Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science Drift 27, Eetkamer Organized Session
24 Jul 2019 01:30 PM - 03:30 PM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190724T1330 20190724T1530 Europe/Amsterdam Reading, Writing, and Collecting Nature’s Traces

For centuries, people have accumulated natural things and arranged them into collections of examinable, comparable, and combinable specimens to deepen their knowledge of nature. In the last two decades, tracking the pathways of natural things through time, space, and taxonomies has become a popular approach in the historiography of natural history in order to understand this collecting phenomenon. Yet, natural things are also elusive things and the quest to follow them often is one of following their traces-the marks, imprints, indices, fragments, and textual and visual inscriptions-incidentally left behind, preserved, or intentionally created in their wake. Attending to the diverse traces historians rely upon to tell stories about natural things, this panel sheds light on the different forms of traces, their epistemic roles, and the conditions under which they emerge. Specifically, in case studies spanning the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the panel interrogates the various material manifestations traces can assume; the practices, procedures, and sometimes intentions by which traces are generated; and finally, the complex interrelations among traces, natural things, and the knowledge of nature derived from both.

Organized by Anna Toledano

Drift 27, Eetkamer History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

For centuries, people have accumulated natural things and arranged them into collections of examinable, comparable, and combinable specimens to deepen their knowledge of nature. In the last two decades, tracking the pathways of natural things through time, space, and taxonomies has become a popular approach in the historiography of natural history in order to understand this collecting phenomenon. Yet, natural things are also elusive things and the quest to follow them often is one of following their traces-the marks, imprints, indices, fragments, and textual and visual inscriptions-incidentally left behind, preserved, or intentionally created in their wake. Attending to the diverse traces historians rely upon to tell stories about natural things, this panel sheds light on the different forms of traces, their epistemic roles, and the conditions under which they emerge. Specifically, in case studies spanning the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, the panel interrogates the various material manifestations traces can assume; the practices, procedures, and sometimes intentions by which traces are generated; and finally, the complex interrelations among traces, natural things, and the knowledge of nature derived from both.

Organized by Anna Toledano

Traces of the Plant World: How to Read Botanical ProseView Abstract
Organized Session 01:30 PM - 02:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 11:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 12:00:00 UTC
Throughout the 16th century the most influential scholars of the time as well as interested laypeople started collecting, sending, and amassing immense herbaria of plant specimens. In this way, plant specimens gradually gained importance and meaning, being increasingly perceived by naturalists as equivalent to quotations and paper slips. Eventually, herbaria transformed into printed publications, which in turn had to be read in a certain way. As the student of medicine and Italian poet Christoforo Paganelli wrote in one of his dedicatory poems for Andrea Cesalpinoʼs De plantis (1583): “...whether picking up (legens) a fruit of the greening garden, or herbs, or pleasantly smelling little flowers, you want nothing less than to leave.” Keeping in mind the different semantic meanings of legere—picking-up, reading, collecting—introduces an analogy of reading the book like one reads fruits, herbs, and flowers in the garden, thus bearing interesting implications for the readership. In my talk I contrast the very conscious reflections on texts, books, natural things and related practices discussed in the paratexts of Andrea Cesalpinoʼs De plantis and Pier Andrea Mattioliʼs Commentarii (first edition 1550 in Italian) with my findings of inserted natural things and their traces in some remaining copies of these works. This gives us new insights into how readers perceived those two quite different works and their positions on debates over how to write botanical prose as well as into how natural things, their traces, and their textual-visual representations in the printed books interacted with one another.
Presenters Julia Heideklang
Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin
Tracing Things and Knowledge in the Historia Medicinal (1569-74) by Nicolás de MonardesView Abstract
Organized Session 02:00 PM - 02:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 12:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 12:30:00 UTC
The Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias occidentales written by the Spanish naturalist and physician Nicolás de Monardes was published in three parts in the 1560s and ‘70s. The book dealt mainly with medical products from the New World and was widely distributed throughout Europe and the Spanish Empire. Its success was partly due to the author’s way of gathering information and eyewitness reports from the New World. Furthermore, Monardes did not write in Latin, but in his native Spanish, was open-minded towards the medical use of exotic plants, and experimented with different herbs and remedies like other contemporary authors. The success of the first publication brought him many new informants. Their reports and testimonies served as the basis for the second and third parts of the Historia medicinal. The paper explores the question of how things—medicine, drugs, and other natural products—found their way from the East and West Indies to Europe and what kind of knowledge travelled with them. It asks how knowledge about products with medical uses was produced in the New World with the help of indigenous informants and other local actors and how this knowledge was mediated and transmitted by naturalists such as Monardes who maintained a correspondence network with Spanish colonizers and European scholars alike. Thus, the paper contributes to further understanding of the material entanglements between the New World and Europe in the early modern era and the traces thereof in texts, images, and objects.
Presenters Anne Mariss
University Of Regensburg
Material Traces of Faraway Places: Specimens from Colonial New Spain in Madrid’s National Museum of Natural SciencesView Abstract
Organized Session 02:30 PM - 03:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 12:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 13:00:00 UTC
On April 27, 1790, the first natural history museum in New Spain—Spanish territory from California to Guatemala—opened its doors. Its founder, José Longinos Martínez, had arrived in the Americas in 1787 as the taxidermist for the Royal Botanical Expedition, one small part of an immense national scientific undertaking by the Spanish government. While Longinos dedicated his museum to the new king, Charles IV, he established this institution in defiance of the Crown, which had demanded that all natural objects of interest be sent to Madrid. The former King Charles III had sent off scientific expeditions to gather the wonders of nature from his vast empire while simultaneously ordering colonial subjects in the Americas to send anything similar that they found to the court in Europe. Longinos took care to send back some specimens to the Royal Cabinet of Natural History so as not to arouse too much suspicion. Over the centuries, these specimens have become nearly invisible among the countless other animals, plants, and minerals that made the journey across the Atlantic. Drawing on collections-based, museological research in the Royal Cabinet’s modern incarnation, the National Museum of Natural Sciences, this paper will uncover the traces of objects that Longinos sent to Madrid which still survive today. When compared to similar remnants of Longinos’s collection in Mexico City, these difficult-to-find traces in Madrid elucidate what was unique to the rise of 18th-century public natural history collections in Madrid versus New Spain, although both sourced from the same natural materials.
Presenters Anna Toledano
Stanford University
Building Nature’s Archive: The Management of Paper and Specimens in the Berlin Zoological MuseumView Abstract
Organized Session 03:00 PM - 03:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/24 13:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/24 13:30:00 UTC
In the first years of its existence between 1810 and 1815, the Royal Zoological Museum in Berlin processed just over 60 new animal specimens into its collection. In the few years following, this modest number of incoming specimens had exploded into the thousands, such that the museum’s shelves were already running out of room by 1818. New paper technologies needed to be developed to oversee and control the flow of material into, within, and back out of the collection institution. As the museum’s growth rate continued to accelerate, it soon became not only a problem of managing specimens, but also one of managing the “constantly growing mass of paper,” as museum director Martin Hinrich Lichtenstein lamented in 1819. This talk will analyze both the lists, catalogs and inventories designed to trace the movements of specimens as well as the archival infrastructure that Lichtenstein erected to maintain these very paper tools. Moreover, I will contextualize the museum director’s attempts to keep track of both the institution’s objects and its papers within broader shifts in Prussia’s state bureaucracy and archival landscape. By focusing on the transformation of recordkeeping practices in the museum’s early decades, the talk ultimately illuminates how these paper tools and the archive in which they were stored shaped—and still shape—the kinds of knowledge that can be created from collected specimens.
Presenters Anne Greenwood MacKinney
Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
University of Regensburg
Stanford University
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
HPS, University of Cambridge
Ms. Josephine Musil-Gutsch
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Munich
University of Wisconsin-Madison
PhD student, Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ms. Saara I. M. Penttinen
University of Turku
College of William and Mary
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