Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy

Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy

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By Arielle Saiber
Toronto Italian Studies
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2017
World Rights
280 Pages
ISBN 9780802039507
Available Dec 2017
Online discount: 25%
 $70.00    $52.50

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.

Arielle Saiber is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Bowdoin College.


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)


Newberry Weiss-Brown Publication Subvention Award (United States) - Winner in 2017
MLA Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award (United States) - Winner in 2016