In early modern Europe, knowledge was a commodity – bought, sold and collected. It was also vastly expanding both through the exploration and colonization of the “new world” and through developments in science broadly termed “the scientific revolution”. “Natural knowledge”, meaning scientific knowledge, medical knowledge and knowledge about the natural world, was of particular importance in this period. It was printed, published, discussed in royal societies, collected in reports, sent in private letters and collected in personal commonplace or recipe books.
This panel will explore the networks along which this knowledge travelled and the forms and functions that such knowledge took. It will map out why particular kinds of knowledge were circulated in particular ways and to particular people. It will also examine how knowledge was put in particular forms to serve particular purposes, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Sam Boss’s paper will examine descriptions of flora and fauna in New France as they appeared in the Jesuit Relations. These reports were circulated in France itself and served a role in promoting the Jesuits’ missionary work in the new world.
Daphna Oren-Magidor’s paper will examine the circulation of medical knowledge in late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century England, as it appears in the personal recipe books of aristocratic women. It will discuss the ways in which these women created a medical network that also involved physicians, midwives and others.
Carol Pal's paper will analyze the publication practices of the Hartlib circle in the seventeenth-century republic of letters. Focusing on the texts that emerged in multiple formats under the intellectual brand name of "Hartlib," it emphasizes the complex interplay of form and function in the circulation of scientific knowledge.
Together these three papers offer a broad view of the circulation of natural knowledge in various parts of early modern Europe, focusing on three different kinds of knowledge, meant to serve three different purposes, and circulated to three different networks. The panel will thus allow a more sweeping view of how and why people in early modern Europe chose to circulate particular kinds of knowledge in particular ways and to particular audiences.