Maria Avxentevskaya

Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow (Jul 2019-Sep 2021)


Maria Avxentevskaya is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and her main research interests concern the pre-modern history of scientific humanism, translation, and communication. She received her doctoral degree from the Freie Universität Berlin (2015, with distinction) for her dissertation entitled “How to discover things with words? John Wilkins: from inventio to invention.” Her research has been supported by Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, and Herzog August Bibliothek.

Maria’s current book project entitled “The Physician’s Album Amicorum: Humanist Cultures of Knowledge Networking” explores the practices associated with the genre of medical “travelling friendship books,” cabinets of curiosity on paper—handwritten compilations of notes, quotes, drawings and prints. Humanist networking existed alongside the ars apodemica, “the art of learned travel,” and the albums were protected from the vulnerabilities of travel with embossed bindings and cases. Nowadays they offer abundant evidence of the intellectual networks within the medical and artisanal cultures of early modernity. This study employs cutting-edge technologies for network visualization. 

Maria’s second project entitled “Learned in Translation: Administering the Early Russian Empire” examines the production of bureaucratic knowledge through language reforms and technical translation under Tsar Peter I of Russia, a reputed reformer of the early Russian state. The study examines individual cognitive tasks in translation, the normative documents based on translations from German and Dutch, and governmental practices which employed translated legal terminology. By reconstructing Petrine complex endeavor in translation between languages, technologies, and administrative models, this research seeks clarify what was learned in this translation, and to explore the phenomenon of linguistic sustainability in producing knowledge from experience, across cultures, and along historical timelines.


Experience in Translation: Making Sense of Nature in the Premodern World


Premodern History of Signification: Putting Experiences into Words, Images, and Signs


The Physician's Album Amicorum: Humanist Cultures of Knowledge Networking


Translatability and Innovation: Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia (1544) in Translation between Languages, Media, and Practices


Past Events

Digital Humanities Workshop

Open Access

Premodern Conversations Series

Géraud de Cordemoy on the Cartesian Theory of Animal Machines and the Use of Scripture


News & Press

Article by Postdoctoral Fellow Maria Avxentevskaya for The Conversation reprinted in MaxPlanckForschung


Summer 2018 Lecture Series in the “History of Knowledge” Announced