Perspective in Perspective

The Perspective Research Centre (PRC) is a research and educational centre focused on the visual dimensions of art, science, and technology.

PRC collects materials on the history, theory, and applications of perspective, projection methods, vision, imaging, and spatial concepts. We provide free and open access to perspective resources; for the benefit of all.

Herein you will find a vast archive of information on perspective, including a subject Dictionary, Library, Bibliography, Encyclopedia, Museum and Gallery; plus links to countless publications on this seminal topic. We have spent over three decades gathering together, indexing, and carefully organising, this unique knowledge bank to provide easy access to everything known on perspective.

We hope you find these resources informative, helpful, and enjoyable.


Status of Perspective

Perspective is our chief method of visualising the world, obtaining a systematic treatment of scale, plus establishing a visual standard of truth. It is a foundation of human analytical, imaginative, and creative potentials.

Visual or Optical Perspective deals with the changing appearance of things when observed from a particular viewpoint or series of viewpoints, especially as they extend into the third dimension or depth. A familiar form of Optical Perspective is—Linear or Scientific Perspective—which produces a rationalisation of vision by segmenting, ordering, measuring, and gauging physical space; whereby humans gain a mathematical ‘eye’ to explore a geometrically constructed optical space.

Perspective is a multi-faceted subject that covers a far wider range of visual phenomena than many realise; and is a key to understanding major categories of art/science/technology in the past 500 years. Related topics include space, time, optics, human eye/vision, colour, drawing and geometry, reality, illusion, imagination, and representation.

Perspective is central to key developments in various subjects; including art, photography, television, cinema, cartography/maps, astronomy, topology, photogrammetry, scenography, archaeology, architecture, gardens and environment, etc. Recent developments also have strong links to perspective; such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Virtual Reality (VR), Computer Graphics (CG), Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI), Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Computer Vision (CV), Artificial Intelligence (AI), medical imaging, robotics, stereography, panoramas, holograms, and space flight.

In sum, perspective lies at the epicentre of progress and is pivotal to everything humans will achieve in the future. QED.

Our Mission 

The PRC seeks rational insight into the various classes, technical methods, plus practical applications of perspective, and associated visual media.

A basic goal is to gather what is known on perspective as developed in both western and non-western cultures. Alternative methods are also studied, including aspective, inverted, negative (reverse), divergent, axial or fishbone, curvilinear, spherical, parallel, cylindrical, conical, angular, anamorphic perspectives, plus various kinds of simulated or virtual plus mixed real/digital forms.

We wish to unite all perspective knowledge under a single heading, heralding the birth of perspective science as a stand-alone subject discipline—or primary field of study—with established foundational theory and, above all, unified laws.

By collecting, developing, linking, and applying the theories, principles, and methods of perspective, the PRC can support knowledge organisation, education, and technology development across a range of artistic, scientific, environmental, and cultural disciplines.

Origins 

The Perspective Research Centre (PRC) has a rich 30-year history.

PRC developed from two past organisations, the Perspective Unit at the University of Toronto, and the Maastricht McLuhan Institute (MMI). We have inherited an important scientific legacy from these organisations, including the Library, Dictionary, Bibliography, Encyclopedia of Perspective, etc.

For over 30 years, Kim Veltman was the world’s number one expert on perspective, and was also the founder and director of the aforementioned organisations. Following his sad passing in April 2020, PRC maintains the official archive of Professor Kim Veltman’s lifetime works – as listed in the Kim Veltman Archive (0.4 MB pdf), including many unpublished papers, letters, books, treatises, and other manuscripts. This incredible knowledge bank consists of 10,000 pages spread across over 400 publications on perspective and related topics. 

PPC curates a number of scientific archives on perspective, including the complete works of Professor Marshall McLuhan, Professor Sir Ernst Gombrich, Professor B.A.R. Carter (Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy), and Professor Kenneth Keele (President of the Royal Society of Medicine). Founder Kim Veltman also worked closely with human vision experts Professor(s) A.C. Crombie plus R.A. Weale, and we hold detailed records of these collaborations.

Today our work continues, as we progress towards our goal of a single route of access to all knowledge on the seminal subject of perspective.

Library, Bibliography, and Encyclopedia

The PRC curates an extensive collection of unique and world-leading materials on perspective and related subjects.

Established over 50 years, is our Library of Perspective (1.2 MB pdf), consisting of 5,000 physical volumes (catalogued), 10,000 digital papers/books (uncatalogued), hundreds of articles/papers/theses/treatises, and 33,000 digital images. Plus, we own a rare 500 volume library on Leonardo da Vinci, including one-of-a-kind manuscripts cataloging and explaining his scientific methodology in full.

Today the PRC library is unsurpassed in the private field, and in the future, we shall continue collecting new materials on perspective. The library aims to collect all specialised literature in the field(s) of perspective, projection methods, spatial concepts, imaging and vision.

The literature of perspective has been surveyed by Kim Veltman in: Literature on Perspective: A Select Bibliography (1971-1984); which serves as a comprehensive introduction to the subject. Kim also penned many other works on perspective and related subjects, which can all be downloaded from this site.

PRC maintains the standard world Bibliography of Perspective (10 MB pdf); initially developed by Professor Luigi Vagnetti and later progressed by Professor Kim Veltman—who together spent 90 years compiling a list of 15,000 perspective titles from throughout time. In 2020, PRC published the Encyclopedia of Perspective (2,500 pages), the definitive work on its subject matter that is a wonder to behold. 

Leonardo da Vinci

Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci was an early pioneer of perspective techniques, employing a supremely visual approach to his remarkably inventive studies of the natural/built world(s).

The 6,500 pages of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks contain ca. 100,000 sketches, diagrams, and drawings. Even today, we can learn much from Leonardo’s explicit explanations in his notes concerning the supremacy of visual images over verbal ones. Accordingly, we are engaged in a comprehensive study of Leonardo’s optical, perspective, and spatial methods—to probe his working techniques and in an attempt to answer why Leonardo was so concerned with visual images.

Kim Veltman was a leading scholar of Leonardo da Vinci; wherein he wrote three major treatises on Leonardo, running to several thousand pages, plus he authored over a dozen influential papers on Leonardo. We shall publish all of Kim’s works on Leonardo in digital form.

Plus, we are working on the Encyclopedia of Leonardo Da Vinci, which unites all of Kim Veltman’s writings on the great polymath. This outstanding multi-volume work comprehensively explains Leonardo’s scientific methodology and perspective visualisation techniques.

Dictionary and Perspective Category Theory  

We are producing a Dictionary of Perspective, a standard lexicon of all terms on perspective, projection methods, vision, and spatial concepts. The dictionary began as a knowledge package on Kim Veltman’s: System For Universal Media Searching (SUMS). All the different facets of perspective were indexed for the first time, and made available on the Internet (years 2000-2020).

Creating a new version of the Dictionary of Perspective is challenging and will take a little time to complete. We shall publish the dictionary as an alphabetical list over the coming months and later turn it into a general-purpose reference book.

Our Perspective Category Theory unites all facets under a single framework, providing a comprehensive new model and accurate taxonomic-tree—of all possible types and classes of perspective. Along the way, we introduce perspective concepts and related terms to accurately delineate, explore and meticulously analyse, the field of perspective (as a whole).

Monograph on Technical Perspective  

In a strange quirk of fate, no book exists on the theoretical foundations of Technical Perspective; specifically to define, analyse, and unify all of the principles, forms, methods, and applications of Optical Perspective.

Henceforth, we are gathering everything known on this subject into a comprehensive Monograph on Technical Perspective, tentatively entitled: ‘The Art and Science of Optical Perspective’. Explored therein are the foundations of perspective in terms of elementary theory, and identified are the primary classes and the numerous sub-categories in this respect. We wish to minimise the number of primitive notions, axioms, principles, and inference rules that relate to perspective phenomena; while unifying all known theories that comprise the entire subject matter of perspective (as it exists today). 

Desired are solutions to the paradoxes that have plagued perspective theories in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the debate(s) over the nature of human vision and whether perspective is an objective or subjective method. While it may only be feasible to solve some such problems in this work, we aim to comprehensively identify and describe the nature and implications of said issues.

We wish to spark interest in Optical Perspective, advance the subject by popularising it and showcase the powers and capacities of related visual, imaging, and spatial concepts. Explained is how advances in the theories/methods of Optical Perspective drive artistic, scientific, and technical progress to a great degree.

Museum

We are building a Museum of Perspective; being a collection of early perspective instruments and related visual methods. The Museum of Perspective works with our Library of Perspective to gather everything known on perspective, vision, imaging, and related spatial topics.

The museum includes historical records of visual instruments such as lenses, mirrors, windows, the perspective window and box, camera obscura and lucidia, early stereoscopes, etc. Direct viewing methods are explored, including optical illusions, panoramas, holograms, Virtual Reality (VR) systems, etc. Also held are timeline details of image capture and viewing instruments, including various types of cameras, projectors, telescopes, binoculars, microscopes, etc. 

The museum details the history of measuring instruments used for copying, mapping, modelling, and calculating aspects of spatial reality. For example, we collect early examples of the ruler, caliper, protractor, gauge, dial, slide rule, nautical slide rule, pantograph, planisphere, etc. Plus, we have extensive records of geographic/planetary/star map(s), sundials, and various kinds of compass (trigonometry, sector, and reduction).

Next, we collect details—and early examples—of image projection instruments, such as the zoetrope, kinetoscope, magic lantern, slide and film projector, etc. Finally, we do not neglect human vision, the eye, and visual perception; we collect vision theories, models, and related images.

We are busy cataloging and publishing our Gallery of Perspective; being a vast collection of perspective-related images collected over 30 years. The gallery consists of 33,000 images of all types, including drawings, paintings, photographs, microfilms, slides, films, stereograms, holograms, etc.

Overall, the task of publishing the Gallery of Perspective, is considerable. Accordingly, we shall publish specific parts of the gallery as time allows.

There are plans to develop a categorical approach to perspective views, images, models, and measurements, combined with a grammar of key spatial shapes linked with digitised images to create a new Visual Encyclopedia of Knowledge.

Research and Education

One might suppose that the sources, theory and methods of perspective are well-understood today and that further research into perspective would not be necessary. However, such is not the case because the field of Technical Perspective contains many unexplained facts, perplexing mysteries, and exciting possibilities. Perspective is a fast-developing field with modern application areas that are predicated on perspective-related research and development activity. In truth, much is unknown, and many questions remain unaddressed. 

A significant problem for students and scholars of Technical Perspective, relates to the fact that the vast majority of historical perspective texts/treatises remain inaccessible because they exist in ancient versions of the Latin, Greek, Arabic, Indian, and Chinese languages, etc. Plus, we have many modern perspective texts only available in various languages such as Italian, French, Spanish, German, etc. If perspective is ever to take its place as a stand-alone subject discipline, then it is essential to unite the field in terms of improving the accessibility of texts (as a minimum starting position); accordingly, at the PRC we have begun the enormous task of translating key texts into the English language.

We are committed to educating young people about the fascinating history of perspective and the exciting possibilities that this wide-ranging subject offers to future generations. Ergo we are developing a book, lecture series, and documentary film entitled: ‘Dimensions of Perspective’. Plus, we are building a list of some people behind these developments, named the Pioneers of Perspective, including classic inventions/treatises/theses.


Challenge of the Future 

Perspective is an old subject with an exciting future. Today the field of perspective is positively brimming over with many new theories, methods, inventions, and vital application areas, and it continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

Perspective provides distance to see matters in truth. A salient example is when the crew of Apollo held a live broadcast in 1968. As their command module floated seventy miles above the lunar surface (and 400,000 km from earth), the three astronauts closed with “good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless to all of you, all of you on the good earth.” The underlying sentiment is clear; the earth is our home, it is all we have and all that we will ever have (so far as we know); ergo, we must treasure and look after it.

We explore the past, present and future of perspective. However, we do so not merely for academic reasons. Instead, we desire to find new applications of perspective—to help us better understand, preserve, and manage limited environmental resources—and thus hopefully make life better for all of us here on the ‘good earth’.

The PRC is interested in all kinds of perspective, including the visual, symbolic (literal), and metaphorical classes of perspective and their numerous sub-categories. A key challenge of the future is applying both old and new forms of perspective in auspicious ways, enabling us to visualise, model, and create a more humane world.

Patently, concerning perspective, there is much to do. Wish us luck! 




-- < LATEST NEWS > --

Thank you for visiting this beta edition of the PRC website, which is under construction. We are working hard to finish this website, and we aim to complete this by July 2023 (Stage A tasks). 

Currently, only around 10 percent of the website text is complete; or 25 sections/topics of about 246 sections/topics, so you can see that it is a fairly big project. Nevertheless, publishing the developing site in an unfinished form; is helpful because it contains novel analytical concepts related to foundational topics in art, science, and technology.

Certain sections of this website will take longer to finish (Stage B tasks); and we aim to complete those sections in 2024-25. Second stage items are Themes, Instruments, Applications, Monograph, Gallery, Museum, Eyes: A User Manual, Documentary  plus Talks. 

We are also investigating how to resurrect Kim Veltman's visionary System For Universal Media Searching (SUMS); whereby the Dictionary / Bibliography / Timeline / Gallery of Perspective can be accessed in a database form.

Please ignore at this stage any menu items (+ sub-pages) labelled with brackets []; as linked pages/tabs have yet to be started. 

In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions.

Alan Radley -- 21st March 2023 --
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Dr Alan Radley FRSA | Scientific Director
alan@perspectiveresearchcentre.com

Perspective Research Centre
www.perspectiveresearchcentre.com