By explaining how to sire multicolored horses, produce nuts without shells, and create an egg the size of a human head, Giambattista Della Porta's Natural Magic (1559) conveys a fascination with tricks and illusions that makes it a work difficult for historians of science to take seriously. Yet, according to William Eamon, it is in the "how-to" books written by medieval alchemists, magicians, and artisans that modern science has its roots. These compilations of recipes on everything from parlor tricks through medical remedies to wool-dyeing fascinated medieval intellectuals because they promised access to esoteric "secrets of nature." In closely examining this rich but little-known source of literature, Eamon reveals that printing technology and popular culture had as great, if not stronger, an impact on early modern science as did the traditional academic disciplines.
William Eamon is Professor of History at New Mexico State University.
List of Illustrations and TablesAcknowledgmentsNotes on Conventions and UsageIntroduction: Printing, Popular Culture, and the Scientific Revolution3Pt. 1The Literature of Secrets131The Literature of Secrets in the Middle Ages152Knowledge and Power38Pt. 2The Secrets of Nature in the Age of Printing913Arcana Disclosed934The Professors of Secrets and Their Books1345Leonardo Fioravanti, Vendor of Secrets1686Natural Magic and the Secrets of Nature1947The Secrets of Nature in Popular Culture234Pt. 3The "New Philosophy"2678Science as a Venatio2699The Virtuosi and the Secrets of Nature30110From the Secrets of Nature to Public Knowledge319Conclusion351Appendix: Secreti Italiani: Italian Booklets of Secrets, ca. 1520-1643361Abbreviations367Notes369Bibliography431Index481