Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Johann Bessler's Double Portrait.








In his epic book, Das Triumphirende... (DT) Johann Bessler placed in the frontice-piece a portrait of himself which contained a few items, skull, jar, books - normally representative of a well known Latin phrase, ‘memento mori’ meaning, ‘remember, you must die’.  Also linked to this idea is another Latin word, ‘vanitas’, meaning ‘vanities’; artworks exploring this theme usually contain books, wine and musical instruments, and with the former reminding us of our mortality, the transience of our lives and the futility of pleasures.  Books were also included in the main portrait. These ideas were much discussed in in religious circles in Bessler’s time when this life was believed to a preparation for the afterlife.

However, Bessler included a second portrait of a person in a completely different setting.  This second portrait had had the face most carefully excised with almost surgical precision, allowing Bessler’s face to peer through, as if he was also the person the second portrait.

As far as I have been able discover there are only six copies of DT still in existence, each  containing the two portraits with the missing face in the second, but there are another dozen or so which have also survived but they do not have this unusual additional portrait.

We can make some assumptions about these portraits. Firstly we read on the first page that copies of the book were 'Printed at Kassel in October 1719, and published by the inventor himself, from whom bound copies may be obtained atWeissenstein Castle'.  There were several printers available who were busy printing books, tracts, adverts and music manuscripts.  I considered the possibility that Bessler did his own type setting but concluded that he would not have been allowd to.  Printers were busy and had to schedule time for each project and Bessler's book was 168 pages long with drawings included, plus the two portraits.  Half of the text was in Latin, which Bessler understood perfectly as Christian Weise, his famous teacher, taught in Latin as did most teachers of that time.  So the whole book could have been completed more quickly and accurately in the hands of an experienced printer.

Weise was one of the first teachers in Germany to change to teaching in German rather than Latin, but not until after Bessler had left and he describes himself as one of Weise's favourite pupils, whether that was his imagination or not, he did change his name once he had discoverd the perpetual motion, from plain Ernst Bessler, to Johann Elias Ernst Bessler, perhaps an acknowledgement of his debt to Weise whose own son was called Johann Elias Weise.

Given that Bessler probably had the printing done by a Kassel printer, a woodcut of the mystery faceless person who was installed in front of Bessler's portrait may have been provided by that printer.  This would require someone to do the portrait of Bessler with head and shoulders to the same size as the mystery guest so that he could fit inside accurately.  I'm not sure if there were many copies of the mystery person, but I would have thought it would be quite simple if the printer had retained the woodblock from a previous order, to print extra copies.  However Bessler may have found the task of including perfect versions of the two portraits in his book as being too time consuming, to complete more than say half a dozen.

I think that the two portraits were designed to show Bessler's dual interests; art and science, but I know many people see more detail in the two portraits.

JC

21 comments:

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    1. Ah Stephen, you’re so mysterious! I deliberately wrote the most basic obvious conclusion about the meaning of the two portraits. I know there is much more to them.

      JC

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  3. RAF Greetings John, Concerning these 2 statements:....."alternatively gravitating to the center and climbing back up again" and "one weight is giving an upward impetus-another,at the same time,is giving an equal downward impetus"---is Mr. Bessler showing us this movement using a pair of blacksmith hammers in M.T.138? Does your design include this? Thanks

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    1. RAF, In my opinion this is not JB’s intended interpretation of the blacksmith hammers in MT 138,139,140 or 141.

      JC

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    2. "one weight is giving an upward impetus-another,at the same time,is giving an equal downward impetus"
      This is a very bold claim by Bessler. They somehow both rotate the wheel and carry the weight of one another... Or there may be a translation error I am not sure.

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    3. Two things:

      1) "upward impetus" and "downward impetus" could imply "outward impetus" and "inward impetus", possible an interpretation error or Bessler's way of making the statement.

      2) There are several lever toys similar in action to the hammermen toy. It could be that Bessler chose that specific toy, and the anvil and hammers are not really an integral part of the movement. I would not assume that impact is key feature in the toy when it could be the see-saw action. The hammerman could be camouflage for the movement.

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    4. Or may be the wheel we see is a separate device? While one weight is lifting the other one in a see-saw type of a mechanism, they also apply forces to the external wheel ? The wheel we see may be just a free shell and the real mechanism is a perpetual see-saw? These are just of the top of my head.

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  4. Maybe slightly off-topic, but it might be relevant: Who wants to see a chain flying up in the air? This surprised me!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=IzQsYnLz2Gc

    GB

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  5. Maybe the hammerman toy has to do with parallel motion. As they move they remain parallel with each other---------------------perhaps that is the significance of it.

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  6. I wonder if the same technique of 'cutting out' a piece and viewing another page, somewhere else in the book could show something? maybe the black/white segmented circle pic? or any large pics resembling a head or face?
    Regards
    Jon

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    1. Good suggestion Jon. I seem to remember someone trying to fit the AP wheel to another drawing but I can’t remember which.

      JC

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  7. Do you have to manipulate gravity in order to get a gravity wheel to turn? Or do you have to manipulate the weights of wheel to get a gravity wheel to turn? The only way I can see a gravity wheel working is to be a clock maker using a spring that's wound up. I'm pretty sure Bessler had the same idea in mind.

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  8. A potentially significant post has been made on www.besslerwheel.com.

    Ovaron posted the following:
    "I think the english term "prime mover" does not describe what Bessler means. "Primum movens" (MT 15) literally means "at first moving".
    Thus Besslers statement, "the weights which are resting below, they have to go up fast", also makes more sense. The first weight begins to move (fall), the other weight(s) remain at rest at the bottom during this movement of the first weight (primum movens)."

    If this is accurate, our whole idea of an OOB wheel with some type of add-on prime mover raising the weights is no longer valid.

    ***********************************************

    John Collins what are your thoughts on this ???

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    1. Primum movens”, is Latin, but originates from Ancient Greece (which I won’t paste here, and means, “that which moves without being moved”. This concept was first advanced by Aristotle as a primary cause , or first I caused cause, or move of all the motion in the universe.

      As is implicit in the words “the unmoved mover”, moves other things but is not itself moved by any other prior action. Thanks to Wikipedia.

      JC

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  9. what is this http://gravityelectric.com/

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