Roger Bacon and the Origins of Perspectiva in the Middle Ages: A Critical Edition and English Translation of Bacon's Perspectiva with Introduction and Notes

Roger Bacon and the Origins of Perspectiva in the Middle Ages: A Critical Edition and English Translation of Bacon's Perspectiva with Introduction and Notes

Roger Bacon and the Origins of Perspectiva in the Middle Ages: A Critical Edition and English Translation of Bacon's Perspectiva with Introduction and Notes

Roger Bacon and the Origins of Perspectiva in the Middle Ages: A Critical Edition and English Translation of Bacon's Perspectiva with Introduction and Notes

Synopsis

David Lindberg presents the first critical edition of the text of Roger Bacon's classic work Perspectiva, prepared from Latin manuscripts, accompanied by a facing-page English translation, critical notes, and a full study of the text. Also included is an analysis of Bacon's sources, influence, and role in the emergence of the discipline of perspectiva.

Excerpt

My first paper as a graduate student in history and philosophy of science, for Edward Grant's seminar in the autumn of 1961, was based on Roger Bacon Perspectiva. I chose the topic not out of an educated estimate of its intrinsic merit, but because I knew that I had to produce something quickly, because it seemed to me that Bacon's theory of vision had never been fully understood, and because I knew something about modern optics. It did not occur to me at the time that this treatise might become a life-time preoccupation.

In the intervening years, I have touched frequently upon Bacon's career. What has made Bacon a fascinating object of study is, first, his critical position as a transitional figure, near the beginning of the medieval European assimilation of the riches of the newly translated scientific literature from Greek and Arabic. Even more important in stirring my interest, however, were the radically different estimates of Bacon's achievement among nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians, which posed a particularly inviting historiographic challenge. in short, what interested me was not Bacon's alleged modernity, but the fact that the imputation of such a remarkable attribute was so widely reported and believed. I took it as a given that Bacon was a representative of thirteenth-century social, religious, and philosophical currents, rather than a precursor of modern ones. the challenge was to examine the man, his career, and his ideas in medieval context.

I have examined (I can't resist the pun) several sides of Bacon, including his philosophy of nature, his campaign on behalf of mathematical studies, and his larger attempt to rescue the new, recently inherited scientific learning as a whole from its critics by demonstrating its religious value and assuring his audience of its willingness to serve as the obedient handmaiden of the church. But I have especially investigated Bacon's work on the science that he commanded better than any other--perspectiva or optics. a number of studies have emerged from these investigations, including a critical edition and translation of Bacon De multiplicatione specierum and De speculis comburentibus (1983). It occurred to me several years ago that before I abandon studies of Bacon's optics in order to work on other projects, I ought to apply this long apprenticeship to the replacement of Bridges' faulty Latin edition of the Perspectiva and Burke's frequently unintelligible English translation. This volume is the product of those reflections.

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