Chapter 1: Theatrum Machinarum ...

Jacob Leupold: Theatrum Machinarum [...] (Leipzig 1724-).

published May 2014

The favorite book of Florian Ruhland

Our new series starts off with Florian Ruhland, Academic librarian in the Iron Library. His favorite book is a classic in the history of technology: the monumental 18th century work Theatrum Machinarum by Jacob Leupold.

 
 
The reader

Florian Ruhland

… was the Academic librarian of the Iron Library between 2013 and 2019. He used libraries in Bonn, Bamberg, Prague and Nuremberg for his studies and research projects whilst at university. Later on, he received a Master of Library and Information Science from the Humboldt-University, Berlin.

I would love to play a role in this book:
Simon Reynolds: Rip it up and start again. Post-punk 1978-84

This book needs a sequel:
Mike Watkinson/Pete Anderson: Scott Walker. A deep shade of blue

The book on my nightstand:
Jaroslav Rudiš/Jaromír 99: Alois Nebel

The book

Jacob Leupold: Theatrum Machinarum [...] (Leipzig 1724-).

Machine books - Machines in Books
No guided tour through the Iron Library without having a look in the machine books from the 16th-18th centuries. They show and explain the whole range of machines known in the early modern period. The spectrum ranges from rather exotic automatons to water mills of which hundreds of thousands were built. What makes these machine books so attractive and what attracted me are the illustrations they contain.

The Theatrum Machinarum - Jacob Leupold's opus magnum
This holds true for "Jacob Leupold's multivolume, copiously illustrated compendium of mechanical technology in the early 18th century, theTheatrum Machinarum."* Jacob Leupold (1674-1727) was a Mathematicus, Mechanicus and instrument maker based in Leipzig, Germany. His Theatrum Machinarum consists of nine volumes and contains more than 2.000 text pages and more than 500 copperplate engravings. I am still amazed at these numbers - although it is only a fragment of what Leupold planned to publish. "Leupold's books delineate for us the state of the arts of machine design and machine building around 1725."* Nobody but James Watt, famous steam engine improver, studied German in order to read the volumes of the Theatrum Machinarum. (*I cite Eugene S. Ferguson)

"Der Leupold" in the Iron Library
Soon after taking up my post as librarian in the Iron Library a row of green spine lables attracted my attention.

These are the spine lables on several volumes of Leupold's Theatrum Machinarum - just as they are shelved in the Iron Library. They caught my eye even though they hide in a corner of the room where our rare books are shelved - as if they wanted to show that the Theatrum Machinarum is not a book like any other.
If you visit the Iron Library, you will have the opportunity to examine all volumes of Leupold's great work in the original. The Iron Library owns all the volumes, some of them even in several editions. Two volumes have just been "retouched" by the book restorer, who has dressed their covers in fresh kiebitz paper.

The best and quickest way to get an impression of the contents of the Theatrum Machinarum is to look at the copperplate engravings they contain.

Have a look at Leupold's copperplates!

Giovanni Poleni's calculating machine
in Jacob Leupold: Theatrum arithmetico-geometricum [...] 1727

The Leaning Tower of Pisa and "Masters of Balance"
in Jacob Leupold: Theatrum staticum universale [...] 1726

If you would like to learn more about Jacob Leupold or other machine books and their authors, take a look at the Iron Library's catalog or plan a visit. As a tip for further exploration I would like to recommend the beautiful websites of our larger "sister library" in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. There, Leupold's Theatrum was "book of the month" in 2001.