Keywords: structured, narrative, understandable
For my Book “La science des ingenieurs dans la conduite des travaux de fortfication et d’architecture civile, dediée au roy.” by Bernard Forest de Belidor i choose the concept “language”. With this concept I want to point out the text-heaviness and the narrative writing style of the book.
When you hear the title of the book (which translates as “the science of engineers”) you probably expect a lot of formulas, calculations and complicated illustrations. But this is not the case at all. The book consists for the most part of text.
It is structured very systematically and analytically, which means that each chapter is structured in roughly the same way: He defines the topic, then he describes the problem, then he leads the way to the solution with hints, and then he explains the application. And he does all this with words.
He does use variables, numbers and formulas, but these are always built into a sentence, so they are part of the text. There are very few illustrations and they are always at the end of a chapter.
Even when he also treats the column orders, almost everything consists of text, with few illustrations at the end.
Although the book is very text heavy, it does not seem exhausting to read. This is because it is very structured: The work is divided into several books and these books again have several chapters, which as i already said are all very similar in structure with many titles and subtitles. Thus, there are hardly long text passages over several pages, but small text bites in which you can orient yourself very easily.
The book is dedicated to the king, so De Belidor had to write it in a way that the king understands it. That means he didn’t just solve mathematical equations, but put everything into a text. So the reader can follow each of his thoughts while solving the problem, like a textbook in school. Also the illustrations seem very minimalistic but clear, reduced to the most essential, that nothing distracts or discourages. It seems like any loaner (as the king probably was) can follow the complicated subject matter.
Except for the title pages, there are also very few distracting decorative elements.
The text is written in French, so I couldn’t understand the content myself and so couldn’t check if it’s really as easy to read as I claim. However, it is definitely a very brave and special approach to process such a mathematical content in such a way.