The Mechanical Reproduction of Perspective - "The Art of Drawing anything you like by means of a linear, hollow, moveable mechanical parallelogram"

OPTICS. ART. INSTRUMENTS. Scheiner, Christoph, S.J. (1575-1650)

Pantographice, seu, Ars delineandi res quaslibet per parallelogrammum lineare seu cauum, mechanicum, mobile: libellis duobus explicata & demonstrationibus geometricis illustrata, quorum prior epipedographicen, siue planorum, posterior stereographicen, seu solidorum aspectabilium viuam imitationem atque proiectionem edocet.

Rome: Lodovico Grignani, 1631


Quarto: 24.4 x 17.3 cm. [12], 108 p. Collation: π6 (includes half-title and engraved title), A-N4, 2π2 (leaf 2π1 signed N3).


A fine copy in contemporary vellum. Light browning and a little staining to edges of half-title and engraved title, occasional minor toning and a few light spots, one marginal paper flaw, but a fine copy, with engraved diagrams and illustrations in the text. The engraved title page includes images of a cherub and disembodied hands and eyes emerging from clouds to demonstrate the use of Scheiner's invention. Provenance: Libreria Mediolanum, 1984.

First edition of this important treatise on the pantograph, an instrument for copying drawing or plans, and which, in a modified form, may also be used for copying three-dimensional objects and mechanically reproducing perspective. In addition to copying originals at their actual size, the pantograph is also capable of reducing or enlarging. The work, subtitled "the Art of Drawing anything you like by means of a linear, hollow, moveable mechanical parallelogram", also includes an extensive treatise on parallelograms.

The "Pantographice" is the work of the Jesuit astronomer and mathematician Christoph Scheiner. A formidable opponent of Galileo, Scheiner is remembered for his important discoveries and innovations in optics and optical instruments. He "was one of the first people to observe sunspots and showed that the retina was the true organ of vision."(Tomash) 

"As a functional copying instrument, the pantograph has had a long and useful life. A manual on the instrument was published in 1631 by Christoph Scheiner, a German Jesuit and professor of mathematics at Ingolstadt, who learned of the device in 1603 from a painter living in Dillingen an der Danau, in southern Germany. When the artist would not show him the instrument or explain how it worked, Scheiner figured out its principle himself. He constructed one version for copying plans and drawings, and another for copying sculpture and landscapes from nature, both of which are illustrated in the frontispiece of Scheiner's book. The artist using the pantograph for copying three-dimensional objects must peer through a stationary eyepiece to ensure a consistent point of view, as shown in the engraving…

"The pantograph for copying drawings is composed of four rulers attached to one another by adjustable pivots to form a parallelogram. Depending on the relation of the rulers to one another, the instrument can produce a copy at the same size as the original, or a reduced or enlarged version. One corner of the parallelogram is fixed, while a pencil or tracing point is placed at the corner diagonally opposite. When the pantograph's second point is used to trace the outlines of the work to be copied, the first duplicates its movements and lightly traces the same contours on a sheet of paper. Even though the pantograph only produces an outline of the original, leaving the artist to sketch in the details, its precision and efficiency presented a major breakthrough for the reproduction of images."(Terpak, Objects and Contexts, in Devices of Wonder, p. 277-8)

"The instrument was used especially to reproduce artistic, architectural and cartographic drawings. Moreover, when suitably mounted on a drawing board, it could also be used to make perspective drawings from life and even anamorphic drawings, as stated in the treatise: 'We can with the same Parallelogram... Draw in plan anything appearing in the distance, whether it be a town, mountain, Island, Fortress, City or villa... With this machine we can easily carry out various operations hitherto deemed most difficult by Painters; such as Painting on a wall, or on a ceiling, either flat or curved, regular or irregular, a Perspective of houses, loggias, or other figures... With this same machine we can just as easily form those elongated figures, whose shape has been deformed by their exaggerated length but which, when observed from a certain established point, appear properly proportioned. These figures are discussed in the 'Prospettivi pratici'  [Practical perspective] and among others by Guid'Ubaldo, and Pietro Accolti in his 'Inganno de gli occhi'  [Deceiving the eye] part I, chap. 36. This operation can be easily done by inclining the Plane very obliquely from the optical Axis."(Filippo Camerota)

Tomash & Williams S35; Cicognara 658; USTC 4014028