Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226612492 Published May 2019
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The Making of Measure and the Promise of Sameness

Emanuele Lugli

The Making of Measure and the Promise of Sameness

Emanuele Lugli

312 pages | 16 color plates, 40 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2019
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226612492 Published May 2019
E-book $10.00 to $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226612522 Published May 2019
Measurement is all around us—from the circumference of a pizza to the square footage of an apartment, from the length of a newborn baby to the number of miles between neighboring towns. Whether inches or miles, centimeters or kilometers, measures of distance stand at the very foundation of everything we do, so much so that we take them for granted. Yet, this has not always been the case.

This book reaches back to medieval Italy to speak of a time when measurements were displayed in the open, showing how such a deceptively simple innovation triggered a chain of cultural transformations whose consequences are visible today on a global scale. Drawing from literary works and frescoes, architectural surveys and legal compilations, Emanuele Lugli offers a history of material practices widely overlooked by historians. He argues that the public display of measurements in Italy’s newly formed city republics not only laid the foundation for now centuries-old practices of making, but also helped to legitimize local governments and shore up church power, buttressing fantasies of exactitude and certainty that linger to this day.

This ambitious, truly interdisciplinary book explains how measurements, rather than being mere descriptors of the real, themselves work as powerful molds of ideas, affecting our notions of what we consider similar, accurate, and truthful.
Review Quotes
Whitney Davis, University of California, Berkeley
“This groundbreaking study shows that the public display of medieval standards of measure—artifacts and representations embodying historically local metrological units—‘triggered a series of revolutionary practices’ that ‘laid the foundations of today’s ideas about precision, reproducibility, and truth.’ Based on his deep and wide research, Emanuele Lugli leads us through the thickets of difference, diversity, and divergence—practices of measurement often widely varying from place to place—to the supposed purifications and abstractions that make modern measurement. Nonetheless, the possibility of slippage, uncertainty, and opacity always remains. His book transforms the way in which medieval and early modern topography, urbanism, depiction, architecture, and other practices can be seen; measure is not just a rationalized description of the world, but one of its primordial perceptual and material parameters.”
Gerhard Wolf, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence—Max-Planck-Institut
“Just as the International Prototype Kilogram in Paris is retiring, the long lacking history of measurements has finally been written. . . . Lugli uncovers this fascinating chapter of European and Mediterranean history, hidden under the ‘purported simplicity’ of meters and weights. He guides the reader backward in time from the standardizations of the eighteenth century to the world of medieval cities like Pisa or Milan—with their politics of measures, international trade, unexpected role of friars, and claims of control and authority—to the foot of the Lombard king Liutprand, the height of Christ, and the long-lasting impact of the Roman land surveyors. The book shows the connectivity between abstract and physical forms, the interrelations of things and ratios. It reads like a thrilling novel while at the same time following the highest academic standards.”
Avinoam Shalem, Columbia University
“In this incisive book, Lugli demonstrates how the field of social science about histories of measurements influenced and controlled European societies and dictated the shapes and forms of things. Lugli discloses new terrain, going beyond quantification to shed light on the interplay between the scientific method, social aspirations for equality and justice, and political power. Factually detailed, inspiring, and well informed by the latest theories on material culture and the sociology of science, this book is a brilliant study and makes for joyful reading.”
Katharine Park, Harvard University
"The Making of Measure and the Promise of Sameness is a fascinating, persuasive, and beautiful book.  Using visual, architectural, and archival sources, Lugli lays out the millennial continuity of measuring practices and the political and material constructedness of the units of measurement that shaped the layout of medieval Italian towns and their environs.  Establishing the tight relations between systems of measurement and political authority, he undermines the fantasies of exactitude and certainty in systems of measurement, and he illustrates the phenomenon of metrical blur: nothing can be measured except in relationship to something else. Poised at the intersection of the histories of art, science, and medieval and Renaissance urbanism, Lugli’s book will engage readers across a wide range of fields."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit https://www.press.uchicago.edu
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