"So long, and thanks for all the fish": Reflections on Early Modern Natural History - 2.11.2018

Master Class with Prof. Anthony Grafton (Princeton)

In this class, we will examine documents created by two sixteenth century experts on natural history, Conrad Gessner and John Caius, as they exchanged information about animals and fish. I will present the group with a series of texts (in Latin, with translations) and images, and we will work through them systematically. One goal of the exercise will be to establish the ways in which the two men went about making knowledge about nature—and, more specifically, the ways in which they identified reliable sources for natural knowledge. As background reading I would suggest. Another will be to ask questions about the nature of philology as a method for making knowledge about the natural world.


Please read following texts in advance:

W.B. Ashworth, “Natural History and the Emblematic World View,” Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, ed. David Lindberg and Robert Westman (Cambridge, 1990), 303-32

Anthony Grafton, “Philological and Artisanal Knowledge Making in Renaissance Europe: A Study in Cultures of Knowledge,” History of the Humanities 3, 1 (2018), 39-55

Anthony Grafton, “Humanist Philologies: Texts, Antiquities and Their Transformations in the Early Modern West,” in World Philology, ed. Sheldon Pollock, Benjamin A. Elman, and Ku-ming Kevin Chang (Cambridge, MA, 2015), 154–77, 360–62

When & Where

Friday, 2nd November 2018 - 9.30 am - 1.00 pm, Seminar Room 4. A lunch will follow.

You are also invited to participate to Anthony Grafton's lecture "Die Renaissance entdeckt das frühchristliche Rom" (Basel History Lecture, 1st November 2018, 6-8 pm, Aula Kollegienhaus)


Anthony Thomas Grafton is one of the foremost historians of early modern Europe and the current Henry Putnam University Professor at Princeton University. He was awarded with the Balzan Prize for History of the Humanities. His many books include Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship (1983), Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in the Age of Science, 1450-1800 (1991), Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance (2000),What Was History?: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (2006) and (with Joanna Weinberg) "I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue": Isaac Casaubon, The Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (2011).


All participants are invited to register no later than 19th October 2018 via this form.

PhD students of the University of Basel who would like to get 1 credit point must register additionally via MOnA no later than 15th October 2018.