Design for a Machine, French, eighteenth century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elisha Whittelsey Collection, Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1962.


Volume XIV, Number 1 | winter 2021


According to the Roman biographer Suetonius, the emperor Vespasian declined to use a labor-saving hoist in his construction projects. “To a mechanical engineer who promised to transport some heavy columns to the capitol at small expense, he gave no mean reward for his invention,” Suetonius writes, “but refused to make use of it, saying, ‘You must let me feed my poor commons.’  ”

Machines seem to sense that I am afraid of them. It makes them hostile.

—Sharyn McCrumb, 1990