The Curious Printing History of ‘La Science de l’Arpenteur’

December 1, 2021 in Manuscript Studies, Research Group Speaks (The Series), Uncategorized

The Research Group Speaks
Episode 5

The Curious, Possibly Unique, Printing History
of Editions (1766–1813)
of La Science de l’Arpenteur
by Dupain de Montpasson

Ronald K. Smeltzer

Dupain de Montesson, Le spectacle de la campagne and La science de l’arpenteur (1777), First Title-page, Vignette. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

[Posted on 1 December 2021, with updates]

For Episode 5 in our series (23 January 2022), Ronald K. Smeltzer (Ronald K. Smeltzer, Ph.D.) examines a telling case of multiple editions, issued with variations in printing methods, of an eighteenth-century treatise in French on methods of surveying.  The technique of surveying has a long and venerable tradition, with a varied series of books on the subject from late-antiquity onward.

The Plan

Direct, detailed examination of the editions, all in octavo format, of La science de l’arpenteur by Louis Charles Dupain de Montesson reveals multiple changes and adaptations that illuminate its extraordinary printing history.  Early editions were printed all engraved including signatures of the leaves.  Some of the later changes to the text and to the book design were a direct result of the French Revolution.  Assembling examples of all the known editions has taken twenty years.  The process attests to the value of direct inspection.  This presentation describes the results.

Ronald K. Smeltzer, Ph.D.

In his own words, the speaker

had a technical career, now long past, in the electronics (semiconductor) industry.  His continuing bibliographical research projects focus on the history of publishing and on methods of illustration in the sciences.  He has presented and published papers on a variety of bibliographical subjects and in the history of science.

His research has resulted in two exhibitions and their printed publications for The Grolier Club.  The more recent focused on the contributions of women in the sciences.

An earlier project resulted in:

  • Four Centuries of Graphic Design for Science from the Collection of Ronald K. Smeltzer (New York, The Grolier Club, 2003).

Now in press (for Springer, 2022) is an article describing the variant texts — mostly unknown to scholars — and imprints of the book Institutions De Physique (first edition 1740) by Émilie du Châtelet  (1706-1749).

Selected publications (excluding professional scientific) are listed in Ronald K. Smeltzer, Ph.D.

The Text and its Transmission

One of several texts composed by the French military engineer Louis Charles Dupain de Montesson (circa 1720 – circa 1790), La science de l’arpenteur dans toute son étenduë (“The science of the surveyer in its full extent”) was issued in a series of editions between 1766 and 1813.  Some digital facsimiles represent them online (as with Paris: S. Jaillot, 1766; and Paris: Chez Gouery, 1813).  The variations in the editions of the work exhibit a progress from intaglio, through a mixture of intaglio and letter-press, to a full set of letter-press prints.
The treatise circulated sometimes by itself, and sometimes in the company of another text.  By the second and later editions, it joins the same author’s treatise on Le spectacle de la campagne, an addendum of 54 pages which precedes La science de l’arpenteur in 90 pages.  The title-page for that component, announcing the combination, includes a vignette with three men looking at an upheld, unfurled map (see above right and below).
For our Episode, Ronald describes his explorations of the full range of all known editions of the text, in their variations (1766–1814).  Here, his copies of them stand in a row, spines forward, facing us on the shelf.  Alongside them is an old bookseller’s label, which arrived with one of them.

Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Copies of the Known Editions of ‘La Science de l’Arpenteur’ by Dupain de Montesson, with a Bookseller’s Label. Reproduced by Permission.

Examples

La Sience de l’arpenteur
(Paris:  First edition, 1766)

The title page encapsulates information about the treatise, the credentials of its author and printer, and the permission and address for its printing.

La Sience de l’arpenteur dans toute son étenduë
dediée á S. A. S. M[onsi].g,neu]r le Prince de Condé
Par M. Dupain de Montesson Capitaine d’Infanterie Ingéneur-Géographe des Camps et du Armée du Roi.
á
Paris chez le S[eigneur]. Jaillot Géographe ordinaire du Roi.  Quai et á Coté des Grands-Augustins.
Prix 6. [sous].
Avec Privilege du Roi. 1766.

Thus we are introduced to the printer, Alexis-Hubert Jaillot (1632–1712), geographer, cartographer, and publisher; the Quai and Coté des Grands-Augustins; the dedicatee of the publication, a Prince of Condé.; and a vignette or headpiece with a pair of figures.  There, at the center, against a distant landscape beyond a body of water, a helmeted female personification seated alongside a spherical globe (presumably terrestrial) holds out a balance to a putto seen from behind, with closed books dispersed in the foreground.

Dupain de Montesson, La sience de l’arpenteur (1766), Title Page. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph by Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

La Science de l’arpenteur
(Paris:  3rd edition, corrected and augmented with Le Spectacle du compagne, 1780)

Dupain de Montesson, La science de l’arpenteur (1780), Title page. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph by Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

La science de l’arpenteur
(Paris:  3rd ed. [etc.], Year IX = 1800)

Dupain de Montesson, La science de l’arpenteur (1800), Title Page. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph by Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

Tools of the Trade

Dupain de Montesson, La science de l’arpenteur (1780), Title Page, Vignette. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph by Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

A Plan

Dupain de Montesson, Le spectacle de la campagne and La science de l’arpenteur (1777), First Title-page, Vignette. Ronald K. Smeltzer Collection. Photograph Ronald K. Smeltzer, reproduced by permission.

We have recorded the presentation and the accompanying discussion for wider circulation.  Watch this space.

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Other Publications from the Ronald Smeltzer Collection

Smeltzer Collection, Henry de Suberville, 'L'Henry-metre' (Paris, 1598), Title Page.

Smeltzer Collection, Henry de Suberville, ‘L’Henry-metre’ (Paris, 1598), Title Page.

One of Ronald Smeltzer’s earlier publications includes a view and description of the Third Edition, reprinted and augmented (Paris:  l’An IX = 1800), of La Science de l’arpenteur:

  • Four Centuries of Graphic Design for Science from the Collection of Ronald K. Smeltzer (New York:  The Grolier Club, 2004), pages 30–31.

One of our blogposts examines another volume in his collection:

Research on a signed document on vellum in his collection is in preparation for a RGME Booklet and companion blogpost.  Please watch for:

We thank Ronald for his generosity in showing his collection to friends, bibliophiles, and the wider world.  We thank him also for permission to reproduce images from his collection.

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More Episodes are in preparation. See The Research Group Speaks: The Series.

Lisbon, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga: The mid 15th-century Saint Vincent Panels, attributed to Nuno Gonçalves. Image (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/Nuno_Gon%C3%A7alves._Paineis_de_S%C3%A3o_Vicente_de_Fora.jpg) via Creative Commons.

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