Arts of Memory in Early Modern Europe

The Arts of Memory

Rhodri Lewis

Rhodri Lewis's research project was concerned with the reception and development of the classical arts of memory (mnemotechnics), principally in northern Europe, in the years from about 1500–1700. Initially, mnemotechnics—a core component of Scholastic intellectual life—were treated with hostility by humanist scholars, educators, and natural philosophers who defined. But by the beginning of the seventeenth century, mnemotechnics had begun to woven into the fabric of intellectual life once again. The works of Bacon were a convenient and useful index of this shift. Building on his study of Baconian attempts to realise an artificial language that would bring together the sensible and intellective worlds, Rhodri Lewis sought to explore the way in which mnemotechnics was approached as a set of tools through which one might accurately represent, and think about, the natural world. Memory was one of the internal senses and, as the preface to Hooke’s Micrographia famously suggests, if an external sense such as vision could be remedied with eyeglasses, telescopes of microscopes, then it might be possible to remedy an internal sense like the memory in a similar way.

  • “‘The best mnemonicall expedient’: John Beale’s Art of Memory and its Uses”, The Seventeenth Century 20 (2005), 113-44.
  • “A Babel off Broad Street: Artificial Language Planning in 1650s Oxford”, History of Universities 19 (2005), 108-45.
  • “Of Origenian Platonisme: Joseph Glanvill on the Pre-Existence of Souls” (MPI pre-print No. 297), in: Huntington Library Quarterly 69 (2006), forthcoming.
  • “The Enlightenment”, in: The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology, eds. David Jasper and Elisabeth Jay, Oxford University Press (2006).
  • Language, Mind and Nature: Artificial Languages in England, Bacon to Locke, Cambridge University Press (forthcoming, early 2007).