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The Book as Instrument, 1570–1720

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Duncan Needham.

This richly illustrated talk gives a summary of my current research project, which is an examination of the uses of books in early-modern science. In particular I am hunting for marginalia and other evidence of the ways in which books were read and even handled. Far from being passive stores of information, it is my contention that books could themselves be used as instruments – for doing work in astronomy, mathematics and the new natural philosophy. I will present the results of previous studies in this area alongside some of the more intriguing texts uncovered during the first month of my year’s research at the University Library.

Boris Jardine is the Munby Fellow at the University Library, 2014–15. Before that we was a curator at the Science Museum (London), and has studied history of science at Leeds and Cambridge. His research deals with the long durée history of scientific instrumentation.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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