Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0006112, Tue, 7 Aug 2001 16:48:50 -0700

reference to a "van Veen" (fwd)
From: Beau Shaw <bs499@nyu.edu>

I'm an archaeology student at New York University, and also a lover of
Nabokov fiction, and came across this passage, in a book about the history
of technology, including the full name of the character in "Ada":

"The final work mentioned here deals with the war engines of classical
antiquity. It is a very late sixteenth-century book titled Poliorecticon
sive de machinis tormentis. Written by the Belgian scholar and professor at
Leiden and Louvain, Justus Lipsius, it was first published in 1596. The
Library has the 1599 edition, published by Plantin. This treatise not only
describes the machines used by the ancients both for attack and for defense
of fortified places, but it also contains forty-four engravings (sixteen
full-page and twenty-eight half-page) attributed to Otto Venius or Otto van
Veen, teacher to Peter Paul Rubens. The engravings provide heavily detailed
pictures of all sorts of battering rams, catapults, ballistae, and sling

(A ballistae, if anyone was wondering, was something of an automatic bow and
arrow, attached horizontally to the top of a tall, moving, square platform.
It was used by both classical Greek and Roman armies.)

What this Renaissance engraver has to do with the fictional character, I
don't know, but, obviously, it is worth noting that he was working on a

Beau Shaw