Early Modern Futures

Leonard Digges, Tectonicon

Tectonicon was published first in 1556, two years after the seizure of Digges’ lands for his involvement in Wyatt’s revolt. So, while it is ostensibly (and practically) a mathematical text, Tectonicon’s author had a political interest in the demarcation of property. This may in part explain why Felix Kyngston printed it three times in the decade leading up to the Civil War: 1630, 1634, and 1637. This flurry of printings also reflects the efficacy of Digges’ by-then classic surveying text (it had been printed eleven other times), which is at its core a geometric polemic against preventable “vulgar errors” in the assessment of land.  More than other geometry texts, like Benese’s, Digges’ employed careful diagrams which featuring the human surveyor as a means of guiding future, politically-engaged practitioners. This precision and attention to persons foreshadows the political pressure with which surveying was to be conducted, as well as the nation’s growing interest in a kind of science of land ownership.

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