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engineering 4A few years back, I acquired a book primarily because the cover struck me as interesting. The title Ingegneria Divertente in Italian is loosely translated as “Engineering for Fun“.

It is a volume from a series called “La Scala d’Oro” or “The Golden Ladder” and indeed on the inside cover there is a ladder.

engineering 2The cover, in color, is of an imaginary city of skyscrapers, airplanes flying over it, a train crossing it on a high bridge and a large ocean liner flying an Italian flag. This is a fantasy view since there were no skyscrapers in Italy at the time but the cover refers obviously to the Big Apple.

The book is a book for boys, 12 years of age and older and it explains some of the wonders of building and the progress of engineering to boys who probably had something else on their mind.

The inside of the cover is wonderfully illustrated. It shows Pegasus the winged horse climbing a ladder with a plane in the background. The whole illustration has an almost early nineteenth century feel to it. The two colored title page has a more modernist layout. The printing year is 1938.

Engineering 1So, I left the boys thinking about those other things and sunk myself in an easy chair trying in vain to figure out why I wanted to know all the modern engineering feats explained to me. Until I remembered, I had terrible troubles with a “ meccanoerector set when I was a boy. I could not figure out how to build anything with it that made any sense. I enjoyed it anyway!

I wondered now how the story about progress was told and from which point of view.

So after reading through the book and looking at those marvelous photos, which could be used to explain things to adults never mind to boys. I decided to share these thoughts with you.

engineering 3What impact did this little book have at a time when Italy was almost at war?

What impact do some books have almost 60 years later? Or for that matter 300 years later. For a while the book took me back to the early age of reading at the photographs

The photos used were obviously taken mostly in America. It made me realize how mighty a nation can be portrayed in pictures. How enormous, industrial and vigorous that America must have looked in the eyes of a boy of twelve in 1938. Or on a large majority of adults for that matter, who for sure would not read or speak English. How many of them were in awe?

Perhaps this is why I like to collect “propaganda” books and items related to photography. How do we portray reality and how do we influence politics and social behavior by what we read and which side do we take or are we independent and free of it all?