Keywords: content, structure, comprehensibility
The book ” La science des ingénieurs, dans la conduite des travaux de fortification et d’architecture civile” by Bernard Forest de Belidor deals with the nature of construction as well as the different materials needed for construction. The concept of materiality is mentioned several times while reading through, but it is specifically explained in the LIVRE TROISIÈME (= book three) in the first chapters. This is also how it is introduced in the book:
” Avant de parler de la construction des ouvrages de fortification, qui vont faire le principal objet de ce livre, il est à propos de donner la connaissance des matériaux nécessaires à leur exécution, afin qu’on sache distinguer les bonnes et mauvaises qualités…” (p.187)
He describes the properties and qualities of building materials such as stone, brick, lime, sand, pozzolan, plaster and other materials. Towards the end of the 3rd book, he describes in short paragraphs the methods of production, which he explains very precisely for each material. He also refers to the cost of the materials during transport.
In describing the materials, he has used some tables which explain, for example, what kind of stones are needed or how much of the hard or fine stone is needed to build the inside or the outside of a bridge. Another table shows how many stones can be carried when transporting boats, as he thought it important to know how much material can be transported and in what quantity.
When leafing through the book, I was overwhelmed by the full pages and in order to recover from the passages containing text, you can take a quick look at the tables, which give a clear overview of some aspects that cannot be clearly stated in text format or seem less clear.
In general, he describes in the book in a very structured and text-heavy way, so that only very few illustrations are necessary to understand his thoughts. His theses are also supported with formulas and figures that he has integrated into the text. Very fascinating is the fact that Belidor describes such complex topics in plain text and uses only a few illustrations, which appear at the end of the book. This ensures that the reader is not distracted by pictures while reading and stays with the subject. But I personally would have preferred more illustrations to be integrated with the text, instead of putting them separately at the end of the book. This would allow the reader to have a concrete visual idea as well as a direct reference.
Even though my French is not the best, I noticed while reading through that he approaches these topics in a not very complex language and wants to make it as easy as possible for the readers to understand the content.