Item of the Day: Love’s Surveying (1768)

Full Title:

GEODASIA: Or, The Art of Surveying and Measuring Land made Easy. Shewing by Plain and Practical Rules, to Survey, Protract, Cast up, Reduce or Divide and Piece of Land whatsoever; with new Tables for the Ease of the Surveyor in Reducing the Measures of the Land. Moreover, A more Facile and Sure Way of Surveying by the Chain, than has hitherto been taught. As Also, to lay out New Lands in America, or elsewhere: And how to make a Perfect Map of a River’s Mouth or Harbour; with several other Things never yet Published in our Language.  By John Love. The Eighth Edition. Corrected and Improved by Samuel Clark. London: Printed for J. Rivington, St. Paul’s Church-Yard; G. Keith, in Gracechurch-Street; and Robinson and Roberts, in Paternoster-Row. MDCCLXVIII.

The Preface to the Reader.

It would be ridiculous, to go about to praise an art that all mankind know they cannot live peaceably without, and is near hand as ancient (no doubt on it) as the world: for how could men set down to plant, without knowing some distinctions and bounds of their land? But (necessity being the mother of invention) we find the Egyptians, by reason of the Nyle’s overflowing, which either washed away all their bound-marks, or covered them over with mud, brought to this measuring of land first into art, and honoured much the posessors of it. The usefulness, as well as the pleasant and delightful study, and wholesome exercise thereof, tempted so many to apply themselves thereto, that at length in Egypt (as in Bermudas) every rustic could measure his own land.

From Egypt, this art was brought into Greece by Thales, and was for a long time called Geometry; but that being too comprehensive a name for the measurance of superficies only, it was afterwards called Geodaesia; and what honor it still has continued to have among the antients, needs no better proof than Plato. And not only Plato, but most, if not all the learned men of those times, refused to admit any into their schools, that had not been first entered in the mathematics, especially geometry and arithmetic. And we may see, the great monuments of learning built on these foundations continuing unshaken to this day, sufficently demonstrate the wisdom of the designers in chusing [sic] geometry fro their ground-plot.

Since which, the Romans have had such an opinion of this sort of learning, that they concluded that man to be incapable of commanding a legion, that did not possess at least so much geometry, as to know how to measure a field. Nor did they indeed either respect priest or physician, that had not some insight into the mathematics.

Nor can we complain of any failure of respect given to this excellent science by our modern worthies, many noblemen, clergymen, and gentlemen affecting the study thereof: so that we may safely say, not but unadvised men ever did, or do now speak evil of it.

Besides the many profits this art brings to man, it is a study so pleasant, and affords such wholesome and innocent exercise, that we seldom find a man that has once entered himself into the study of Geometry or Geodaesia, can ever after wholly lay it aside: so natural is it to the minds of men, so pleasingly insinuating, that the Pythagoreans thought the mathematics to be only a reminiscience [sic], or calling again to mind things formerly learned.

But no longer to light candles to see the sun be, let me come to my business, which is to speak something concerning the following book; and if you ask, why I write a book of this nature, since we have so many very good ones already in our own language? I answer, because I cannot find in those books many things, of great consequence, to be understood by the surveyor. I have seen young men in America so often at a loss, that their books would not help them forward; (particularly in Carolina,) about laying out lands, when a certain quantity of acres has been given to be laid out five or six times as broad as long. This I know is regarded as a mere trifle by a mathematician; yet to such as have no more of this learning, than to know how to measure a field, it seems a difficult question: and to what book of surveying shall they repair to be resolved?

Also concerning the Extraction of the Square Root; I wonder that it has been so much neglected by the teachers of this art, it being a rule of such absolute necessity for the surveyor to be acquainted with. I have taught it here as plainly as I could devise, and that by the best method now in use, using fewer figures, and being once well learned, charges the memory less than any other way.

Moreover, sounding the entrance of a river or harbour is a matter of great import, not only to seamen, but to all such as seamen live by, I have therefore done my endeavor to teach the young artist how to do it, and draw a fair draught thereof.

Many more things have I added, such as I thought to be new, and wanting; for which I refer you to the book itself.

As for method, I have chose that which I thought to be the easiest for a learner; advising him first to learn some arithmetic, and after, teaching him how to extract the square root. But I would not have any neophyte discouraged; for if he find the first chapter too hard for him, let him rather skip it, and go to the second and third chapters: those he will find so easy and delightful, that I am persuaded he will be encouraged to conquer the difficulty of learning that one rule in the first chapter…


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Filed under 1760's, Maps, Mathematics, Posted by Matthew Williams

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