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1558 __ « Magiae Naturalis - Of Pneumatic Experiments »
‣ In The Nineteenth Book of Natural Magick, Chapter 1.
Giambattista della Porta (ca 1535-1615)
Comment : Heron's ideas were reported in one of the most influential books of natural magic, Giambattista della Porta's Natural Magick of 1584. Book 19 of Natural Magick is devoted to the topic of 'Whether material Statues may speak by any artificial way'. The book begins with the report that, in ancient times. [...] Della Porta goes on to discourse upon the properties of sound upon which both musical instruments and speaking statues depend: « We see that the voice of a sound, will be conveighed entire through the air, and that not in an instant, but by degrees in time ». The fact that sounds are preserved and conveyed 'entire without interruption, unless they break upon some place' makes it possible to convey sounds great distances. [...] This principle of the preservation of sound convinced della Porta, as it did others, that cunningly engineered pipeworks might be able also to trap sound, not just conveying it through space, but holding it up in time, thereby adding a phonographic to a telephonic principle. [...] (Steven Connor - Incidents of the Breath: In Pneumatic and Electric Ventriloquisms - A lecture given in the series 'Artificial Others: Lectures on Ventriloquism and Automata' at the Ruskin School of Art and Drawing, Oxford, February 17 2004)
French comment : La recherche mythique de la conservation du son, de l’époque où philosophie et science étaient une seule et même chose (Pythagore, Démocrite, Platon, Euclide, Ptolémée, Aristote) aux rêveries prospectives des écrivains (les « paroles dégelées » de Pantagruel, les machines à rêves de Cyrano de Bergerac), en passant par les premières expériences de conservation du son par des astuces acoustiques (la pierre musicale, la statue de Memnon, la voix prisonnière de Giambattista Della Porta, les porte-voix de Kircher, la femme invisible de Robertson, etc. (In Giusy Pisano, Une archéologie du cinéma sonore, Paris, CNRS, 2004). (Roger Odin, In Cinémas : revue d'études cinématographiques / Cinémas: Journal of Film Studies, Volume 17, numéro 1, automne 2006, p. 169-185, Cinélekta 6)
Original excerpt : « - Whether material statues may speak by any artificial way - I have read that in some cities there was a colossus of Brass, placed on a might high pillar, which in violent tempests of wind from the nether parts, received a great blast, that was carried from the mouth to a trumpet, that it blew strongly, or else sounded some other instrument, which I believe to have been easy, because I have seen the like. Also, I read in many men of great authority, that Albertus Magnus made a head that speaks. We see that Brass guns, which by the force of Gunpowder, make a mighty noise, if they be a mile off, yet we see the flame much before we hear the sound. So handguns make a report , that comes at a great distance to us, but some minutes of time are required for it, for that is the nature of sounds. Wherefore sounds go with them, and are entire without interruption, unless they break upon some place. The Echo proves this, for it strikes whole against a wall, and so rebounds back, and is reflected as a beam of the sun. Moreover, as I said in this work, words and voices go united together, and are carried very far entire, as they are spoken at first. These therefore being laid down for true grounds; If any man shall make leaden pipes exceeding long, two or three hundred paces long (as I have tried) and shall speak in them some or many words, they will be carried true through those pipes and be heard at the other end, as they came from the speaker's mouth. Wherefore if that voice goes with time, and hold entire, if an man as the words are spoken shall stop the end of the pipe, and that is at the other end shall do the like, the voice may be intercepted in the middle, and be shut up as in a prison. And when the mouth is opened, the voice will come forth, as out of his mouth that spoke it. But because such long pipes cannot be made without trouble, they may be bent up and down like a trumpet, that a long pipe may be kept in a small place. And when the mouth is open, the words may be understood. [...] » (Transcribed from 1658 English edition.)
Source : Porta, Giambattista della (1558), “Natural Magick (Magiae Naturalis) - A Neapolitane in Twenty Books (1584 A.D.), Wherein are set forth All the Riches and Delights of the Natural Sciences”, Printed for Thomas Young and Samuel Speed, at the Three Pigeons, and at the Angel in St Paul’s Church-yard, English edition of Latin original, Magiae Naturalis, Naples, 1558 (Published on the web by Scott Lincoln Davis).
Urls : http://www.bbk.ac.uk/english/skc/incidents/ (last visited ) http://homepages.tscnet.com/omard1/jportac19.html (last visited ) http://www.erudit.org/revue/cine/2006/v17/n1/016327ar.html (last visited )

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