Snow Supplement

December 23, 2014

Since we in Madison are not destined to have much if any snow this week, enjoying instead temperatures in the upper 30s and some downright gray skies, we offer instead a view of snowflakes from the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert.

Shown here are details from plate 2 of 5 plates for Physique, from Recueil de planches, sur les sciences sciences, les arts libéraux, et les arts méchaniques avec leur explication, 5e volume, 248 planches (Paris: Chez Briasson, David, Le Breton, 1767), from our full set of the Encyclopédie. The plate was drawn by Goussier, engraved by Benard.

According to the description on p. 15 of the same volume,

the illustrations representing the “different shapes of pieces of snow” were derived from an illustration in volume 6 of the Miscellanea berolinensia, the publication of the Berlin Academy of Sciences.

We recently had occasion to notice this plate of weather-related illustrations while showing the Encyclopédie plates to students in one of four sections of History 119, Modern Europe 1500-1815 (Prof. Lee Wandel with teaching assistant Monica Ledesma). For an earlier version of this course we digitized other selected images from the Encyclopédie.

Illustrations of snowflakes also remind us of an exhibit entitled “Stormy Weather” several years ago in Special Collections. A checklist of that exhibit, curated by Sarah Boxhorn (Potratz), is available.

From that exhibit, we highlight here Cloud crystals: A snow flake album, “edited by a lady” (1865) — part of our Cairns Collection of American Women Writers.