Measuring Antiquity
Antiquarian Research, Geometry, Natural History

From the late 17th century onward, antiquarian research displayed increasing concern for scholarly accuracy. It was a question of carefully measuring antiquity in order to draw from ancient works not only knowledge of the past but also rules for the present. The concern for precision is particularly noticeable in illustrated volumes on sculpture and architecture. In 1682, Antoine Desgodetz published a richly illustrated book of accurate architectural plans of ancient buildings in Rome; it long served as an authoritative reference work. Then, in 1683, Gérard Audran supplied the exact dimensions of the body of the Laocoon and other masterpieces of ancient sculpture. Anthologies of engravings of antiquities thereby called upon multiple fields, including geometry and natural history.