Monday, November 29, 2010

Notes from "The Jewel House"

Thanks to a class in Tudor-Stuart History, I've been doing some research on science in the early modern period, and apart from the revelation that the Scientific Revolution in England was probably farther along before Oliver Cromwell came along than it was after Charles II chartered the Royal Society, I found some interesting tidbits on bibliography towards the end of Deborah E. Harkness' The Jewel House. I thought I might share...

Though Hugh Plat documented details extensively through his notebooks, he was less eager to do so when publishing his work in print. This is because print publication links the experiments to Plat, and bestows on him the proprietary, and perhaps moral, authorship of the experiments he describes. Where Plat's notebooks describe details with constant references to different ideas, tests, options, and sources, his published work is more refined (236 - 239). Kind of like the difference between this blog and the thesis/edition that will follow.

"By the time an experiment made it into The jewell house, its authenticity came not from its origins with this skilled craftsman or that credible gentleman but from its proven worth" (240).

The practitioners of science in early modern London laid the foundations for modern science, but authors like Plat built the walls that would obscure much of their work (241). Print was a filter for Plat's early modern readers, but it remains one for us today. He attempted to distill the fruits of natural and experimental knowledge form all over London, and in so doing makes it difficult to see the workmen he relied on for technical skill, advice, and information (241).

"Writing published books demanded a dramatically new and different social and cultural identity associated with the emergence of the author as an individual, creative genius. Manuscript culture, with its collaborative, composite character, had long resisted such a distinction. As the Latin root of the word reminds us, to be an author was to wield a specific kind of public authority and to be accountable to your readers for what appeared in print after your name" (241).

Harkness, Deborah E. The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. New Haven: Yale UP. 2007. Print.

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