During the last year I developed a friendship with a 472-year-old German book named “Der furnembsten, notwendigsten, der gantzen Architectur…”. It was written in 1547, by the author Walther Hermann Ryff and published in Nuremberg. Even though this project was a bit expected, I was very excited to be a part of it.
Firstly, I tried to do some research about the book on the internet. It wasn’t as successful as I wanted it to be, but I could find its most important data. After further investigation and the help of the ETH library, I could also get a PDF version of the book. I started to gallop through the book; Even though the old German language was hard to read, I could understand the most important points because of its various illustrations who accompanied the text.
As known, we had to do different tasks to become friends with our book. The first task was about finding the most important information about the book. Because I did some research before, this did not seem very difficult. So, we had to find the whole title and translate it to English, find out the author, where it was published, the language it was written in, the location etc. What surprised me the most was, that the title was actually very long, which was usual for the time it was written.
Hence in the second task we started to actually get in touch with the book. Based on the information that we had gathered we had to go and find the actual physical version of the book and take up contact with it. So, as I visited the ETH library, I got access to the 472-year-old copy and was able to analyze it. It was covered in a leather cover, which had kept it in good condition. With 680 pages and the masses of 30.9 x 20.7cm it is was a pretty big book. It was sectioned in three major parts, which consisted of the main themes of the book: perspective, geometry and measurement. As I looked into the work, I realized that it had a lot of illustrations. Even though I had seen the content of the book, seeing it live and getting in contact with it was a different feeling. The pages really felt old and I started to develop a stronger relationship to the book.
Afterwards in the third task, we were asked to find up to five known editions of the book before 1800. To be honest, although this seems easy at the beginning, it was quite difficult to gather the needed information. The problem was that the search was restricted, because the edition had to be published before 1800. This was also probably the part that needed the most research. Luckily, I found a newer edition printed in 1558.
The fourth task was about the analysis of the content. Thus, I described what kind of book it was and how it was composed. The handbook was mostly thought for academic use – therefore it is mostly theoretical and also used a lot of references and illustration, which accompanied them. The other part of this task was to run the book through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Basically, we had to convert the text into a .txt document so the different books could take up contact to each other. Even though I faced some technical difficulties, I could solve the problems easily.
Henceforth, after I had developed a strong relationship with my book, it was time to get in contact with the other books and learn about them. So, we got into a group and discussed our experiences, information and relationships with our books. We could find a lot of similarities between our books and therefore make them talk to each other.
In conclusion it was a very interesting experience for me. It was also very exciting to get in touch with the history and help to spread the gathered information with the world and hopefully with the generations to come.