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by turning and bending

front flyleaf (detail, rotated 90ºcw; levels 20 1.00 255)
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-99; natural philosopher, Sudelbücher aphorist; *). Vermischte Schriften, Bands 1-2 (Göttingen, 1853)
Stanford copy, no date of digitization.

“Lichtenberg is infatuated with crooked lines: his first lecture programme treats them algebraically, while some late notes assert with satisfaction the impossibility of absolute, i.e., rectilinear motion. He tracks the ragged path of lightning, recommends printing bibles with fan-shaped, curvilinear type, and argues that although the length of life may be fixed by birth and death, the line can be lengthened by turning and bending. The jagged style in his letters and observations serves to approach, via various abrupt turns, unforeseen conclusions. All this validates Lichtenberg’s own body, not as a deformity, but as a signature inscribed in Nature... Insofar as he has a main theme, it is that of being human.”

ex Jeremy Adler, “Lover of Crooked Lines : Lichtenberg and the natural history of the heart.” Review of several new editions of Lichtenberg’s writing and letters, TLS (September 25, 1992)

How I loved that review, in a copy of the TLS that I still have, source of many photocopies distributed in the classroom over the years. A search for Lichtenbergian curves in scans of 18th and 19th century volumes does yield some. But I prefer this turn, into a philosophical room, sciagraphic cul de sac.

and Lichtenberg —
“I hold a snake-like line to be the most serviceable for a book and I already wrote along these lines before I learned that Hogarth had written something about it, or that Tristram Shandy made known the manner...”

9 June 2015

crooked lines; curves; signature inscribed in Nature; the jagged style
G. C. Lichtenberg; J. Adler