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New work on the "occult" and natural disciplines of the Renaissance. (Review Essay).

Dieter Blume. Regenten des Himmels: astrologische Bilder in Mittelalter und Renaissance. (Studium aus dem Warburg-Haus, Bd. 3.) Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000. x + 309 pp. + 45 color plates + 272 b/w plates. 99.80 EUR. DM 198. ISBN: 3-05-003249-9.

Ornella Pompeo Faracovi. Gli oroscopi di Cristo. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 1999. 192 pp. 13.94 EUR. Pbk. ed. ISBN: 88-317-7290-2.

Anthony Grafton. Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2000. xii + 22 illus. + 284 pp. $37.50 (cl), $16.95 (pbk). ISBN: 0-674-09555-3 (cl), 0-674-00670-4 (pbk).

Anthony Grafton and Nancy Siraisi, eds. Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe. (Dibner Institute Studies in the History of Science and Technology.) Cambridge, MA and London: The MIT Press, 2000. xi + 427 pp. $55. ISBN: 0-262-07193-2.

Zakiya Hanafi. The Monster in the Machine: Magic, Medicine, and the Marvelous in the Time of the Scientific Revolution. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2000. xii + 272 pp. $59.95 (cl), $20.95 (pbk). ISBN: 0-8223-2536-5 (cl), 0-8223-2568-3 (pbk).

Peter Pesic. Labyrinth: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2000. 194 pp. $24 (cl), $13.95 (pbk). ISBN: 0-262-16190-7 (cl), 0-262-66126-8 (pbk).

Urszula Szulakowska. The Alchemy of Light: Geometry and Optics in Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration. (Symbola et Emblemata, Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Symbolism, 10.) Leiden, Boston, and Cologne: Brill, 2000. xii 197 + 51 b/w plates. $112. ISBN: 9-004-11690-7.

Occult traditions of the medieval and Renaissance eras have been the focus of a richly diverse body of scholarship that extends from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present. The study of the "occult" has engaged, in a variety of ways, disciplines that include philosophy, theology, the history of astronomy, anthropology, the history of science, and art history. Until recent decades much of this scholarship embraced an sentialist orientation that conceived the "occult" as a single entity or way of thinking and investigated it in light of more "modern," usually meaning more "rational" outlooks. Late nineteenth-century anthropologists and ethnologists began the study of the "primitive" mentality or the "savage mind" contrasting that to the later development of the "civilized mind"; historians of religion discovered major differences between magic and religion; historians of early modern science distinguished the "occult" from the "scientific," and focused on the latter. Various branches of "occul t" thought occupied students of particular disciplines disproportionately. Historians of chemistry have been particularly concerned to study alchemy, often seeing it as the precursor of their own discipline. Similarly historians of astronomy at times have studied the history of astrology as a discipline of planetary computation and celestial mathematics while ignoring its assumptions about celestial influences on human events. Whatever its particular orientation, scholarly focus on the "occult" led to important textual work, making available critical editions of texts concerning magic, alchemy, astrology, theurgy, and related traditions. This textual work, which is far from completed, has provided essential foundations for further investigation.

More recently scholars have turned away from essentializing and have attempted to understand particular occult traditions on their own terms rather than in the light of modern disciplines. This recent orientation has broadened the field of study. It has encouraged investigation of the internal dynamics and changes within particular disciplines such as astrology or alchemy. It has made even more necessary the textual studies that make critical editions of texts available and provide knowledge of the relationships of one text to another. Understanding a discipline on its own terms includes the necessity of working out its technical dynamics, whether they involve astrological calculations, Neoplatonic number theory, or some other group of techniques. It also requires attention to actors' categories. Such a methodology avoids imposing modern categories and their inevitably anachronistic concepts. As is evident from the books reviewed here, this more contextually attuned work can take many different forms. It incl udes the study of particular themes such as the horoscope of Christ; close readings of specific texts; the study of the thought of single individuals; and the investigation of particular traditions of visual representation.

Dieter Blume's magisterial study Regenten des Himmels comprises a detailed investigation of the images of astrology from the eleventh to the late fifteenth century. Blume revises the approach established in the foundational studies of Aby Warburg, Fritz Saxl, and Erwin Panofsky. Warburg viewed astrology as a continuous tradition from the ancient Babylonians and Greeks through the Indians and Arabs to Europe, and he believed that it created the archetypal foundation of a cultural psychology. Following him, Saxl and Panofsky viewed the pictorial traditions of astrology in the Renaissance in terms of antique reception. Blume proposes instead, that the appearance of astrological images in the eleventh century had little to do with antiquity. Rather, they were bound to particular groups of people and locales of the medieval world, and represented a fresh appropriation of astrological materials, forming an early and decisive stage in the Christianization of the cosmos. Ancient astrological traditions and the techni cal expertise that accompanied them were interrupted in the West essentially because church fathers such as Augustine saw astrology as superstitious folk belief that undermined the Christian notion of free will. Early medieval texts that did treat cosmological and astrological matters such as Macrobius' commentary on the Dream of Scipio or Martianus Capella's On the Marriage of Mercury and Philology, had acquired their information secondhand and treated it allegorically. There was no way that anyone could go from these accounts into the highly technical arena of astrological practice. The ninth-century Carolingian court at Aachen saw a renewal of interest tied to issues of calendar reform and the determination of Easter. The same interests motivated a renewed study of astronomy and astrology in the eleventh century. By the second half of the century, an anonymous south German text, De mundi celestis terrestrisque constitutione, appeared which brought together information on astronomy and astrology. Subsequent astrological texts provided more detailed descriptions of the heavenly bodies and their configurations, and contained illustrations. An immense increase in detailed knowledge occurred with the translation of Arabic treatises on astrology. Translations of Arabic astrological books enriched the learning of the new cathedral schools as well as lay culture in the courts of the nobility.

Blume treats the reception of Arabic astrology in the West in detail, paying attention both to texts and visual images. He discusses Bernard of Sylvester's Cosmographia and its sources, which include Hermann of Carinthia's translation of Ptolemy's Planisphaerium. Bernard described the planets which he thought of as god-like beings ruling over heavenly regions. Although the Cosmographia is not illustrated, it was widely disseminated and was influential in the development of the thirteenth-century astrological tradition. From the Cosmographia, Blume moves to a detailed investigation of several astrological works that come out of the court of the emperor Frederick II in southern Italy. An important example is the astrological text of Georgius Fendulus which contains numerous illustrations. Fendulus compiled much textual material from earlier sources, including the Introductorium in astronomiam, a translation of a treatise by the Arabic author Abu Ma'shar (787-886), an astrologer and mathematician who studied wit h al-Kindi. The great originality of Fendulus' text lies in its numerous images in which the planets are illustrated as kings of the heavens. Blume expands his discussion with an analysis of the learned ambiance of Frederick's court and the astrological work of another of its members, Michael Scotus.

As it moves forward in roughly chronological order, Blume's account remains contextual as it also uses images as primary sources for a narrative history of astrological thought. As the example of Frederick II illustrates, astrology came to be used to reinforce the legitimacy of political power. Astrological images appear in numerous programs in the great halls and churches of the city-states of northern Italy. The frescoes on the walls and ceiling of the Rocca of Angera near Milan, painted around 1280, monumentally display the planetary gods, associating them with the communal victory of Otto Visconti. In the first half of the fourteenth century, astrological programs were painted or sculpted in Padua (the Palazzo della Ragione by Giotto), in Florence (the sculptural reliefs on the campanile by Andrea Pisano, completed in 1334-40), in Siena (in the Sala dei Nove by Ambrogio Lorenzetti between 1337-55), and in the Doge's Palace in Venice (frescoes by Filippo Galendario between 1341 and 1355). Blume discusses t hese and other images in welcome detail using a rich selection of illustrations. The book contains 45 color plates and 272 black and white images.

Humanist thought in Italy included a significant astrological component. Especially influential was the Genealogy of the Gods (ca. 1350) by Giovanni Boccaccio who used astrology to clarify the meanings of particular myths. The strengthened association of myth and astrology exerted a significant influence on fifteenth-century humanist approaches to astrology. Blume's investigations of astrological images in the fifteenth century include detailed study of its use in Medicean Florence; astrology in the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini; and in the Tres riches heures of the Duke Jean du Berry; the uses of astrology in Germany, notably in the calendrical Hausbuch literature; and in the European courts such as that of the Sforza in Milan. He carefully describes the images, whether on walls or in codices, and investigates details of astrological thought as he finds them in specific, often political, contexts. His detailed history of astrological imagery underscores that astrology should not be thought of as a unified di scipline, unchanging over time. Rather, it has its own history which changed from one century to the next and took on specific local meanings. Blume's comprehensive study, grounded in an investigation of both images and texts, will be an indispensable reference for the future study of medieval and Renaissance astrology.

In contrast to Blume's broad canvas, Ornella Pompeo Faracovi focuses on one small aspect of astrology -- the horoscope of Christ. She shows how a seemingly simple notion was actually a complex, evolving concept which reflected developments within the broader history of astrology as a whole. In Gli oroscopi di Cristo, Faracovi deftly summarizes that history to provide the essential intellectual context for her more specialized subject. She treats the writings of Ptolemy, Plotinus' notion of astral signs (the stars do not cause terrestrial events but can be portents for them), and the complex development of Arabic astrology. The notion of the horoscope of Christ begins in the West with the twelfth-century Latin translation of an Arabic work, Kitab-al qiranat (De magnis conjunctionibus) by Abu Ma'shar. The tract presents a vision in which the conjunctions of the superior planets signal stages in the history of the world and announce in particular the birth of the prophets. Thereby, the coming of the prophet Jesu s was signaled by the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn six years before his birth in the first decan of the zodiacal sign of the virgin (Virgo). In the Christian adoption of this account in the pseudo-Ovidian poem, De vetula, and in the writings of Roger Bacon, the conjunction is taken further to signal the supernatural character of the Virgin's conception. Faracovi provides a detailed discussion of Bacon's astrological thought which became important for the establishment of a long-standing alliance between astrology and theology. That alliance culminated in the writings of another key figure, Pierre D'Ailly, whose early fifteenth-century astrological writings she also discusses in detail.

Faracovi points to the variety of ways in which Latin astrological traditions developed. The Arabic transmission of the Ptolemaic Tetrabiblos made available an astrological work that was unconnected to the Stoic astrological fatalism that had always presented difficulties for Christian theology. One result was the development of a naturalistic version of astrology in which planets, climate, meteorological events and the like were investigated without reference to celestial influences. In a quite different approach, astrological medicine utilized a theory of celestial influences on the human organism. Bringing together different strands, the encyclopedic Speculum astronomiae (ca. 1260), probably by Albert the Great, provided a synthesis of Ptolemaic and Arabic astrological traditions and combined them with Christianity. The Speculum astronomiae, which emphasized the importance of conjunctions, would have centuries-long influence.

Yet as Faracovi suggests, the alliance between Christianity and astrology was never a stable entity, nor did it produce a uniform body of thought. The horoscope of Christ at times became only the evocation of the star of Bethlehem which appeared at the birth of Jesus, drawing attention to the image of the beautiful Virgin developed in the shadow of the theory of convergence. In the hands of the Platonist, Marsilio Ficino, conjunctionism lost its hold altogether. Ficino turns to the horoscope of Christ, focusing on his birth date. Influenced by Plotinus, he views the star of Bethlehem as a miraculous sign, not a determining cause. During the same decades, Pico della Mirandola wrote his anti-astrological tracts, basing his opposition precisely on astrology's implicit or explicit determinism which undermined both God's omnipotence and human free will.

Renaissance astrology after Ficino focused not on conjunctionism but on horoscope analysis based on the determination of the time and place of birth. The horoscope of Christ presented the difficulty that the exact time of Jesus' birth, although conventionally placed at midnight on the 24th of December, was recognized as being actually unknown. This inconvenience did not prevent extensive development of the topic. Birth date astrology viewed the horoscope as a method of understanding the individuality and course of life of particular persons. For the physician Girolamo Cardano, the horoscope of Christ reveals his terrestrial life and also the point of contact between divine and human nature. This new vision of Christian astrology drew attacks from theologians. The Counter-Reformation pope, Sixtus V. issued a bull Coeli et terrae in 1586, which stated that knowledge of the future belongs only to God, and that astral divination, being a form of superstition, cannot take the place of moral will.

Faracovi writes the history of the idea of the horoscope of Christ while at the same time providing a substantial introduction to the complex history of medieval and Renaissance astrology. In a relatively short study she is able to show the complexity of the topic, and to demonstrate that there developed in the Latin West, not one astrology, but many. She points to the profound differences between conjunctionism and birth date astrology, and shows that they are only the most significant of the many variations within the larger discipline. She also provides a small selection of relevant primary texts, but unfortunately no general bibliography or index.

In Cardano's Cosmos, Anthony Grafton investigates astrology as it was understood and practiced by a single individual. Girolamo Cardano was a well-known and prolific author, astrologer, mathematician, and physician whose life spanned the first three-quarters of the sixteenth century. Grafton emphasizes both the traditional aspects of astrology and the specific ways in which the discipline was practiced in Italy and Germany. His focus on Cardano allows him to write a coherent account of sixteenth-century astrological practice, authorship, and readership especially as it entailed the construction of genitures and the highly ambiguous pursuit of prognostication. His detailed analysis of some key texts includes Cardano's early prognostication of 1534. Grafton discusses the text itself, places it within the general context of prognostication literature, and suggests some of the technical and political problems that such literature entailed. His discussion of the Libri duo, two short astrological texts, includes a study of Cardano's growing knowledge of astrology and the ways in which he used it. The sixteenth-century polymath explained history itself through astrology and developed genitures or horoscopes of numerous famous people such as the Habsburg emperor Charles V. The horoscope functioned as a kind of gossip column combined with rational analysis in which the characteristic lives and foibles of the great and famous as well as of ordinary people could be ruminated upon and explained.

Grafton skillful adumbrates the specific contexts in which Cardano practiced his astrology. He shows in some detail how the Milanese physician interacted with printers and used the printing press to advance his own career. Cardano's was the first full scale collection of horoscopes to be printed. Thereby he transformed a genre that previously had circulated primarily in manuscript. Grafton investigates the readers of Cardano's books, using as sources the marginal notes in extant copies, for example those penned by Elizabeth I's secretary, Sir Thomas Smith, and by Smith's protege, Gabriel Harvey. He investigates Cardano's relationships with other astrologers and the ways in which they shared information. He also explores their rivalries, particularly that of Cardano and the astrologer, Luca Guarico. Both men, it is interesting to note, went to Germany and attempted to gain fame and reputation in the Protestant north. Astrology was controversial and problematic, but it did not neatly divide between religious li nes. Cardano made numerous horoscopes, creating a new literary form in the process. His subjects included himself. He used astrology to examine and explain his own life, revealing some of its most intimate details in a remarkable autobiographical tract written near the end of his life.

The great strength of Grafton's work is that it provides insight into the actual practices of astrology and the intellectual structures that supported it. By elucidating those practices, Grafton makes understandable the general acceptance of the discipline and its uses in sixteenth-century political, social, and intellectual circles. He shows how astrology was used in printed books, in client patronage relationships, as a form of self-promotion, as a literary form, in medicine, and by readers. He makes the important point that for Cardano, astrology was not deterministic. Cardano himself insisted that the discipline provided many opportunities for error through lack of data or mistaken information, but that other factors also influenced events such as the particular nurture received by individuals and divine will. Astrology, Grafton suggests, encouraged a kind of multifaceted empiricism. It required constant adjustments, revisions, the insertion of new data, and the examination of lives both far afield and cl ose to home.

As a kind of intellectual biography, the book is less successful. By isolating Cardano's astrology from his other pursuits, particularly his medical practice, Grafton does not fully explore the ways in which the Milanese physician integrated or separated astrology from those other practices. Possibly Grafton developed his approach with an eye to the recent appearance of Nancy Siraisi's study of Cardano's medicine, The Clock and the Mirror (1997). But in a sense the success of Grafton's book makes the reader want more -- a fully integrated intellectual biography of this fascinating character who led an eventful, polemical, and in part tragic life and who was a gambler, a mathematician, a physician, an astrologer, and a prolific author. But if Grafton's book is a tease, it is also an important study of astrology as a concrete, somewhat variable mangle of practices that can be fruitfully investigated within specific intellectual and social contexts.

Natural Particulars edited by Anthony Grafton and Nancy Siraisi presents a collection of thirteen essays that were first presented in a workshop, "Renaissance Natural Philosophy and the Disciplines" held at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at M.I.T. in 1995. The collection as a whole provides an unusually informative guide to recent scholarship and current methodologies. In the most general terms, these newer approaches tend to cross disciplinary boundaries including those established by earlier historians of science.

One boundary that has been blurred is the sharp distinction between medieval and Renaissance natural philosophies. Careful studies of the transmission of texts and changing approaches to them, such as Ann Blair's study of the pseudo-Aristotelian Problemata, John Monfasani's treatment of the Problemata and of Aristotle's De animalibus, and James Hankins' study of the Timaeus in the early Renaissance, all pay attention to the role of humanists in the interpretation and transmission of texts. However, humanist scholars are often understood to be reacting and modifying medieval traditions as much as ancient ones. The sense of a medieval body of knowledge separate from that of the Renaissance presented by earlier historians of medieval science has been considerably modified in the last two decades, a development evident in some of these essays.

A second boundary that has been obscured is that between the "occult" and the "scientific." Although Renaissance actors used the term "occult" in a variety of complex ways and although there were significant dissenters from both alchemy and astrology, the opposition of "occult" and "scientific is a modern one that is thoroughly anachronistic for the earlier period. The essays in this collection implicitly recognize that anachronism by ignoring such distinctions. They also take the substantive content of so-called occult traditions and texts seriously, investigating aspects of particular traditions and texts in depth. Examples include William Newman's study of the homunculus in the Paracelsian tradition and its forebears in medieval and Arabic alchemy; Brian Copenhaver's study of the cabala in Pico della Mirandola's writings; Luc Deitz's study of space, light, and soul in a 1591 treatise by the Platonic philosopher, Francesco Patrizi; Michael Allen's analysis of Ficino's "daemonic mathematics and the hypotenus e of the spirit"; and Chiara Crisciani's article on an alchemical text by the physician to the Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy, Guglielmo Fabri. Crisciani emphasizes the importance of the library and of erudition (as opposed to the laboratory) in the formation of fifteenth-century alchemical texts such as Fabri's. These essays represent in-depth studies by well-known scholars. Yet their essays are not summations of work published elsewhere, but consist of substantively new scholarly contributions.

A disciplinary divide that this volume implicitly crosses is that between the history of science and the history of medicine. Of course medicine was a well-established medieval profession and one of the three higher disciplines taught at the universities along with theology and law. Many of the issues concerning medicine and the body in this period are matters highly relevant for historians of science. Essays that might be placed under the rubric of the history of medicine fir perfectly within the volume as a whole. Daniela Mugnai Carrara's essay treats Giovanni Mainardi of Ferrara's humanist analysis of Galen's Ars parva, including his use of Galen to place medicine within the larger epistemological context of the arts and sciences. In an essay on the introduction of Galenism into Tudor England, Vivian Nutton emphasizes the close relationship of medical learning to the other natural sciences and its distance from English natural philosophy. Physicians with one foot in practice were important for the developm ent of empiricism in this period. They also often participated in humanist scholarship, particularly as it entailed the translation and dissemination of the Greek Galen.

Katharine Park particularly emphasizes the development of empirical practices in "Natural Particulars," a fine article on the study of springs and natural baths by fourteenth- and fifteenth-century physicians. She notes that the particulars of the natural world, studied by observation and experimentation, were given short shrift by natural philosophical traditions in the university. Natural philosophers emphasized scientia, that is, universal, certain knowledge based on an analysis of causes. Observational practices developed outside of the universities in conjunction with the practica of physicians. Such practices, Park shows, included the study of various springs which gained great popularity as elite hang-outs and were appreciated for their medicinal qualities. Observational studies included the detailing of the numerous specific qualities of the springs which were highly various, differing from one spring to the next even within the same general location. Careful observations were carried out by physician s such as Giovanni Dondi in the context of ministering to the princes and elite rulers of Italy.

Park's attention to the context of particular practices as well as the substantive content of texts points to another boundary line within the discipline of the history of science that is traversed by this collection, namely that which divides those who study texts minutely and those who study context. As the editors suggest in their introduction, the volume as a whole represents a third way between the polemical poles of those who conceive the history of science as the study of scientific theories and ideas in themselves, and those who emphasize the study of context. The third way insists that the study of both is essential. The two final essays of the volume point to the virtues of that methodological approach. Paula Findlen discusses the formation of a scientific community entailing natural history in sixteenth-century Italy. She particularly emphasizes the study of botany. She focuses on the hugely popular writings of Pier Andrea Mattioli whose commentary on Dioscorides helped to establish botany as a dis cipline independent of medicine. Findlen details Mattioli's relationships with Ulisse Aldrovandi and other naturalists in Italy and Europe. Her study focuses on a community of naturalists and also concerns the ways in which Mattioli himself and his contemporaries conceived the "botanical republic." Finally she investigates Mattioli's detractors. She uses the richly informative prefaces and dedicatory letters of successive commentaries and other writings to reconstruct a community that constituted the crucible for the emerging discipline of botany. She suggests that the discipline initially developed within an Italian and Catholic cultural milieu in the sixteenth century. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann in a summary essay emphasizes that Italy today was not Italy of the sixteenth century and that the Habsburg empire was also significant for the development of the botanical community. He also points to the visual arts as significant to the development of natural history -- a topic not treated in the volume.

Indeed, the papers as a whole cannot be said to represent the full range of work being done in Renaissance history of science. Astronomy and the mathematical arts are missing as are the mechanical arts, mechanics, and engineering. The visual arts, increasingly a focus of attention by historians of science, make no appearance until Kaufmann's final essay. Yet these essays point to the rich complexity of new work in the history of the scientific Renaissance, as well as to the broad range of work being undertaken. Collectively they demonstrate that the traditional boundaries initially drawn by early historians of science are being obscured and obliterated by substantive historical work. The high quality of the individual articles are a tribute to the authors and also to the two eminent historians who organized the initial workshop and edited the volume. It must be said however that the word "particulars" in the title may inadvertently point to a broader issue that has some negative implications. As work focuses on the substantive issues within numerous early texts, whether or not by canonical figures in the history of science, the rich base of primary source material is being investigated more seriously and extensively than ever before. Yet the average person on the street has heard of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton, and would probably endorse study of these figures even if they may know few specific details. The same recognition level is not available for Pier Andrea Mattioli, Francesco Patrizi, or Guglielmo Fabri. Similarly, general readers who understand the importance of studying anatomy, heliocentrism, or the idea of force and gravity, might only blink in disbelief at a discussion of the hypotenuse of the spirit, of the "upright Tsade" (in Copenhaver's article), and may fail to understand the importance of the extensive study of encyclopedism, or of commentaries on Galen's Ars parva. As historians of Renaissance science cultivate a richly expanded garden of particulars, they will have to make ever greater effo rts to relate those particulars one to another, and to explain the importance and interest of their work to a broader audience. Otherwise a wide ranging nominalism and localism will produce a shrinking community of readers and ultimately, actors, within the community that makes up the history of the sciences in the Renaissance.

A prominent theme in some of the recent historiography of early modern science focuses on wonder, the marvelous, and the monstrous. A recent contribution to this genre is the specialist in Italian literature Zakiya Hanafi's The Monster in the Machine. Hanafi provides a detailed discussion of the idea of monstrosity between 1500 and 1750 and suggests that the monster became a machine -- that monstrosity and mechanization became associated with one another in the seventeenth century. Hanafi takes the reader through a substantial number of primary texts including those of Giovan Battista Della Porta, Descartes, Harvey, and Vico, devoting a chapter to the latter. Her analysis includes treatment of monstrous matter, monstrous births, demonology physiognomy, the mechanical body, wonder as evidenced by a number of primary texts, and the metaphorical uses of monstrosity. A chapter on Vico's polemic against Cartesianism, the strongest of the book, offers an insightful discussion of Vico's view of the body (including h is own) and suggests connections between the mechanized body, monstrosity, and a monstrous body politic. In general however, Hanafi's far-ranging explication of primary texts is not matched by a sufficiently coherent theoretical or historical conceptualization, or by adequate attention to recent scholarship that directly treats many of the topics that are central to her own study. She discusses demonology without Stuart Clark's Thinking with Demons (1997), automation without Otto Mayr's Authority, Liberty, and Automatic Machinery in Early Modern Europe (1986); machines and Kunstkammern without Horst Bredekamp's The Lure of Antiquity and the Cult of the Machine (1995); microscopy without Catherine Wilson's The Invisible World(1995); and Descartes' physiology without Dennis Des Chene's Physiologia (1996). Although her bibliography lists articles by Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, it may be that her book was too far into production to consider Wonders and the Order of Nature (1998), a model study that treats similar topics with coherence and lucidity. Hanafi's disregard of relevant scholarship is not an issue of mere window-dressing, but is symptomatic of broader problems. Although she discusses a large number of primary texts, it is often unclear how one text is related to another, or what she is specifically arguing. Her citations and summarizations of these texts often end in aphoristic-like statements which do nor seem well supported by the primary material. The result is a work that is often scattered and hard to follow, and in the end does not convince the reader of its stated themes.

While monstrosity is a theme that appears in a variety of different contexts, alchemy was a well-established discipline, even though it had not been accepted into the curricula of the universities. The Alchemy of Light by Urszula Szulakowska investigates in detail one aspect of alchemy, namely the notion of the divinity and power of light in aichemical and pietist religious circles in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The study focuses on alchemical imagery that developed around notions of the generative and redemptive power of light. Szulakowska correctly points out that far more work has been devoted to alchemical texts than to alchemical images. She utilizes semiotic theory in her analysis, especially that of the philosopher, Charles Pierce. She stresses the differences between text and image and urges that the two forms be viewed separately -- as "autonomous dialects of the same language," requiring different analytical approaches. Specifically, the alchemical images that she treats are, she suggests, "indexical," that is, they do not merely copy but restructure the physical world "by forcing a continuum between the viewer's space and that of the picture." The visual structure of such "metonymic-indexical images" is the essence of its meaning. Alchemical illustrations, she claims, usurped "the rransmutatory function of the philosopher's stone"(2-5).

Szulakowska provides background material on geometry and astrology, medieval optics, artists' perspective, and Paracelsian alchemy. (In any subsequent edition, her mistaken conflation of Francesco Giorgi, author of De harmonia mundi, and the Sienese architect Francesco di Giorgio should be corrected.) She focuses primarily on four figures, John Dee, Heinrich Khunrath, Michael Maier, and Robert Fludd. She explicates aspects of the thought of these men relevant to alchemical imagery, and discusses select images in detail. Her focus on imagery includes treatment of particular concepts relevant to representation such as John Dee's concept of "zographie," a form of perspective understood to depict eternal ideas in the mind of God. At the center of her investigation is Heinrich Khunrath (1560-1605), a physician who served in several central European courts, including Prague. In three influential treatises, Khunrath developed an extensive "alchemy of light" influenced by cabalism. Especially important was Khunrath's Amphiteatrum sapientiae aeternae of 1595 and its subsequent editions. Szulakowska pays special attention to the illustration "Oratory-Laboratory," an image in the Amphiteatrum executed by the artist, Jan Vredeman de Vries. She discusses the context of late Renaissance alchemy in terms of the complex religious situation of the late sixteenth century, and the shifting alliances among key actors, including the four that constitute her main focus. As she indicates, some of the details of these relationships are not agreed upon by specialists. In what will certainly be an on-going scholarly discussion, this book is a welcome addition especially because of its focus on the complex and understudied alchemical images of the late Renaissance.

Finally, Peter Pesic's Labyrinth is as much a meditation as a work of history. It consists of a series of loosely connected essays that explore the ethos of discovery, the sense of wonder and mystery which have accompanied investigations of the "secrets of nature." Pesic discusses the De magnete by William Gilbert; writings on myth by Francis Bacon; Bacon's New Atlantis; Kepler's Mysterium cosmographicum; and the thought of Isaac Newton. He ends with an essay on Albert Einstein. In each case he concentrates not so much on particular discoveries per se, as on sentiments about discovery and attitudes toward it. He intertwines three themes which he describes as a triple fugue: the struggle to discover the secrets of nature, the burning, almost erotic desire to investigate those secrets, and the role of mathematics in discovery. He explores the connections between late Renaissance advances in cryptography and the development of parallel views about deciphering the mysteries of the cosmos and of the world. Particu larly important is the cryptographic work of Francois Viete, an important figure in the invention of algebra as well as cryptography. Pesic writes insightfully concerning Bacon's use of myths such as those of Proteus and Pythagoras. His approach is one that tends to universalize rather than to investigate particular contexts or local meanings. In the earlier essays he frequently uses the anachronistic term "scientist" to describe men such as Gilbert and Bacon, even while his handung of the texts of these men reveals a fine-tuned sensitivity to their particular rhetorical and metaphorical language that very much derives from their own times. These elegantly written essays will appeal as much to non-specialists as to professional historians of science.

Collectively these books display both the vigor of current studies on the natural and occult disciplines of the Renaissance and also their interdisciplinary orientation. Art history, the history of science and medicine, intellectual history, and literature are represented here, not as encapsulated disciplines but in studies that for the most part approach Renaissance cultural and intellectual life on its own terms. Important Renaissance disciplines such as astrology and alchemy are studied not so much in the light of modern developments but as Renaissance people understood and practiced them. Natural history has gained a new importance as a subject worthy of detailed study. Attention is being given to textual studies; to the study of images; to surrounding cultures -- professional, social, political, and religious; and to readership. The rich spectrum of topics and the interdisciplinary approaches represented here point to the on-going vitality of the field.

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Author:Long, Pamela O.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2002
Previous Article:Patricia Hochschild Labalme, 1927-2002.
Next Article:Crossing disciplines: recent contributions of literary scholarship to early modern English history. (Review Essay).

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