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Travelling texts: notes on early modern geography and Hebraism

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In recent decades the study of early modern geography has taken a fruitful humanist turn. We now understand better the mechanisms of textual transmission, translation, and appropriation that shaped much of the geographical knowledge at the time. Scholars, for understandable reasons, concentrated so far on the classical tradition and its central role in this process. My work highlights another group of sources that has so far received little or no notice in this context: medieval Hebrew travel texts and related materials, which became more accessible to Christian readers once they appeared in print during the sixteenth century. In my talk I will look at a few notable early modern Christian Hebraists (such as Benito Arias Montano, Gilbert Génébrard, Sebastian Münster, J.H. Hottinger) and examine these scholars’ various engagements with these seemingly outdated Hebrew travel tales. What, I ask, was the significance of these texts for members of the republic of letters during an age of new geographical and religious discoveries?

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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