Science and the Renaissance - Vol. 1

Science and the Renaissance - Vol. 1

Science and the Renaissance - Vol. 1

Science and the Renaissance - Vol. 1

Excerpt

That the 'problem of the Renaissance' is still with us probably few historians would deny. On the one hand it is still possible to find writers of repute seriously affirming that at a certain fairly well defined epoch the winds of Hellas set in a westerly direction and swiftly dispersed the fog which had maintained for a millennium the Dark Night of Europe's intellectual Soul. At the opposite pole the opinion is held that the 'so-called' Renaissance is merely an arbitrary fiction which has for too long obscured the vision of the unenlightened from the 'modern' achievements of the Middle Ages. The history of science has been one of the worst sufferers from this confusion. We are just as likely to be told that 'with the discovery of the Greek classics towards the end of the fifteenth [sic] century' science was 'free' to throw off the bonds of 'scholasticism', as to learn with some surprise that Francis Bacon, so far from being the 'founder' of modern science, was a 'typical medieval'. No apology, therefore, seems to be called for in respect of the matter of this book; but as to the form, if not an apology, at least an explanation, is in order.

The corpus of sixteenth-century works relating to the sciences in the University Library at Aberdeen is of special interest for two reasons. The University itself was founded in 1494, just at the time when (so it has been alleged) the fog began to clear; and a considerable proportion of the books bear the signatures, and often the glosses, of men who strove in the battle of ideas at a time when the 'modern' lines of scientific development were far from having been firmly laid down. Thus it came about that in 1951 this work had its origin in a proposal to the Library Committee that a catalogue raisonnée should be prepared of all such books, especially in view of the fact that they are dispersed in various special collections, which are not likely to be discovered except by someone whose studies take him into the obscurest penetralia of the Library. The remarkably representative character of the collections revealed by a more thorough search suggested the possibility of a work on a more ambitious scale, such as might . . .

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