Lancelot, in metal armor, fights two copper knights, at an enchanted castle, in the 13th century prose romance Lancelot of the Lake. (Image: Lancelot do lac, France, ca. 1470. Paris, BnF, MS. Fr. 112.)
Next Thursday, June 16th, we are deeply excited to be hosting Elly Truitt of Bryn Mawr for an illustrated lecture to celebrate the release of her book Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art. (Tickets here). As she explains:
Following are some images from her talk that Dr Truitt was kind enough to send along; Hope very much to see you there! Tickets can be purchased here.Centuries before Asimovs Three Laws of Robotics, before Fritz Lang's Metropolis or Çapeks Rossum's Universal Robots, before Vaucanson's digesting duck, people imagined, designed, built, and pondered the possibilities and pitfalls of creating artificial people, animals, and other natural objects. Medieval robots are the hidden past of our robotic present, and they were ubiquitous in medieval culture. They appear throughout the Middle Ages and were used to embody complex ideas about the natural world and the heavens, including belief in demons and knowledge of mechanical engineering.
A mechanical wine-servant, designed by the Kurdish engineer Ismail al-Jazari, in The Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices, ca. 1206. Designed to be a mechanical version of the human servants who would otherwise be serving wine at the Artuqid court in Diyarbekir. (Image: Syria or Egypt, 1315, Copenhagen, David Collection 20/1988):
The walled garden of the chateau of Hesdin, in northern France, with the elaborate machinations of Fortune, below. The estate was the site of elaborate gardens with mechanical animals, birds, musical instruments, and fountains in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. (Image: France, ca. 1350. Paris, Bibliothèque national de Paris, MS Fr. 1586):
Page from a book of drawings by Villard de Honnecourt, ca. 1225. Villard was a draughtsman and builder, and included drawings of many mechanical designs, including a mechanical eagle, a trick goblet, and a mechanical angel. (Image: Paris, BnF, MS Fr. 19093):
Alexander the Great encounters two golden knights guarding a bridge in India, from the Romance of Alexander (ca. 1180). (Image: France, 14th century. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264):