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The aim of this book is to make accessible the two important but rare works of Brook Taylor and to describe his role in the history of linear perspective. Taylor's works, Linear Perspective and New Principles on Linear Perspective, are among the most important sources in the history of the theory of perspective. This text focuses on two aspects of this history. The first is the development, starting in the beginning of the 17th century, of a mathematical theory of perspective where gifted mathematicians used their creativity to solve basic problems of perspective and simultaneously were inspired to consider more general problems in the projective geometry. Taylor was one of the key figures in this development. The second aspect concerns the problem of transmitting the knowledge gained by mathematicians to the practitioners. Although Taylor's books were mathematical rather than challenging, he was the first mathematician to succeed in making the practitioners interested in teaching the theoretical foundation of perspective. He became so important in the development that he was named "the father of modern perspective" in England. The English school of Taylor followers contained among others the painter John Kirby and Joseph Highmore and the scientist Joseph Priestley. After its translation to Italian and French in the 1750s, Taylor's work became popular on the continent.



Book One. Brook Taylor’s Role in the History of Linear Perspective

In 1715 Brook Taylor published his Linear Perspective: or, a New Method of Representing Justly All Manner of Objects (pp. 71–136). Responding to the criticism that the book was too concise Taylor revised it and in 1719 issued his New Principles of Linear Perspective (pp. 147–243). Although Taylor used the word new in the titles of both books he did not explain what he considered the novelty of his approach to perspective. The titles, however, had the effect that later in the century there came to exist an idea of a particularly Taylorian way of dealing with perspective. Thus the period from 1754 to 1803 witnessed the publication of at least seven English books on perspective with titles mentioning Dr. Brook Taylor’s principles or method of linear perspective, and in the same period other English authors acknowledged that they had been inspired by Taylor. (More details are given in Section 9.) As late as the 1880s, in a textbook on perspective, the headmaster of the School of Art in Manchester, George O. Blacker, stated that Taylor was “the father of all modern Perspective” (Blacker, 1885–1888, Preface).
Kirsti Andersen

Book Two. Linear Perspective

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Brook Taylor

Book Three. New Principles of Linear Perspective

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Brook Taylor


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