A Chart of Old English Measurements

Pretty nifty.


ColoComment said...

Love the chart!

The book, "Measuring America," by Andro Linklater, has an extended explanation of the invention and use of "Gunter's Chain," which allowed surveyors to measure, mark, and identify real property for ownership purposes.
It's a fascinating book (for us nerds) about the measurement methods that opened the West to settlement.

douglas said...

Very cool. Note how many measurements are of body parts. Of course we're still familiar with foot, and horse people with hands (which curiously is not on that chart- is palms synonomous?). When I was an architecture student on study abroad in Europe, I had a class titled "Mensuration and Documentation". It was a great class- we took time to document and measure things in novel ways, or rediscovered old ways, often enough.

One time, we were sketching and documenting the Piazza Duomo in Bergamo, Italy. Mostly we were focused on the sundial laid out along the center of the piazza, which marked the movement of the sun annually. I noticed along one side of the front of the Duomo some bronze or brass rods embedded into the wall, and marked with various figures and names. Best we could figure at the time, they were likely related to the market and here, likely textiles- standardized length measurements for the bolts of cloth. Now it all comes so simply, but having reliable standards was a clear and constant issue of import in ages past.

When we took a two week trip to Turkey later that semester, I made it a project to see if the dimensions of things we encountered in the old Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic ruins or buildings were in any way conceivable way anthropometrically related.

I'm almost certain that the greek stone masons carved the ubiquitous dentil and egg and dart patterns using their hands as masuring tools for consistency- the sizes just matched up so perfectly with three fingers width, or a full palm for the size of the egg in egg and dart.

The hexagonal tiles in the great mosques were a perfect handspan- I'm sure partly by nature of how they're made and what can be easily and consistently handled, but also partly with intent to break down immense surfaces into something that related back to the human scale.

I haven't thought about that class for a while, but maybe I ought to dig those old notebooks out and peruse them once more.

douglas said...

Ha! I found the bars in Piazza Duomo, Bergamo on Google Maps Streetview! If you turn about 180 around, you'll also see the sundial on the ground under the vaulting. It was a lot colder when we were there- I remember wearing fingerless gloves, and after a few hours, we all went to a bar adjacent to there to have hot chocolate (and Italian hot chocolate is really good, by the way).