Fabian Krämer

Ulisse Aldrovandi, Francis Bacon, and the Use of Paper Technology in Renaissance Natural History

Fabian Krämer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Discussant: Valentina Puligano, University of Cambridge

The Bolognese natural historian Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) attracted a considerable amount of attention over the past generation of scholarship in the history of science. His printed encyclopaedia of zoology, his museum, his library, and his collection of drawings have all been studied more or less extensively. Yet his note taking practices have not been analysed in any greater detail. This paper is meant to help fill in this blank, and it will allow me raise a few questions that have come up over the course of my research.

The Pandechion Epistemonicon, Ulisse Aldrovandi’s extant manuscript encyclopaedia indicates that Renaissance naturalists did not apply the humanist jack-of-all-trades, the commonplace book, in their own field without sometimes considerably altering its outlook. Over many years Aldrovandi tested and combined different techniques to arrive at the form of paper technology that he considered to be the most fit for his purposes. The end result of these efforts and the language he uses to describe his method display some remarkable and significant similarities to Francis Bacon’s description and use of paper technology in natural history that merit discussion. 

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