locke, Boyle,
and Leibniz. While
imprisoned by the
Inquisition, in between
torture sessions, he
wrote his Alphabet of
Nature on the idea of a
universal natural
language. Je Wilson
explores. Continued


A diagram of I Ching hexagrams owned by Leibniz, given to him by the

French Jesuit Joachim Bouvet, and to which Leibniz has added Arabic
numerals. Leibniz saw immediate parallels between the I Ching and his
own work on the characteristica univeralis and took this as confirmation
of universal truth, independently discovered Source

Leibnizs interest in this area can be traced back to his 1666

Dissertatio De Arte Combinatoria an extended version
of his doctoral dissertation in which he explores what was
known as the art of combinations (or combinatorial
art), a method which would enable its practitioners to
generate novel ideas and inventions, as well as to analyse
and decompose complex and difficult ideas into more
simple elements. Describing it as the mother of all
inventions which would lead to the discovery of all
things, he sought to demonstrate the widespread
applicability of this art to advance human endeavour in
areas as diverse as law and logic, music and medicine,

Baroness, and the

Climate Refugees
of 1816 (/2016
It is 200 years since The
Year Without a Summer,
when a sun-obscuring
ash cloud ejected
from one of the most
powerful volcanic
eruptions in recorded
history caused
temperatures to plummet
the world over. Gillen
DArcy Wood looks at
the humanitarian crisis
triggered by the unusual
weather, and how it
offers an alternative lens
through which to read
Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein, a book
begun in its midst.

Engines: The Long
Prehistory of
Intelligence (/2016

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Washington at the
Siamese Court
Keen to appear outwardlooking and open to
Western culture, in 1838
the Second King of Siam
bestowed upon his son a
most unusual name.
Ross Bullen explores the
curious case of Prince
George Washington, a
19th-century Siamese
prince. Continued

Divine Comedy:
Lucian Versus The
Gods (/2016/03/23

physics and politics.

Leibnizs broader vision of the power of logical calculation
was inspired by many thinkers from the logical works of
Aristotle and Ramus to Thomas Hobbess proposal to
equate reasoning with computation. But Leibnizs curiosity
around the art of combinations per se was sparked by a
group called the Herborn Encyclopaedists through whom
he became acquainted with the works of Ramon Llull, a
Majorcan philosopher, logician, and mystical thinker who is
thought to have died seven centuries ago this year.9 Llulls
Ars magna (or ultimate general art) from 1308 outlines a
form of analysis and argumentation based on working with
different permutations of a small number of fundamental
Llull sought to create a universal tool for helping to convert
people to the Christian faith through logical argumentation.
He proposed eighteen fundamental general principles
(Goodness, Greatness, Eternity, Power, Wisdom, Will,
Virtue, Truth, Glory, Difference, Concordance, Contrariety,
Beginning, Middle, End, Majority, Equality and Minority),
accompanied by a set of definitions, rules, and figures in
order to guide the process of argumentation, which is
organised around different permutations of the principles.
The art was to be used to generate and address questions
such as Is eternal goodness concordant?, What does the
difference of eternal concordance consist of?, or Can
goodness be great without concordance?.

Defecating ducks,
talking busts, and
mechanised Christs
Jessica Riskin on the
wonderful history of
automata, machines built
to mimic the processes
of intelligent life.

Picturing Don
Quixote (/2016
This year marks the
400th anniversary of the
death of Miguel de
Cervantes, author of one
of the best-loved and
most frequently
illustrated books in the
history of literature
Don Quixote. Rachel
Schmidt explores how
the varying approaches
to illustrating the tale
have reflected and
impacted its reading
through the centuries.

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With the twenty-six

short comic dialogues
that made up Dialogues
of the Gods, the
2nd-century writer
Lucian of Samosata took
the popular images of
the Greek gods and
re-drew them as greedy,
power-mad despots.
Nicholas Jeeves explores
the story behind the
work and its reception in
the English speaking
world. Continued

Worlds Without
End (/2015/12/09
At the end of the 19th
century, inspired by
radical advances in
technology, physicists
asserted the reality of
invisible worlds an
idea through which they
sought to address not
only psychic phenomena
such as telepathy, but
also spiritual questions
around the soul and
immortality. Philip Ball
explores this fascinating
history, and how in this
turn to the unseen in the
face of mystery there
exists a parallel to
quantum physics today.

Diagram featured in a 16th-century edition of Ramon Llulls Ars Magna

(1517) Source (

Llull held that this art could be used to banish all

erroneous opinions and to arrive at true intellectual
certitude removed from any doubt. He drew in turn on the
medieval Arabic zairja, an algorithmic process of letter
magic for calculating truth on the basis of a finite number
of elements. Its practitioners would give advice or make
predictions on the basis of interpretations of strings of
letters resulting from a calculation.10 Llulls
experimentation channelled this procedural conception of
reasoning, and was drawn upon by the intellectual milieu in
which Leibniz developed his early ideas.
While critical towards the details of Llulls proposed
categories and procedures, Leibniz was taken with his
overarching vision of the combinatorial art. He drew two
key aspirations from the Llulls work: the idea of
fundamental conceptual elements; and the idea of a method
through which to combine and calculate with them. The
former would enable us to reformulate more complex ideas
in terms of simpler ones (for everything which exists or
which can be thought, Leibniz wrote, must be
compounded of parts).11 The latter would enable us to
reason with these elements precisely and without error, as
well as generate new insights and ideas.

The Strange Case

of Mr William T.
Horton (/2016
Championed in his day
by friend and fellow
mystic W. B. Yeats,
today the artist William
T. Horton and his stark
minimalistic creations
are largely forgotten. Jon
Crabb on a unique and
unusual talent.

The Science of Life

and Death in Mary
Professor Sharon Ruston
surveys the scientific

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background to Mary
Shelley's Frankenstein,
investigations into
resuscitation, galvanism,
and the possibility of
states between life and
death. Continued


Notes on the
Fourth Dimension
Hyperspace, ghosts, and
colourful cubes - Jon
Crabb on the work of
Charles Howard Hinton
and the cultural history
of higher dimensions.

Bad Air: Pollution,

Sin, and Science
Fiction in William
Delisle Hays The
Doom of the Great
City (1880) (/2015
Deadly fogs, moralistic
diatribes, debunked
medical theory - Brett

Richard Spruce
and the Trials of
Victorian Bryology

Page of letter combinations from 16th-century edition of Ramon Llulls Ars

Magna (1517) Source (

Just as all words in a language could be represented by the

comparatively small number of letters in an alphabet, so the
whole world of nature and thought could be considered in
terms of a number of fundamental elements an alphabet
of human thought. By reformulating arguments and ideas

Obsessed with the

smallest and seemingly
least exciting of plants
mosses and
liverworts the
19th-century botanist
Richard Spruce never
achieved the fame of his
more popularist
contemporaries. Elaine
Ayers explores the work
of this unsung hero of
Victorian plant science
and how his
complexities echoed the
very subject of his study.

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Beasley explores a piece

of Victorian science
fiction considered to be
the first modern tale of
urban apocalypse.

When the Birds

and the Bees Were
Not Enough:
Masterpiece (/2015
Mary Fissell on how a
wildly popular sex
manual - first published
in 17th-century London
and reprinted in
hundreds of subsequent
editions - both taught
and titilated through the
early modern period and
beyond. Continued

in terms of a characteristica universalis, or universal

language, all could be rendered computable. The
combinatorial art would not only facilitate such analysis,
but would also provide means to compose new ideas,
entities, inventions, and worlds.
Leibniz spared no modesty in promoting the art and the
various initiatives associated with it for which he hoped to
raise funds from prospective patrons. He presented his
project as being the worlds most powerful instrument, an
end to all argument, one of humanitys most wonderful
inventions (fulfilling a timeless dream shared by everyone
from the Pythagoreans to the Cartesians); the ultimate
source of answers to some of the worlds most complex and
difficult theological, moral, legal, or scientific questions;
and a foolproof means to converting people to Christianity
and propagating the faith, amongst other things.
In support of his project he argued that no man who is not
a prophet or a prince can ever undertake anything of greater
good to mankind or more fitting for the divine glory and
that nothing could be proposed that would be more
important for the Congregation for the Propagation of the
Faith.12 In a 1679 letter to one of his patrons Johann
Friedrich he described his project of the universal language
as the great instrument of reason, which will carry the
forces of the mind further than the microscope has carried
those of sight. Later he wrote:
The only way to rectify our reasonings is to make
them as tangible as those of the Mathematicians, so
that we can find our error at a glance, and when
there are disputes among persons, we can simply
say: Let us calculate, without further ado, to see who
is right.13


Dr Mitchill and the

Tetrodon (/2015
One of the early
Republic's great
polymaths, New Yorker
Samuel L. Mitchill was
a man with a finger in
many a pie, including
medicine, science,
natural history, and
politics. Dr Kevin Dann
argues that Mitchill's
peculiar brand of
curiosity can best be
seen in his study of fish
and the attention he
gives one seemingly
unassuming specimen.

Cat Pianos, SoundHouses, and Other
Imaginary Musical

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Instruments (/2015
The Nightwalker
and the Nocturnal
Picaresque (/2015
The introduction of
street lighting to
17th-century London
saw an explosion of
nocturnal activity in the
capital, most of it
centring around the
selling of sex. Matthew
Beaumont explores how
some writers, with the
intention of condemning
these nefarious
goings-on, took to the
city's streets after dark,
and in the process gave
birth to a peculiar new
literary genre.

Scurvy and the

Terra Incognita

Diagram included at the end of Leibnizs dissertation on the art of

combinations Source (

Ultimately he hoped that the combination of a perspicuous

thought language of pure concepts, combined with
formalised processes and methods akin to those used in
mathematics, would lead to the mechanisation and
automation of reason itself. By means of new artificial
languages and methods, our ordinary and imperfect ways of
reasoning with words and ideas would give way to a
formal, symbolic, rule-governed science conceived of as
a computational process. Disputes, conflict and grievances
arising from ill-formed opinions, emotional hunches,
biases, prejudices, and misunderstandings would give way
to consensus, peace, and progress.
Jonathan Swifts satirical classic Gullivers Travels (1726)
parodied the mechanical conception of invention advanced
by Llull and Leibniz. In the fictional city of Lagado, the
protagonist encounters a device known as the engine
which is intended by its inventor to enable anyone to write

Deirdre Loughridge and

Thomas Patteson,
curators of the Museum
of Imaginary Musical
Instruments, explore the
wonderful history of
made-up musical
contraptions, including a
piano comprised of
yelping cats and Francis
Bacon's 17th-century
vision of experimental
sound manipulation.

The Empathetic
Camera: Frank
Norris and the
Invention of Film
Editing (/2015
At the heart of American
author Frank Norris'
gritty turn-ofthe-century fiction lies

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One remarkable
symptom of scurvy, that
constant bane of the Age
of Discovery, was the
acute and morbid
heightening of the
senses. Jonathan Lamb
explores how this
unusual effect of sailing
into uncharted territory
echoed a different kind
of voyage, one
undertaken by the
Empiricists through their
experiments in
enhancing the senses
artificially. Continued

Ignorant Armies:
Private Snafu Goes
to War (/2015
Between 1943 and 1945,
with the help of Warner
Bros.' finest, the U.S.
Army produced a series
of 27 propaganda
cartoons depicting the
calamitous adventures of
Private Snafu. Mark
David Kaufman explores
the overarching theme of
containment and how
one film inadvertently
let slip one of the war's
greatest secrets.

books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics,

and theology, without the least assistance from genius or
He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof
all his pupils stood in ranks. It was twenty feet
square, placed in the middle of the room. The
superfices was composed of several bits of wood,
about the bigness of a die, but some larger than
others. They were all linked together by slender
wires. These bits of wood were covered, on every
square, with paper pasted on them; and on these
papers were written all the words of their language,
in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but
without any order. The professor then desired me to
observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.
The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold
of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed
round the edges of the frame; and giving them a
sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was
entirely changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty
of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they
appeared upon the frame; and where they found
three or four words together that might make part of
a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys,
who were scribes. This work was repeated three or
four times, and at every turn, the engine was so
contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as
the square bits of wood moved upside down.14

an essential engagement
with the everyday shock
and violence of
modernity. Henry
Giardina explores how
this focus, combined
with his unique
approach to storytelling,
helped to pave the way
for a truly filmic style.

Black on Black
Should we consider
black a colour, the
absence of colour or a
suspension of vision
produced by a
deprivation of light?
Beginning with Robert
Fludd's attempt to
picture nothingness,
Eugene Thacker
reflects* on some of the
ways in which blackness
has been used and
thought about through
the history of art and
philosophical thought.

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When Chocolate
was Medicine:
Wadsworth, and
Dufour (/2015
Chocolate has not
always been the
common confectionary
we experience today.
When it arrived from the
Americas into Europe in
the 17th century it was a
rare and mysterious
substance, thought more
of as a drug than as a
food. Christine Jones
traces the history and
literature of its
reception. Continued

The people of Lagados engine from Swifts Gullivers Travels, as

illustrated in The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, DD, Volume 8 (1899)
Source (file:///Users/PDR/Downloads/GulliversTravels_10011782.pdf).

The mechanical, combinatorial approach to cultural

creation that Swift treated as an absurd caricature became a
productive experimental technique for later writers, artists,
and musicians from the permutational works of
American composer John Cage, to the generative poetic
experiments of the French literary group Oulipo, to more
recent procedural approaches of digital and software art.15
Moreover, the mechanization and externalization of
reasoning processes exhibited by machine learning
technologies and algorithms has not only become socially
and culturally productive, but economically lucrative for
todays silicon empires.

Sex and Science in

Robert Thorntons
Temple of Flora
Bridal beds, blushing
captives, and swollen
trunks - Carl Linnaeus'
taxonomy of plants
heralded a whole new
era in 18th-century
Europe of plants being
spoken of in sexualised
terms. Martin Kemp
explores how this
association between the
floral and erotic reached
its visual zenith in
Robert Thornton's
exquisitely illustrated
Temple of Flora.

There are few contenders in the history of philosophy to

rival the optimism that Leibniz had for his project as a kind
of panacea. Many of the ideas of his youth never left him.
In a 1714 letter, two years before his death, he laments that
he was unable to make more progress:

Illustrations of
Madness: James
Tilly Matthews and

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The Poet, the

Physician and the
Birth of the
Modern Vampire
From that famed night of
ghost-stories in a Lake
Geneva villa in 1816, as
well as Frankenstein's
monster, there arose that
other great figure of
19th-century gothic
fiction - the Vampire - a
creation of Lord Byron's
personal physician John
Polidiri. Andrew
McConnell Stott
explores how a fractious
relationship between
Polidiri and his poet
employer lies behind the
tale, with Lord Byron
himself providing a
model for the bloodsucking aristocratic
figure of the legend we
are familiar with today.

O, Excellent Air
Bag: Humphry
Davy and Nitrous
Oxide (/2014/08/06

I should venture to add that if I had been less

distracted, or if I were younger or had talented
young men to help me, I should still hope to create a
kind of spcieuse gnrale, in which all truths of
reason would be reduced to a kind of calculus. At the
same time this could be a kind of universal language
or writing, though infinitely different from all such
languages which have thus far been proposed, for
the characters and the words themselves would give
directions to reason, and the errors (except those of
fact) would be only mistakes in calculation.16
As ever more aspects of earthly life are rendered
quantifiable, harvested into clouds, funneled into
algorithmic engines leading to what has been called
planetary-scale computation these dreams of the vast
creative and emancipatory possibilities of procedural
reasoning processes endure.17 The initial trickles of Llulls
and Leibnizs arcane combinatorial fantasies have gradually
given way to ubiquitous computational technologies,
practices, and ideals which are interwoven into the fabric of
our worlds the broader consequences of which are still
unfolding around us. The objects of their embryonic faith
have become the living a priori of the digital age
providing the conditions of possibility for our experience
and our reflection, our genres of deliberation, our forms of
sociality, and our institutions of judgement regardless of
whether or not the machines operate in the ways that we

Dr Jonathan Gray is Prize Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research,

University of Bath where he is writing a book on Data Worlds. He is also

the Air Loom

Mike Jay recounts the
tragic story of James
Tilly Matthews, a former
peace activist of the
Napoleonic Wars who
was confined to
London's notorious
Bedlam asylum in 1797
for believing that his
mind was under the
control of the "Air
Loom" - a terrifying
machine whose
mesmeric rays and
mysterious gases were
brainwashing politicians
and plunging Europe
into revolution, terror,
and war. Continued

Redressing the
Balance: Levinus
Vincents Wonder
Theatre of Nature

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Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative, University of

The summer of 1799

saw a new fad take hold
in one remarkable circle
of British society: the
inhalation of "Laughing
Gas". The overseer and
pioneer of these
experiments was a
young Humphry Davy,
future President of the
Royal Society. Mike Jay
explores how Davy's
extreme and near-fatal
regime of
with the gas not only
marked a new era in the
history of science but a
turn toward the
philosophical and
literary romanticism of
the century to come.

Senior Advisor at Open Knowledge International and cofounder of The Public

Amsterdam; Research Associate at the mdialab at Sciences Po; and Tow

Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University. He is

Domain Review. More about him can be found at

( and he is on Twitter at @jwyg (

1. Benjamin, W. (1996) Selected Writings: 1935-1938, H. Eiland & M. W.

Jennings (Eds.), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 33.
2. For more on the history of the machine and its reception, see: Morar, F.-S.
(2015) Reinventing Machines: The Transmission History of the Leibniz
Calculator, The British Journal for the History of Science, 48(1), pp. 123146.

3. Leibniz complained that after one demonstration in London in 1673, Robert

Hooke produced a machine with suspiciously similar designs. See Antognazza,
M. R. (2009) Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, p. 149.
4. Ibid, p. 18.
5. Wolfram, S. (2013) Dropping In on Gottfried Leibniz. Available at:

The Naturalist and

the Neurologist:
On Charles
Darwin and James

Bert van de Roemer

explores the curiosity
cabinets of the Dutch
collector Levinus
Vincent and how the
aesthetic drive behind
his meticulous ordering
of the contents was in
essence religious, an
attempt to emphasise the
wonder of God's
creations by restoring
the natural world to its
prelapsarian harmony.

6. Wiener, N. (1985) Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal

and the Machine, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p. 12.
7. Steiner, C. (2012) Automate This: How Algorithms Took Over Our Markets,
Our Jobs, and the World. London: Penguin, p. 57.
8. Leibniz created a calculus independently of Isaac Newton, which became a
major source of controversy between them. See Hall, A. R. (1980) Philosophers

Simon Werrett explores
how artists through the
ages have responded to
the challenge of
representing firework
displays, from the highly
politicised and
allegorical renderings of
the early modern period
to Whistler's
impressionistic Nocturne
in Black and Gold.

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at War: The Quarrel Between Newton and Leibniz, Cambridge: Cambridge

Stassa Edwards explores

Charles Darwin's
photography collection,
which included almost
forty portraits of mental
patients given to him by
the neurologist James
Crichton-Browne. The
study of these
photographs, and the
related correspondence
between the two men,
would prove
instrumental in the
development of The
Expression of the
Emotions in Man and
Animals (1872),
Darwin's study on the
evolution of emotions.

University Press.

9. For more on Llulls influence on Leibniz see, e.g., Antognazza, M. R. (2009)

Leibniz: An Intellectual Biography, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
pp. 40, 62; Loemker, L. E. (1973) Leibniz and the Herborn Encyclopedists in
Ivor Leclerc (ed.) The Philosophy of Leibniz and the Modern World, Nashville:
Vanderbilt University Press; Eco, U. (1995). The Search for the Perfect
Language, J. Fentress (Trans.), Oxford: Blackwell; Welch, J. R. (1990) Llull
and Leibniz: The Logic of Discovery, Catalan Review 4:75-83; Marstica, A.
(1992), Ars Combinatoria and Time:Llull, Leibniz and Peirce. Studia
Lulliana, 32(2), 105134; Pombo, O. (2010) Three Roots for Leibnizs
Contribution to the Computational Conception of Reason and Uckelman, S.
(2010) Computing with Concepts, Computing with Numbers: Llull, Leibniz
and Boole in Programs, Proofs, Processes, F. Ferreira, B. Lwe, E.
Mayordomo, L. M. Gomes (Eds.), Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
10. Khaldn, I. (1958) The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, vol. 3, F.
Rosenthal (Trans), Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, p. 182.

11. Leibniz, G. W. (1989) Philosophical Papers and Letters, L. E. Loemker

(Ed. Trans.), Dodrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, p. 80.
12. Ibid, pp. 225, 262.
13. Leibniz, G. W. (1951), Leibniz: Selections, P. P. Wiener (Ed. Trans.), New

Darkness Over All:

John Robison and
the Birth of the
Conspiracy (/2014
Conspiracy theories of a
secretive power elite
seeking global

York: Scribner, p. 51.

14. Jonathan Swift (1899) Gullivers Travels into Several Remote Nations of the
World, London, George Bell and Sons, pp. 191-192.

15. See: Zweig, J. (1997), Ars Combinatoria, Art Journal, 56(3), 2029;

In the Image of
God: John
Comenius and the
First Childrens
Picture Book
In the mid 17th-century
John Comenius
published what many
consider to be the first
picture book dedicated
to the education of
young children, Orbis
Sensualium Pictus - or
The World of Things
Obvious to the Senses
drawn in Pictures, as it
was rendered in English.
Charles McNamara
explores how, contrary
to Comenius'
declarations, the book
can be seen to be as
much about the invisible
world as the visible.

Gonzalez, P. D. A. (2004) Goriunova, O. (2004), Software Art and Political

Implications in Algorithms in Read_me: Software Art and Cultures Edition
2004, O. Goriunova (Ed.), Aarhus: Digital Aesthetics Research Centre,

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domination have long

held a place in the
modern imagination.
Mike Jay explores the
ideas beginnings in the
writings of John
Robison, a Scottish
scientist who maintained
that the French
revolution was the work
of a covert Masonic cell
known as the Illuminati.

University of Aarhus; Fazi, M. B. & Fuller, M. Computational Aesthetics in

C. Paul (Ed.), A Companion to Digital Art, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons;
Drucker, J. & Nowviskie, B. (2004) Speculative Computing: Aesthetic
Provocations in Humanities Computing in A Companion to Digital
Humanities, S. Schreibman, R. Siemens & J. Unsworth (Eds.), Oxford:
16. Quoted in Rutherford, D. (1995) Philosophy and Language in Leibniz in
The Cambridge Companion to Leibniz, N. Jolley (Ed.), Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, p. 239.
17. On planetary scale computation see, e.g. Bratton, B. H. (2014) The
Black Stack, e-flux, 53.

Ars Magna (1517 edition) by Ramon Llull.

Internet Archive (
The Philosophical Works of Leibnitz (1890) translated
and edited by George Martin Duncan.
Internet Archive (
A System of Theology (1850) translated, with an
introduction and notes by Charles William Russell.
Internet Archive (

Frederik Ruysch:
The Artist of Death
Luuc Kooijmans
explores the work of
Dutch anatomist
Frederik Ruysch, known
for his remarkable still
life displays which
blurred the boundary
between scientific
preservation and vanitas
art. Continued

Occultism and the
Art of Synesthesia
Grounded in the theory
that ideas, emotions, and
even events, can
manifest as visible auras,
Annie Besant and
Charles Leadbeaters
Thought-Forms (1901)
is an odd and intriguing
work. Benjamin Breen
explores these
abstractions and asks to
what extent they, and the
Victorian mysticism of
which they were born,
influenced the Modernist
movement that
flourished in the
following decades.

Encounter at the
crossroads of

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LANGUAGE (Wiley-Blackwell, 1997)
by Umberto Eco

Lost in
Translation: Proust
and Scott
Moncrieff (/2013
Scott Moncrieff's
English translation of
Proust's A la recherche
du temps perdu is widely
hailed as a masterpiece
in its own right. His
rendering of the title as
Remembrance of Things
Past is not, however,
considered a high point.
William C. Carter
explores the two men's
correspondence on this
somewhat sticky issue
and how the
Shakespearean title
missed the mark
regarding Proust's theory
of memory. Continued

In this tour de force of scholarly investigation,

Eco explores the idea that there once existed a
language which was able to express the
essence of all possible things and concepts; an
idea which has engaged some of the greatest thinkers and mystics
over the last 2000 years.

BIOGRAPHY (Cambridge University
Press, 2009)
by Maria Rosa Antognazza
In this first intellectual biography of Gottfried
Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Maria Rosa
Antognazza surveys the full range of the
philosophers interests and activities and offers a unified portrait of
a unique thinker, identifying the master project that inspired and
coordinated his huge range of apparently miscellaneous endeavors.

Stefan Zweig, whose

works passed into the
public domain this year
in many countries
around the world, was
one of the most famous
writers of the 1920s and
30s. Will Stone explores
the importance of the
Austrian's early
friendship with the oft
overlooked Belgian poet
Emile Verhaeren.


Books link through to Amazon who will give us a small percentage of sale price (ca.
6%). Discover more recommended books in our dedicated section of the site:
FURTHER READING (/further-reading/).

The Lost World of

the London

Europe the
fellowship of Zweig
and Verhaeren

The Serious and

the Smirk: The
Smile in
Portraiture (/2013
Why do we so seldom
see people smiling in
painted portraits?

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Coffeehouse (/2013
In contrast to todays
rather mundane spawn
of coffeehouse chains,
the London of the 17th
and 18th century was
home to an eclectic and
thriving coffee drinking
scene. Dr Matthew
Green explores the
halcyon days of the
London coffeehouse, a
haven for caffeinefueled debate and
innovation which helped
to shape Continued

Nicholas Jeeves explores

the history of the smile
through the ages of
portraiture, from Da
Vincis Mona Lisa to
Alexander Gardners
photographs of Abraham
Lincoln. Jan Steen, Self
Portrait, 3rd quarter of
17th century Source.
Today when someone

Robert BadenPowells
Intrigues (/2013
As a Lute out of
Tune: Robert
Melancholy (/2013
In 1621 Robert Burton
first published his
masterpiece The
Anatomy of Melancholy,
a vast feat of scholarship
examining in
encyclopaedic detail that
most enigmatic of
maladies. Noga Arikha
explores the book, said

In 1915 Robert BadenPowell, founder of the

worldwide Scouts
movement, published his
DIY guide to espionage,
My Adventures as a Spy.
Mark Kaufman explores
how the books ideas to
utilise such natural
objects as butterflies,
moths and leaves,
worked to mythologize
British resourcefulness
and promote a certain
weaponization of the

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Vesalius and the

Body Metaphor
City streets, a winepress,
pulleys, spinning tops, a
ray fish, curdled milk:
just a few of the many
images used by 16th
century anatomist
Andreas Vesalius to
explain the workings of
the human body in his
seminal work De
Humani Corporis
Fabrica. Marri Lynn
explores. Portrait of
Vesalius featured in

Still Booking on De
Mail-Coach (/2013

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Robin Jarvis looks at
Thomas de Quinceys
essay The English
Mail-Coach, or the
Glory of Motion and
how its meditation on
technology and society
is just as relevant today
as when first published
in 1849. Detail from a
portrait Thomas de
Quincey by Sir John
Watson-Gordon, date
unkown Source.

Trth, Beaty, and

Volapk (/2012
Arika Okrent explores
the rise and fall of
Volapk a universal
language created in the
late 19th century by a
German priest called
Johann Schleyer. Johann
Schleyer on a harp given
to him as a 50th birthday
present by his colleagues
at Sionsharfe, a
magazine devoted
mainly to Catholic

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The Polyglot of
Bologna (/2012
Michael Erard takes a
look at The Life of
Cardinal Mezzofanti, a
book exploring the
extraordinary talent of
the 19th century Italian
cardinal who was
reported to be able to
speak over seventy
languages. Mezzofanti
as pictured in the
frontispiece to The Life
of Cardinal Mezzofanti;
with an introductory
memoir Continued

The Krakatoa
Sunsets (/2012
When a volcano erupted
on a small island in
Indonesia in 1883, the
evening skies of the
world glowed for
months with strange

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colours. Richard
Hamblyn explores a
little-known series of
letters that the poet
Gerard Manley Hopkins
sent in to the journal
Nature describing the
phenomenon letters
that Continued

An Unlikely
Lunch: When
Maupassant met
Swinburne (/2012
Julian Barnes on when a
young Guy de
Maupassant was invited
to lunch at the holiday
cottage of Algernon
Swinburne. A flayed
human hand,
pornography, the serving
of monkey meat, and
inordinate amounts of
alcohol, all made for a
truly strange AngloFrench encounter.

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The Memoirs of
Joseph Grimaldi
Andrew McConnell
Stott, author of The
Pantomime Life of
Joseph Grimaldi,
introduces the life and
memoirs of the most
famous and celebrated
of English clowns. Few
biographers have proved
so reluctant, but when
the raw materials that
would become *The
Memoirs of Joseph
Grimaldi* reached
Charles Dickens desk in
the Continued

Dog Stories from

The Spectator
Dogs who shop, bury

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frogs, and take 800-mile

solo round trips by rail
writer and broadcaster
Frank Key gives a brief
tour of the strange and
delightful Dog Stories
from The Spectator.
Dogs Belonging to the
Medici Family in the
Boboli Gardens by
Tiberio Di Tito
(15731627) Here is

Morton Prince and
the Boston
Revolution in
In 1906 the American
physician and
neurologist Henry
Morton Prince published
his remarkable
monograph The
Dissociation of a
Personality in which he
details the condition of
Sally Beauchamp,
America's first famous
case. George Prochnik

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discusses the life and

thought of the man
Freud called an
unimaginable ass.

The Life and Work

of Nehemiah Grew
In the 82 illustrated
plates included in his
1680 book The Anatomy
of Plants, the English
botanist Nehemiah Grew
revealed for the first
time the inner structure
and function of plants in
all their splendorous
intricacy. Brian Garret,
professor of philosophy
at McMaster Univerity,
explores how Grews
pioneering mechanist
vision Continued

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Smarts Jubilate
Agno (/2011/01/31
The poet Christopher
Smart also known as
Kit Smart, Kitty
Smart, Jack Smart
and, on occasion, Mrs
Mary Midnight was
a well known figure in
18th-century London.
Nowadays he is perhaps
best known for
considering his cat
Jeoffry. Writer and
broadcaster Frank Key
looks at Smarts weird
and Continued


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