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August 12, 2008

Other people's letters

I've been reading up on Darwin for a bit of consultancy work I'm doing this summer (everyone's about to go Darwin-loopy next year, there are eleven exhibitions planned for Cambridge alone...). As part of this work, I've been spending time on the Darwin Correspondence Project, and I wanted to recommend it simply as a surprisingly interesting site to surf-through.

Darwin was a great letter writer. By the 1870s, he was writing 1500 a year. They helped him extend his network of supporters, but it also increased the reach of his observations on nature. He has all sorts of people collecting information for him - pigeon fanciers, barnacle aficionados (yes, really).

The letters on the correspondence site are incredibly absorbing. I thought it would be all just dry archiving, useful for the geekier historians of science, but its so much more than that. Maybe I'm just being nosy - sneaking a read into other peoples letters - or maybe I'm more of a geeky historian of science than I admit. Judge for yourself, it's all online.

August 7, 2008

The science of printing in the 1960s

I think that Paul Luna's post on the advent of photo-typesetting technologies in the 50s and 60s is worth mentioning here, and not only for that fabulous workflow diagram! Over this era, the early stages of the printing process move from being 'inky' to 'scientific' (Luna's words). Incipient forms of computer-aided design were accompanied by the rise of exacting standards in specification -- the engineering-like planning and description of a piece to be printed.