Irina Tautschnig

Field of Research: Promotion
Frontispiece of Johannes Kepler's Tabulae Rudolphinae  (Ulm 1627) 

Being understandable and convincing was not enough. In an age when science was often satirised as freakish and absurd (G. Lynall, Swift and Science. The Satire, Politics and Theology of Natural Knowledge, 16901730, Basingstoke 2012), scientific authors also had to explain why their results were worthwhile in the first place. The need to do so became even more urgent because print had transformed the book into a marketable commodity and science had to sell. The most important medium to further this aim were paratexts (G. Genette, Seuils, Paris 1987; for Neo-Latin examples, K.A.E Enenkel, Die Stiftung von Autorschaft in der neulateinischen Literatur [c. 13501650]. Zur autorisierenden und wissensvermittelnden Funktion von Widmungen, Vorworttexten, Autorporträts und Dedikationsbildern, Leiden/Boston 2015). Soon, no important book appeared without a number of preliminary elements such as frontispieces, letters of dedication, prefaces to the gentle reader, letters and laudatory poems addressed to the author by friends and colleagues and so forth. Individually, these texts just advertised the book in question. Collectively, they promoted science as a whole. Once again, the necessary tools were provided by the rhetorical tradition, esp. by its prescriptions for the encomium, the speech of praise.

Starting from a disciplinarily, geographically and chronologically balanced selection of major works with a rich paratextual apparatus (e.g. Ch. de l'Ecluse, Rariorum stirpium historia, 1583; F. Viète, Opera mathematica, 1646), the topics of early modern science promotion and the rules which governed its use will be disclosed. Key features to be studied include recurring praiseworthy aspects of science (e.g. hard work, usefulness for society, enhancement of piety through better knowledge of God’s plan), metaphoric descriptions of science (as heroic endeavour, hunting for truth, unveiling of Nature), the depiction of science not only as something novel, but also as a natural continuation of the humanist tradition, and the presentation of important men of science and discoveries as emblematic figures and foundational acts respectively.

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