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2 “MUCH BETTER THAN WORDS” PICTURED KNOWLEDGE AND THE RHETORIC OF VISUALITY WUNDER IN UNS Fritz Kahn’s breakthrough, the human body rendered as a cross-­ sectioned profile diagram of a factory, was in fact an American invention . So now the backstory: the origin of the conceptual scientific illustration, and how it came to Europe. And back of that, how the modernizing rhetoric of visuality preceded, and provided a rationale for, the visual rhetoric of modernity that Kahn propagated. Conceptual scientific illustration made its European debut in 1921 in the pages of Wunder in Uns (The wonder in us), “a book on the human body for everyone.” Edited by Hanns Günther (the pen name of prolific science journalist Walter de Haas) and published in Switzerland, the volume presented twenty-­ four illustrated essays on “recent developments ” in medicine and “modern physiology.” Five writers wrote the articles, all of them frequent contributors to Kosmos and allied publications ; indeed, some of the articles originally appeared in Kosmos. Three of the essays were by Fritz Kahn.1 Central Europe was then still reeling from the mass destruction and disruptions of the Great War, as well as from the political and economic turmoil that followed. Yet even in troubled times, Wunder in Uns was still able to attract readers and quickly sold out its run of 10,000 copies. Two years later, it was reissued by a different Swiss publisher in a second edition of 10,000, with revised text and additional essays and plates. Eight of the plates from the first edition were redrawn, colorized, and 30 | “MUCH BETTER THAN WORDS” equipped with fancy translucent overlay pages imprinted with captions keyed to the details of the picture under­ neath.2 Wunder in Uns mostly conformed to the image–­ text practice already prevalent in Europe and North America. Between 1900 and 1920, German popular science publishing took a pictorial turn, but it was a slow pivot. In those years, Franckh and other publishers began to feature some graphic designs on their covers—­ an improvement over covers that only showed a banner on top of a table of contents, along with uninspiring, generic decorative elements.3 Interior illustrations began to increase in number , but text still dominated; there were even still a few articles that were entirely unillustrated . In general, the visual rhetoric of popular science stuck to the straight and narrow, gesturing toward sober presentation: simple pictures corresponded, one to one, to the topics discussed in the text. Articles on astronomy, natural history, zoology, ethnography, chemistry , and other scientific topics mainly used photographs and drawings that did the work of literal depiction. Articles on the human body mainly used illustrations of bodily structures, both anatomical and microscopic. However, a few of the plates in Wunder in Uns, the ones that were redone in the second edition, did something different: they used visual metaphors of industrial labor, technology, and architecture to explain how the body works. Oddly, none of them was connected to Kahn’s three essays. Instead, the plates appeared in Günther’s introduction (“In the Land of a Thousand Wonders”) and in an essay titled “Man as Machine” (in the first edition written by Hermann Dekker, replaced in the second edition by an essay of the same title by Hans Hauri).4 Three of the plates depict industrial scenes. In one, a stylized profile cutaway of the head shows a brain made up of bundles of wires that connect the eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and lower body to tiny offices staffed by a controller, switchboard operator, announcer, and file clerks (Plate 2). In another, “Digestion,” a stylized frontal cutaway of a torso, foods tumble off a stylized tongue down an esophageal chute into the stomach and intestines, which are depicted as a sweaty mine or furnace room tended by four manual laborers. In a third plate, “What Happens in Our Mouth When We Eat Bread,” two men outside the mouth lift a large, jagged slab of stonelike bread onto the teeth, which will grind it into smaller pieces. Inside the mouth, a man stands ready to turn on faucets that supply saliva (a process that will turn the ground-­ up material into paste); a fourth man shovels a half-­ processed FIGURE 2.1. Two-­color book cover, Hanns Günther, ed., Wunder in Uns, 2nd ed. (Leipzig: Grethlein, 1923). Designer: Walter Thamm. National Library of Medicine. “MUCH BETTER THAN WORDS” | 31 pile to move it under two saliva spigots. Taken together, the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781452915777
Related ISBN
9781517900212
MARC Record
OCLC
956584181
Pages
272
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-07
Language
English
Open Access
No
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