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Constructing the World
“ …if at that same instant I were on the line of the meridian, it would be midnight on the dot, but if I looked to the west, I would see the midnight of Friday and if I looked to the east I would see the midnight of Thursday. ”
“But I would be a day younger only if I went to the Island”
“A philosopher once told him that God knows the world better than we do because He made it. And that to approach divine knowledge, even slightly, it was necessary to conceive the world as a great building and try to construct it. This is what he had to do. To know the [ship] Daphne, he had to construct her. “ -Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before
With the ship Daphne, Eco creates for us a model of the world, which his protagonist Roberto tries in earnest to understand, even with his faulty grasp of the limited intellectual tools of the 17th century. Ship and castaway are both dropped just out of reach of a tropical island and the prime meridian – the divider between one day and the next – is drawn between the ship and the island. Through a series of reasoned (if not well-reasoned) premises, Roberto is led to the conclusion that the island he is anchored just off the coast from actually exists in the past. If only he could reach it, he could escape into yesterday, perhaps even the day before yesterday and the day before that.
Constructing the world consists of three panels. The first is a measured drawing of the Graticule - the grid of latitude and longitude that encircles and measures the earth. This was drawn using only methods of geometric construction (no measuring was done) - a straight edge, compass, and pencil were the only tools. All line work and measurement were arrived at through the means of geometric mathematical construction, and the process of construction lines was left on the drawing as markers of the process. The next panel holds Umberto Eco's quote about knowledge through constructing. The third is a freehand drawing of the continents, at the same scale as the graticule, done simply while looking at a globe.