Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture

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Princeton University Press, 1996 - History - 490 pages
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By explaining how to sire multicolored horses, produce nuts without shells, and create an egg the size of a human head, Giambattista Della Porta's Natural Magic (1559) conveys a fascination with tricks and illusions that makes it a work difficult for historians of science to take seriously. Yet, according to William Eamon, it is in the "how-to" books written by medieval alchemists, magicians, and artisans that modern science has its roots. These compilations of recipes on everything from parlor tricks through medical remedies to wool-dyeing fascinated medieval intellectuals because they promised access to esoteric "secrets of nature." To popular readers of the early modern era, they offered a hands-on, experimental approach to nature that made scholastic natural philosophy seem abstract and sterile. In closely examining this rich but little-known source of literature, Eamon reveals that printing technology and popular culture had as great, if not stronger, an impact on early modern science as did the traditional academic disciplines. Medieval interest in the secrets of nature was spurred in part by ancient works such as Pliny's Natural History. As medieval experimenters adapted ancient knowledge to their changing needs, they created their own books of secrets, which expressed the uncritical, empiricist approach of popular culture rather than the subtle argumentation of scholastic science. The crude experimental methodology advanced by the "professors of secrets" became for the "new philosophers" of the seventeenth century a potent ideological weapon in the challenge of natural philosophy.
  

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Haven't read this yet but Preston thought it may be relevant to your work. You might also look at: Tebeaux, Elizabeth. "Books of Secrets - Authors and Their Perception of Audience in Procedure Writing ... Read full review

Contents

Printing Popular Culture and the Sc
3
THE LITERATURE OF SECRETS
13
The Literature of Secrets in the Middle Ages
15
Knowledge and Power
38
THE SECRETS OF NATURE IN THE AGE OF PRINTING
91
Arcana Disclosed
93
The Professor of Secrets and Their Books
134
Leonardo Fioravanti Vendor of Secrets
168
Science as a Venatio
269
The Virtuosi and the Secrets of Nature
301
From the Secrets of Nature of Public Knowledge
319
CONCLUSION
351
Secreti Italian Italian Booklets of Secrets ca 15201643
361
ABBREVIATIONS
367
NOTES
369
BIBLIOGRAPHY
431

Natural Magic and the Secrets of Nature
194
The Secrets of Nature in Popular Culture
234
THE NEW PHILOSOPHY
267

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