Brian's Gold Box


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Robert Hooke

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal
Wow! is all we can say about this disc, which provides an Adobe Acrobat-readable version of Robert Hooke's Micrographia, published in London in 1665 and one of the most important books in science history for its revolutionizing of the art of scientific investigation. Octavo photographed each page of the book at 6000 x 8000 pixels with a high-resolution digital camera. Set your viewing preference to Browse, Read, or Examine, magnify the pages (and the binding) to 800 percent, search the complete text, and print what you want. The images are incredibly legible. Given the high-quality images, we found it comfortable reading the text on the computer screen. Bottom Line: The only precondition to using this disc is being comfortable with Adobe Acrobat. This is a marvelous reproduction and should be a required purchase for research libraries, science libraries, and history of science collections. Moreover, any library seeking to develop full-text electronic collections should purchase.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New England Journal of Medicine, August 5, 1999
Robert Hooke had one of the most creative minds in the history of science. His original Micrographia, a 1665 masterpiece of scientific observation, weighed 3 pounds, yet it can now be held in the hand and savored as one's own private copy in the form of a glistening compact disk weighing less than 2 g. This book and similar treasures exist in only a few libraries and are often inaccessible to readers. The CD-ROM of Micrographia is one of a newly published series, selected and electronically converted by its publisher, Octavo, and available without the hassles of distant travel.

Octavo uses the digital photo-compression techniques of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in its careful planning of CD-ROMs and has skillfully treated this edition with the sensitive care of a cautious curator, uncompromised by the difficulty presented in photographing such old manuscripts and the need for high resolution. The contents of this edition can now be "thumbnailed," magnified, and classified by neophyte collectors, scholars, and book browsers alike. The luxury of turning the pages, as passages are selected during study at home or at a library carrel, is enhanced by its satisfaction of the need for instant gratification -- so characteristic of the current year-2000 approach to computerization. Thus, the treasured original 17th-century book in the Warnock Library becomes a conduit for communication with Hooke's inquisitive mind. Combining the centuries-old book with new microchip applications is a remarkable feat, since nothing is lost in the exceptional process -- except our fingerprints.

The technology further enhances the reader's interest by permitting vicarious explorations through Hooke's insights during his microscopical demonstrations. A mouse click transports the reader to the Royal Society of London to see, in elaborate and exquisite detail, magnified views selected according to our onscreen preferences: leeches in vinegar, a flea in finely drawn detail, the minutiae of a mosquito or a spider with six eyes, gnats, pores in petrified wood, and diamonds in flint, as well as the early-recognized cork "cell." The reader can join the arguments, just as Hooke's weekly demonstrations probably provoked and amazed the skeptics.

Hooke's seminal discovery of the feasibility of microscopy, soon to become a great engine of research, is matched by his intuitive correlations with other phenomena. These became forerunners of crystallography, planetary exploration, fossil archeology, and even methods for the production of artificial silk. Laws of optics, combustion, and the behavior of liquids in capillary tubes were formulated and outlined in the book and were seldom challenged subsequently. The 117 meticulous drawings and the accurate observations of this energetic 28-year-old fledgling scientist were recognized by many of the original purchasers of the book, who proudly joined Samuel Pepys in sensing its unique qualities.

The Adobe Acrobat format of the CD-ROM easily accomplishes rapid searches of text, selection, and cross-references. Although retrieving the enormous amount of digital information takes time, newer fast computers can readily replicate the color printing of the archival edition's plates. The ease of retrieval of passages 334 years old becomes an entrancing experience and will no doubt compel many to acquire more works in this series.

A reviewer is invariably expected to find at least a few flaws, especially in a CD-ROM, given the vagaries of today's software. Try as I might, none could be extracted during repeated installations and reuse of this disk. The files can be viewed as open pages on most major computing platforms and then printed to many desktop printers. Octavo's digital guide makes its manual informative and uncomplicated and offers many helpful tips. Other dividends are Brian J. Ford's fascinating biographical essay and the detailed description of ancient bookmaking -- the binding, gathering, printers' catchwords, signatures, and collation.

Seldom is a publisher's mission fulfilled as well as Octavo's own premise for its digital editions, that of "dedication to making the unique beauty and craftsmanship of original outstanding works easily and affordably available to readers worldwide." I anticipate that exposure of students and book lovers to similar exemplary works will nurture and stimulate future scientists and bibliophiles, leading to inspired discoveries based on formative observations of the past, which are still so applicable to the present and the foreseeable future. Bravo Octavo!

Reviewed by Martin E. Gordon, M.D.
Copyright 1999 Massachusetts Medical Society. All rights reserved. The New England Journal of Medicine is a registered trademark of the MMS.

From the Publisher
Robert Hooke was still in his twenties when he wrote Micrographia, yet in this single volume revealed the immense potential of a single instrument, the microscope, and the many brilliant speculations of a multi-faceted mind. In it we are introduced to the living cell; to microscopic fungi and the life story of the mosquito; we encounter the two contrasting theories about the origin of the lunar craters posed for the very first time. We read the first sensible proposal for the origin of fossils, and an uncanny prediction of the artificial fiber industry in Hooke's discussion of the spinning of silk by the spider. Elsewhere in his great book, gigantic insects populate the pages, and controversy and scientific argument mark out the text. Micrographia is a large book, measuring almost thirteen inches tall and weighing three pounds. It was printed in October 1664, and when bound copies appeared on sale it became an instant bestseller. Most people cannot relish the crisp printing and the fine paper of an original issue, and this digital edition brings the look of the first edition truly into the public domain. We can marvel at the clarity of the prose, and the vividness of the pictures. Many of the plates (like that of the stinging nettle, for example, and the louse) have a clarity not regained until the era of the electron microscope. It is hard to believe these are the images from a pioneer who flourished three and a half centuries ago. - excerpt from the commentary by Brian J. Ford on the CD-ROM

Book Description
This Octavo CD gives you unprecedented access to one of the most important books in science history: Robert Hooke's "Micrographia," published in London in 1665. You can view the actual pages of this rare book from cover to cover - in all their original brilliance - on your computer! Magnify pages up to 800% to see the finest details in full color. Print a color or black & white copy on your computer's printer. You can even search the complete text, or copy and paste text into other programs.


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