Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy
Measured Words investigates the rich commerce between computation and writing that proliferated in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italy.
Arielle Saiber explores the relationship between number, shape, and the written word in the works of four exceptional thinkers: Leon Battista Alberti’s treatis on cryptography, Luca Pacioli’s ideal proportions for designing Roman capital letters, Niccolò Tartaglia’s poem embedding his solution to solving cubic equations, and Giambattista Della Porta’s curious study on the elements of geometric curves. Although they came from different social classes and practiced the mathematical and literary arts at differing levels of sophistication, they were all guided by a sense that there exist deep ontological and epistemological bonds between computational and verbal thinking and production. Their shared view that a network or continuity exists between the arts yielded extraordinary results. Through measuring their words, literally and figuratively, they are models of what the very best interdisciplinary work can offer us.
- Series: Toronto Italian Studies
- Division: Scholarly Publishing
- World Rights
- Page Count: 280 pages
- Dimensions: 6.3in x 0.9in x 9.3in
‘The author connects to mathematics in many fascinating ways. In addition to the superb analysis of four case studies – Alberti, Paciolo, Tartaglia, and Della Porta, the reader is treated to an assortment of images that help visualize the connection each Renaissance man imagined. Highly recommended.’
Choice Magazine vol 55:11:2018
"Arielle Saiber has brought to this endlessly interesting book her deep knowledge of the history of mathematics, immersion in the literature of the Italian Renaissance, and crystal-clear writing style. Spanning two centuries, Saiber covers the Italian thinkers Leon Battista Alberti, Luca Pacioli, Niccolò Tartaglia, and Giambattista Della Porta. She illuminates their thinking and writing on computation; and she goes beyond that laudable aim to make important connections to the ways that computational thinking inflected their beliefs on language. As such the book is as much a unique examination of the four thinkers in question as it is a call for cross-disciplinary work in our world today."
Christopher S. Celenza, Dean of Georgetown College, Professor, History and Classics, Georgetown University
"Saiber opens the door to an entirely new understanding of four seminal Renaissance writers whose literary works are already well known to scholars and students of diverse disciplines. Measured Words is an illuminating study surrounding the relationship between mathematical computation and the ‘humanistic’ disciplines."
Carla Mazzio, Associate Professor, Deptartment of English, SUNY, Buffalo
Arielle Saiber has written an indispensable volume on a still overlooked aspect of the Italian Renaissance, namely the importance of the relationship of mathematics to the broadly literary aspects of Renaissance humanism. Richly illustrated, the book draws on Saiber’s meticulous study of the manuscripts and printed editions of these early mathematical work. From its arresting first sentence (‘There were computers in Renaissance Italy…’) to the final conclusion, the book grabs our attention, and Saiber herself, like the thinkers she writes about, both understands the mathematical complexities of her subject and is able to discuss them with admirable clarity and elegance. This is a major contribution to our knowledge of Renaissance mathematical writers.
Martin McLaughlin, Professor of Italian, Magdalen College, Oxford University
Author InformationArielle Saiber is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Bowdoin College.
Table of contents
List of Figures
Introduction Well-Versed Mathematics
Chapter One Cryptographica:
Leon Battista Alberti’s De componendis Cifris (1466)
Chapter Two Divine Characters:
Luca Pacioli’s “degno alphabeto Anticho” (1509)
Chapter Three A Poetic Solution to the Cubic Equation:
Niccolò Tartaglia’s “Quando chel cubo” (1546)
Chapter Four Hidden Curves:
Giambattista Della Porta’s Elementorum curvilineorum libri tres (1601/1610)
PrizesMLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award - Winner in 2016
Newberry Weiss-Brown Publication Subvention Award - Winner in 2017
Subjects and Courses