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Dr Boris Jardine

The book as instrument, 1570–1720

From its beginning in the late-sixteenth century, the scientific instrument trade in England was inextricably linked to printing: engraving techniques were shared between the two professions; instruments were promoted in printed advertisements; and there were even paper instruments – separate sheets to be pasted onto board and volvelles within books, typically for astronomical calculations.

In this project Boris Jardine examines another class of instrument text: the instruction manuals that accompanied quadrants, sectors, slide-rules and sundials and the other tools of the scientific revolution. Preliminary study reveals that instruments were often used as if they were texts, i.e. their construction was studied and even practiced as a means to learn geometry or the basics of cosmology. Conversely, books were used as instruments, consulted in order to perform calculations and even cut up to liberate the printed instruments they contain. Expanding this research to include the marginalia and marks of use in instrument manuals, this project offers the first account of the latter’s role in the practice of early-modern science.

Boris Jardine completed his PhD in History of Science in 2012, and subsequently worked as a curator at the Science Museum, London. His research into the craft, trade and use of scientific instruments has taken him from seventeenth-century workshops to modern laboratories, via the microscopy of Charles Darwin. His other major research project deals with science and politics in interwar Britain – in particular the series of utopian schemes to unite art and science of the late 1930s.

Munby Application details

The Fellowship is normally advertised each December for a post beginning in October the following year. Applications are currently being sought for the 2023-24 Munby Fellowship. The closing date is 22 January 2023.