With the help of a research grant from the Herzog August Library, doctoral candidate Alexandra Challenger has been conducting research in Wolfenbüttel, Germany since August 2018. Her dissertation, “Measuring the Heavens: Printed Instruments, Illustrations, and the Construction of Cosmography in Early Modern Germany,” directed by Professor Stephanie Leitch, focuses on the sixteenth-century printed mathematical works of Peter Apian. Alex has been investigating how printers and artists aided the development of new techniques and audiences for applied mathematical disciplines, such as cosmography and astronomy. She argues that Apian’s creative and frequent use of elaborate printed designs helped to engage a large audience of non-specialist readers and demonstrated the use of mathematical instruments through replicas printed on paper.
While in Germany, Alex has been working primarily at the Herzog August Library. There, she has studied most of Apian’s original printed books, several of which contain interactive paper instruments with moving parts. Alex is trying to reconstruct how sixteenth-century readers would have used and manipulated these mathematical tools.
Alex has been active sharing her research during her time abroad. In Wolfenbüttel, she presented the paper “Creativity and Innovation: Printed Instruments and Illustrations in the Works of Peter Apian” as part of a colloquium for researchers at the library. She also participated in the international conference Art and Artists in the Republic of Letters, held at Tel Aviv University in December 2018. Her paper, “Networks of Scientific and Artistic Knowledge in Peter Apian’s Astronomicum Caesareum,” examined one of Peter Apian’s most elaborately illustrated scientific texts. Alex writes,
Sharing this news has given me time to reflect on all the opportunities I had last year and this year. Germany is research heaven. I’ve never seen so many amazing books in my life! As I’m typing this, I have Wenzel Jamnitzer’s Perspecitva Corporum Regularum in front of me. I’ve gained a much greater understanding of archival research practices, visited international sites, and met scholars from all over the world.