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Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750

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Overview

Winner of the History of Science Society's Pfizer Prize"This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objects of natural inquiry is simultaneously an intellectual history of the orders of nature. A history of wonder as a passion of natural inquiry is simultaneously a history of the evolving collective sensibility of naturalists. Pursued in tandem,these interwoven histories show how the two sides of knowledge, objective order and subjective sensibility, were obverse and reverse of the same coin rather than opposed to one another."— From the IntroductionWonders and the Order of Nature is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects,to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions—these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers,lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy,and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimes inflamed,sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.

Zone Books

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Historians of science Daston (Harvard) and Park's (Max Planck Inst.) sweeping investigation into the place of wonder and wonders in natural philosophy and history—from the High Middle Ages to the Enlightenment—is dense with erudition and pleasingly light on its scholarly feet. The era covered here starts with the gathering abundance of travel narratives and bestiaries and lapidaries, and goes through the ontological gerrymanderings of Bacon, Newton, and Descartes. It was during the 12th century, Daston and Park make abundantly clear, when early travel narratives and encyclopedias spread the word of strange and wondrous things to be found in the outlands, that unfamiliar objects and counterintuitive phenomena—visceral and vertiginous—began to hover at the edge of scientific inquiry, defining borders, goading further study. And for the next six centuries, except for a few moments of ridicule and rejection, wonders were embraced by natural philosophers and historians as sources of pleasure and delight, as wellsprings for curiosity; treasured by royalty and the court as unmediated contacts with another world, possession of which meant one was noble and cultivated, as rare and marvelous as the objects themselves. The authors situate wonders in the circular mental map of medieval geography, which had the wildest of the wilds at the margins and the Mediterranean at the center. They also detail the contexts that set the tone for the reception wonders had from the powers that were—the court, the Christian religious orders, the universities. That reception modulated between adulation and disdain as first rational explanation and then the search for universals, regularity,and causal knowledge took hold in a world that now took its cues from the secular and the empirical. An informed and original look at the role of wonder during a time when there was a whole lot to wonder about. (114 b&w illustrations, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780942299908
  • Publisher: Zone Books
  • Publication date: 5/8/1998
  • Pages: 512

Meet the Author

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin,Germany. She is the coauthor of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 and the editor of Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (both Zone Books).

Katharine Park's book Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (Zone Books, 1998), coauthored with Lorraine Daston, won the Pfizer Prize for the best book in the history of science. She is Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Preface 9
Introduction: At the Limit 13
I The Topography of Wonder 21
II The Properties of Things 67
III Wonder Among the Philosophers 109
IV Marvelous Particulars 135
V Monsters: A Case Study 173
VI Strange Facts 215
VII Wonders of Art, Wonders of Nature 255
VIII The Passions of Inquiry 303
IX The Enlightenment and the Anti-Marvelous 329
Epilogue 365
Photo Credits 369
Notes 373
Bibliography 451
Index 499
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