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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/640

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

other, certain thoughts about those things began to take shape in my mind.

Of course, the sounds I heard had not the smallest likeness to the things called up by them in my mind. To an Italian peasant, or to Archimedes of Syracuse, they would have been as unintelligible as the chattering of a magpie. They were purely arbitrary or conventional; yet, much of our education had been devoted to their mastery. Nevertheless, as a means for expressing thought, they were, in the present case, quite inadequate. The ideas aroused in my mind were confused and fragmentary, and altogether unsatisfactory. The images lacked precision. Had my friend resorted to writing a description of the invention, in either English, French, German, Latin, or Greek, using in every case a set of purely conventional symbols (to represent the other set of conventional sounds), which we had both spent years in getting some knowledge of, he would have succeeded little better. Whether speaking or writing, much of his thought he could not clothe in words. He, therefore, abandoned the wholly conventional, or verbal, art of expression and turned to the pictorial.

But, here he soon confessed that his education was deficient. He had never studied the art of representing objects having three dimensions on a surface having but two, and hence he was ignorant of the methods he ought to adopt to express by drawings the objects he was thinking of. However, I caught more of his meaning from some crude attempts at sketching than I had from all his talk. A few lines were luminous with meaning; yet, they left far too much for me to supply by my imagination; hence, my visitor withdrew and sent me a full set of what we called "working drawings," made by the inventor, who was a draughtsman.

These drawings, though a sort of ocular resemblance to the things signified, were still half conventional, and required, on my part, a certain amount of training to enable me fully to understand them; this, fortunately, I had received, and, through the art of expression embodied in them, I gained a tolerably clear idea of the thought of the inventor. With scarce a written or spoken word, they expressed that thought far more clearly and fully than any merely verbal description could do; they showed the relations of parts which were beyond the reach of words.

But my friend was not content to stop there. The drawings had been but partially intelligible to him with their "plans, elevations, and sections," and, judging me by himself, he believed that a third art of expression would outvalue both the others; he, therefore, invited me to call at a shop and examine a specimen of the device itself, produced by a skilled mechanic. The real article, which is the mechanic's art of expression, proved to be an improvement even upon the thought of the inventor. The latter had not been a mechanic, and he had made the sort of mistakes that draughtsmen, who are not something of