Evening News: Optics, Astronomy, and Journalism in Early Modern Europe

By Eileen Reeves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Rapid Transport

The preceding chapters have been devoted to the hyperbolic impressions of optics and of astronomy that emerged in the first decades of the seventeenth century and served to evoke, if not to explain, the sudden availability and wide range of news from remote regions. All are predicated on a more or less stationary consumer, variously confronted with rumors of a Jesuit empire so extensive that it included the moon, with tales of news that seems to come before the event, with improbable presentations of Galileo as a gazzettante, and with depictions of dark rooms asserting and undermining the elusive ideal of the timely transfer of current information. While the newsreader’s telescopic perspective is unavoidable, it would be misleading to suggest that this relatively immobile audience was at once so sedentary and so unimaginative as to overlook the importance of the physical transportation of news.1 This concluding chapter examines that interest.

The conventional narrative of new events and instruments implies that the story always outstrips the particular incident, object, or person involved, proliferating wildly and producing a tale much more complex than whatever or whoever prompted it. Matters are necessarily otherwise when transport itself constitutes the novelty. In the case of the items under scrutiny here—an amphibious carriage known as the zeilwagen or “sailing chariot,” and its descendant, the English mail-coach—the story changes from one of the news of the new or newish invention, where tale and vehicle proceed apace, to a fantasy of pure velocity, and one in which news is effectively left far behind the carrier.


The Latest News

The zeilwagen turns up in a number of early modern texts and images: it is described in Latin and Dutch poems, a journal, travel narratives involving

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Evening News: Optics, Astronomy, and Journalism in Early Modern Europe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Jesuits on the Moon 29
  • Chapter 2 - Medici Stars and the Medici Regency 57
  • Chapter 3 - Galileo Gazzettante 101
  • Chapter 4 - Cameras That Don’t Lie 135
  • Chapter 5 - Cameras That Do 165
  • Chapter 6 - Rapid Transport 206
  • Conclusion 231
  • Notes 235
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 303
  • Acknowledgments 307
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