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Journal > Volumes > 34 (2003) / 3 (Autumn)
Ornamental Flourishes in Giordano Bruno's Geometry
Arielle Saiber
Bowdoin College

What was Giordano Bruno thinking when he unleashed a flurry of hearts, moons, stars, ivy leaves, and flowers into nearly seventy-five geometric diagrams in two of his most mathematical treatises, the Articuli centum et sexaginta adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos and De triplici m?nimo et mensura? Not only is this kind of detailed ornamentation difficult to accomplish on a woodblock; it is most unusual for a printed work of geometry in any period of European history. The restless Bruno must have had a good reason to engage in such a labor-intensive project. Close examination reveals this curious proliferation of seemingly decorative shapes to be a device with which to reclaim the connections to the celestial and natural worlds that Bruno believed the contemporary mathematicians to have broken with their numeric and geometric abstractions. What follows is an exploration of these ornamental flourishes, how Bruno came to make them, and why they are significant for understanding his mathematics and, subsequently, the symbolic language of his philosophy.

Pages: 729 - 745