The Study of Nature and the Royal Library of San Lorenzo of the Escorial

Maria M. Portuondo, Johns Hopkins University

Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science, Regional Colloquium

Friday, November 19, 2010 - 3:00pm

Butterfly Gallery, The Academy of Natural Sciences, 19th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia

Join scholars from the area for the Regional Colloquium in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. Time: Discussion, 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.,
followed by social hour and light dinner
Location: Butterfly Gallery, The Academy of Natural Sciences Commentary by Tayra M. C. Lanuza-Navarro Chemical Heritage Foundation Please download and read the paper in advance. Abstract: Interpretations of the iconography of the Royal Library of the Escorial have fostered many assessments of the intellectual panorama of late sixteenth-century Spain. This study advances the thesis that once the Royal Library was established in its permanent premises attempts were made to define its intellectual agenda, and in particular to redirect the study of nature undertaken there in a rather distinct and novel direction. To identify this agenda, this study shuns iconographic interpretation to focus instead on Friar José de Sigüenza’s description of the library’s frescoes. When his discourse is read independently of meanings that might have been inscribed in the library’s iconography and is complemented with insights gleaned from other works by its author and his mentor, Benito Arias Montano, the librarian’s description reveals itself to be a manifesto of how the friar thought the study of nature should be undertaken at the Escorial. It entailed a reorientation away from Aristotelian and empiricist approaches and toward the elaboration of a radically new biblist metaphysics. Maria Portuondo is Assistant Professor at Department of History of Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University. Tayra M. C. Lanuza-Navarro is the Sidney M. Edelstein Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.