Anthony Grafton

Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University.

  • Obelisk

    Obelisk

    A History

    Brian A. Curran, Anthony Grafton, Pamela O. Long, and Benjamin Weiss

    The many meanings of obelisks across nearly forty centuries, from Ancient Egypt (which invented them) to twentieth-century America (which put them in Hollywood epics).

    Nearly every empire worthy of the name—from ancient Rome to the United States—has sought an Egyptian obelisk to place in the center of a ceremonial space. Obelisks—giant standing stones, invented in Ancient Egypt as sacred objects—serve no practical purpose. For much of their history their inscriptions, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, were completely inscrutable. Yet over the centuries dozens of obelisks have made the voyage from Egypt to Rome, Constantinople, and Florence; to Paris, London, and New York. New obelisks and even obelisk-shaped buildings rose as well—the Washington Monument being a noted example. Obelisks, everyone seems to sense, connote some very special sort of power. This beautifully illustrated book traces the fate and many meanings of obelisks across nearly forty centuries—what they meant to the Egyptians, and how other cultures have borrowed, interpreted, understood, and misunderstood them through the years. In each culture obelisks have taken on new meanings and associations. To the Egyptians, the obelisk was the symbol of a pharaoh's right to rule and connection to the divine. In ancient Rome, obelisks were the embodiment of Rome's coming of age as an empire. To nineteenth-century New Yorkers, the obelisk in Central Park stood for their country's rejection of the trappings of empire just as it was itself beginning to acquire imperial power. And to a twentieth-century reader of Freud, the obelisk had anatomical and psychological connotations. The history of obelisks is a story of technical achievement, imperial conquest, Christian piety and triumphalism, egotism, scholarly brilliance, political hubris, bigoted nationalism, democratic self-assurance, Modernist austerity, and Hollywood kitsch—in short, the story of Western civilization.

    • Paperback $31.95 £26.00
  • Secrets of Nature

    Secrets of Nature

    Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe

    Anthony Grafton and William R. Newman

    In recent years scholars have begun to acknowledge that the occult sciences were not marginal enterprises but an integral part of the worldview of many of our ancestors. Astrology was one of the many intellectual tools—along with what we consider to be the superior tools of social and political analysis—that Renaissance thinkers used to attack practical and intellectual problems. It was a coherent body of practices, strongly supported by social institutions. And alchemy was not viewed primarily as a spiritual pursuit, an idea popularized by nineteenth-century occultists, but as a part of natural philosophy. It was often compared to medicine.

    Many Renaissance writers suggested links between astrology and alchemy that went beyond the use of astrological charts to determine the best time to attempt alchemical operations. Secrets of Nature shows the many ways in which astrology (a form of divination) and alchemy (an artisanal pursuit concerned with the technologies of minerals and metals) diverge as well as intersect. Overall, it shows how an appreciation of the role of the occult opens up new ways of understanding the past. Topics include the career of Renaissance astrologer Girolamo Cardano and his work on medical astrology, the astrological thinking of Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei, the history of the Rosicrucians and the influence of John Dee, the work of medical alchemist Simon Forman, and an extended critique of the existing historiography of alchemy.

    • Hardcover $58.00
    • Paperback $40.00 £32.00
  • Natural Particulars

    Natural Particulars

    Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe

    Anthony Grafton and Nancy G. Siraisi

    This volume examines the transformation in ways of studying naturethat took place in Western Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenthcenturies.

    This volume examines the transformation in ways of studying nature that took place in Western Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Some of the essays trace particular textual traditions, while others follow the development of scholarly and professional communities. Some concentrate on the internal analysis of primary sources, while others examine the spread of practices to larger groups. Central to all is the search for a context for the increased fascination with nature, and especially with natural particulars—the details of natural forms, plants, and animals—that characterized this period. The essays also discuss how older theories and methods continued to exist; how the renewed study of classical sources introduced new problems and theories into the study of nature; how the structure of disciplines, both old and new, shaped approaches to the natural world; and how the material and practical means of disseminating knowledge helped to shape its content. Recently the history of science in early modern Europe has been both invigorated and obscured by divisions between scholars of different schools. One school tends to claim that rigorous textual analysis provides the key to the development of science, whereas others tend to focus on the social and cultural contexts within which disciplines grew. This volume challenges such divisions, suggesting that multiple historical approaches are both legitimate and mutually complementary.

    Contributors Michael J. B. Allen, Ann Blair, Daniela Mugnai Carrara, Brian P. Copenhaver, Chiara Crisciani, Luc Deitz, Paula Findlen, James Hankins, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, John Monfasani, William Newman, Vivian Nutton, Katharine Park

    • Hardcover $12.75 £10.99
    • Paperback $50.00 £40.00

Contributor

  • The Artificial and the Natural

    The Artificial and the Natural

    An Evolving Polarity

    Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and William R. Newman

    Notions of nature and art as they have been defined and redefined in Western culture, from the Hippocratic writers and Aristotle of Ancient Greece to nineteenth-century chemistry and twenty-first century biomimetics.

    Genetically modified food, art in the form of a phosphorescent rabbit implanted with jellyfish DNA, and robots that simulate human emotion would seem to be evidence for the blurring boundary between the natural and the artificial. Yet because the deeply rooted concept of nature functions as a cultural value, a social norm, and a moral authority, we cannot simply dismiss the distinction between art and nature as a nostalgic relic. Disentangling the cultural roots of many current debates about new technologies, the essays in this volume examine notions of nature and art as they have been defined and redefined in Western culture, from the Hippocratic writers' ideas of physis and technē and Aristotle's designation of mimetic arts to nineteenth-century chemistry and twenty-first century biomimetics. These essays—by specialists of different periods and various disciplines—reveal that the division between nature and art has been continually challenged and reassessed in Western thought. In antiquity, for example, mechanical devices were seen as working “against nature”; centuries later, Descartes not only claimed the opposite but argued that nature itself was mechanical. Nature and art, the essays show, are mutually constructed, defining and redefining themselves, partners in a continuous dance over the centuries.

    Contributors Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Horst Bredekamp, John Hedley Brooke, Dennis Des Chene, Alan Gabbey, Anthony Grafton, Roald Hoffmann, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, William R. Newman, Jessica Riskin, Heinrich Von Staden, Francis Wolff, Mark J. Schiefsky

    • Hardcover $9.75 £7.99